Linux is a free (as in libre, not always as in gratis) kernel that, together with tools from the GNU project, forms a stable, high-performance, multi-user operating system.

Its advantages over Windows are mainly ideological; it's free, usually in both of the above senses of the word, and the license, the GNU GPL, prevents proprietary implementations from screwing you over (Linux "companies" sell support, not Linux itself, for this reason).

It's also much more stable than Windows, owing to its stricter memory management, access controls, and hardware abstraction policy, and its networking performance is better since it's really meant more for servers than for desktop usage. Linux has finer-grained access control at the user and device level, though to be fair, Windows has had Unix-style file permissions since NT. Reboot times for Linux, however, are measured in months, and the only reason you should ever need to reboot Linux is if you installed a new kernel.

The disadvantages of Linux compared to Windows are mainly issues of ease of use. Linux is hard compared to Windows, mostly because it tends not to detect certain devices. This is a circular problem, because the drivers tend to be written only for Windows to begin with. It also, despite what the makers claim, *does* require some work at the terminal in most cases, and this will scare away most Windows users who never worked with Dos and the 9x series. It shouldn't, because the terminal is much more powerful and easier to use than Dos ever was, but it does.

The other main issue is that, while there are a few hundred different flavors, referred to as "distros," most of them suck. There are a few big, well-supported distros, and many are based on them: RedHat, which is popular in the corporate world, Debian, which is minimalistic and tough by itself but forms the base for the popular Ubuntu, and Slackware, which is the oldest maintained distro and is closest to the "original" Linux philosophy. There are also a few oddballs like Gentoo, which is for experts only (forces you to compile *everything* but does the annoying work for you and gives you incredible performance), and Arch, which is a minimalist hybrid of Gentoo and Slackware.

Save yourself headaches: newbies should use Ubuntu, experts should use Gentoo or Slackware, purists should use Debian, and no one should use RedHat or any RedHat based distro unless you're corporate and need it, in which case you want CentOS (RedHat for free with no tech support). Just be prepared to get your hands a little dirty, and to search the web and your distro's forums for help. There is always, always an issue that pops up that will never be in the manual or installation docs.

Most of all, remember that Linux won't insult your intelligence, but it won't hold your hand either. You can't always breeze through a Linux install like you can with Windows (though Ubuntu and friends are changing that), but you will get a solid, stable, and working system. Linux rewards effort and inquisitiveness, and punishes laziness.
Linux is about choice. That means you're free to use it, or not to use it, but it will always be here for you.
by Hazuki April 22, 2007
A great OS that runs the only game a true gamer would ever play (counterstrike) fine and is much more stable. If you are tired of letting microsoft own your computer and tired of the utter lack of customizability that comes with winblowz, I recommend that you give this a shot. It is simple to learn I cannot believe anyone thinks it is complicated. If you dont feel like partitioning space on your comp to try it out, get a "live cd" of linux (such as knoppix or phlak) and just boot it up and take linux for a test drive.
I switched to linux 3 years ago. CS runs much better on my customized version of linux than it ever ran on my windows OS. I am so glad I found linux! Now I am the one controlling my comp!
by |_îÑ|_|>< |=4Ñ April 29, 2004
An OS that runs servers a lot more fucking stable than Windows. By the way Windows fucks, RH9 is pretty damn simple to install. You can try it, or you can be amazed at the pretty icons Windows offers you.
Linux > Windows
People who can't use Linux should have their computers confiscated.

By the way, I hate you all.
by Boris August 16, 2003
Linux Is Not UniX
A UNIX clone written by Linus Torvalds so people can have a UNIX-like OS which has no AT&T code for which you need to pay royalties. Known sometimes as GNU/Linux. Morons complain about compiling their software when the reason is for the software to be cross-compatible.
Linux is in NO WAY an alternative to Windows. Windows is intended as a multimedia and gaming OS and Linux is designed for server machines. They are two VERY DIFFERENT operating systems.
by Anonymous August 11, 2003
Linux is a monolithic kernel. Most people don't get it. They say linux would never go mainstream and "average joes" will never use it?? Then what? Does linux need. linux is not making money even if it has more users. it works for us better than other alternatives and this is the biggest thing.
Linux is great.
by meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee* June 26, 2010
A free operating system, comparable to Windows.

To all of you that think that it's not compatible with anything, use the fucking program called Wine on there, it's a nice Windows emulator.
Collin: "My mac is so slow and annoying, it can't do shit"
Joe: "Get Ubuntu Linux"
Collin: "I'll try it"

1 Week later
Collin: "OMG! This is so much better than Windows or Mac!"
by mrbigfishy June 18, 2009
You have two cows.

The city council demands that you disect one of them and allow the town citizens to do whatever they want to it.
The town citizens use genetic modification to enhance choice organs.
They take several days to re-animate the cow, until they finally have a working zombie-cow that produces SuperMilk (similar to Popeye's spinach) but random organs stop every 10 seconds, forcing the people to disect it again just to fix it.

You live happily on your regular milk while the town struggles.
No, this Linux diatribe isn't copypasta.
I'm just as astounded as you.
by DonZabu November 03, 2008
What I use for development of HTML, JAVA, PERL, C, C++. Very stable, but does not have much software that can run on it, because of lack of knowledge about it on the part of the general public. Great for webservers, but until people decide to create software for this system, buggy, backdoored systems like windows will have to do. Linux is often used by professional developers, webmasters, advanced computer users, and people who are able to get off their arse and install it for the sake of their privacy. Some versions (i.e. Red Hat) are relatively easy to install, and can be found free in libraries. Other 'distros' can be found on the internet, but may be harder/easier to install. It can be installed on very low end computers with under a GiG of drive space, and 32k ram. So stable, a Win 9.x. demo cannot crash it =)). Not used often because many people have no idea it exists (that's changing though).
a good OS for stability.
by normalperson April 19, 2004
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