Linux computer systems are everywhere. Linux runs our internet services, from Google search to Facebook and more. Linux also runs on many devices, including our smartphones, TVs, and even cars. Of course, Linux can run on your desktop as well. Whether you’re new to Linux or just want to try something different on your desktop, this tutorial series will give you a quick overview of the basics and help you migrate to Linux from another system.
Switching to a different operating system can be a challenge because each operating system provides a different way to do things. That which is second nature in one system can bring frustrating time to another, as we need to look for how to do it on the Internet or in books.
To get started with Linux, you will probably notice that Linux is packaged differently. On other operating systems, many objects are bundled together and are part of a package. However, on Linux, each component is called separately. For example, on Windows, the GUI is part of Windows. On Linux, you can choose from several graphical environments such as GNOME, KDE Plasma, Cinnamon, and MATE.
At a high level, Linux installation includes the following things:
- System programs and files on disk
- Graphical environment
- Package manager
The kernel of an operating system is called a kernel. The core is the engine of the system. It allows multiple apps to run at the same time and coordinates their access to shared services and devices, so everything runs smoothly.
System programs and files
System programs reside on disk in a standard file and directory hierarchy. These system programs and files include services (called daemons) that run in the background, utilities for various operations, configuration files, and log files.
Instead of running inside the kernel, these system programs are applications that perform tasks for the basic operation of the system, such as setting the date and time and connecting to the network so you can get to the Internet.
This includes the init program, the very first application that runs. This program is responsible for starting all background services (such as the web server), getting started on the network, and starting the graphical environment. This init program starts other system programs as needed.
Other system programs provide capabilities for simple tasks such as adding users and groups, changing passwords, and configuring drives.
The graphical environment is really more system programs and files. The graphical environment provides common windows with menus, mouse pointer, dialog boxes, status and indicators, etc.
Please note that you are not stuck with the graphical environment installed. You can change it to something else if you like. Each graphical environment will have different functionality. Some are more like Apple OS X, some are more like Windows, and others are unique and don’t try to mimic other GUIs.
The package manager was difficult for people to understand coming from another system, but now there is a similar system that people are very familiar with – the App Store. The packaging system is a Linux application. Instead of installing this app from one website and another app from another site, you can use the Package Manager to choose which apps you want. The package manager then installs applications from a central repository of pre-built open source applications.
Linux comes with many preinstalled applications. And you can get more from the package manager. Many of the apps are pretty good and others are in need of work. Sometimes the same application will have different versions that run on Windows or Mac OS or Linux.
For example, you can use the Firefox browser and Thunderbird (for email). You can use LibreOffice as an alternative to Microsoft Office and run games through Steam, the Valve program. You can even run some native Windows applications on Linux using WINE.
Your first step is usually to install a Linux distribution. You may have heard of Red Hat, Ubuntu, Fedora, Arch Linux, OpenSUSE, and CentOS. These are different and these are the most popular Linux distributions.
Without a Linux distribution, you have to install each component separately. Many components are developed and provided by different groups of people, so it will be a long, tedious task to install each component separately. Luckily, the people who build distributions do the job for you. They grab all the components, build them, make sure they work together, and then pack them under one rig.
Different distributions may make different flavors and use different components, but this is still Linux. Applications written to run on one distribution often run on other distributions.
If you are a Linux newbie and want to try Linux, we recommend installing Ubuntu. There are other distributions you can look into: Linux Mint, Fedora, Debian, Zorin OS, elementary OS, and many more. In future articles, we will look at additional aspects of the Linux system and provide more information on how to get started with Linux.