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
The OS equivalent of a hybrid car.
Steve: Have you heard about Bob? He uses Linux.
Dave: What a douchebag.
by Kriyze January 29, 2014
What Windoze users should turn to since Windows is clearly crap, evil and bastardised in every way.
Linux runs the web (80% of all servers).
Linux is the base-station of most hackers (see 'Hackers Handbook' by Dr. K, ISBN 1-85868-943-0) because it is inherently secure.
'Yeah dude you fux0red up that poor dudes windoze box'
'Yeah man, linux r0x0rz!!!'

*cue beavis and butthead style laughter*
by Minigun_Fiend July 21, 2004
Extremely stable and advanced Operating System. much used by System operators to run on webservers because of it's stability and safety. Very hard to use. Not compatible with Windows programs and therefore not recommended for gamers.
Thank god my servers are much safer and stable now they're penguin powered by Linux
by Seven of Nine July 14, 2003
Completely incomprehensible when in terminal form, comprehensible in graphic form. Users often feel a strange, all-consuming need to write microsoft as "M$" or windows as "Windoze". This behaviour has no been deciphered by psychologists yet, but it is suspected that they do it to "fight the man". Only the faggiest of users use these words, although regular linux users use them too.
Hardcore Linux user: "OMG M$ r releasing teir new windoze version lol BSOD evry 2 mins lol."
Windows user: "...the hell?"
by CWO01 May 29, 2009

Read the first definition, it's so true.

XP has screwed me 1 too many times.

Windows: I look pretty and everything runs on me

Linux: Yeah, I'm not butt slow and don't bsod all the time.
by oblong penis September 14, 2007
Linux - free, stable, open-source operating system - and that’s about it.

Not as good as people make it out to be, very undeveloped and bad compatibility weights this OS down.

The reason that Linux does not have as many viruses, trojans, spyware, etc as your precious "Windoze" is because it is not incompatible with these programs - Linux is not popular enough... yet.

"Linux-text-only" was a long time ago noobs, get with the times please.
Most noobs on urbandictionary haven't even gotten past burning their .iso image to a disk - too hard.

I bet they buy an APC magazine with a live-CD and call Linux slow because they don't even understand how RAM swap files work.

I myself prefer UNIX without any kind of GUI.
by Luigi9849 July 31, 2005
An operating system-whoops, I meant KERNEL-mainly used by teenagers who think it makes them edgy and alternative (just like listening to the Arctic Monkeys). Funnily enough, they only ever install it on a hard drive partition. So when it inevitably fucks up they can fall back on Windows (which will also fuck up eventually).

Also worthy of note is that its supporters make use of the "m$" abbreviation every chance they get, hoping they'll appear to be "fighting the machine." But contrary to popular belief, having Linux does not make you a 1337 h@x0r, and being a 1337 h@x0r does not mean you use Linux.
*downloads and attempts to install a Linux distribution*
by SomethingWitty June 11, 2008
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