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
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
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*
WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT?!
by SomethingWitty June 11, 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
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
Linux is one of the most powerful contraceptives ever. The more one learns about Linux, the more powerful its fertility-stealing powers become.

Typical Linux users are a sensitive lot. This is because their entire self-esteem is tied up in knowing obscure piping and scripting techniques that nobody in the real world gives a fuck about. Supposedly, this makes them smarter. If a Linux user feels threatened about the coming obsolescence of his beloved OS, untold havoc will be unleashed. This will eventually produce lulz. For this reason, we reveal here the easiest ways to troll a Linux message board or IRC channel.

*If the subject of distros comes up, reply, "Yes, but what can <insert distro name> do that Ubuntu can't do?

*Claim that the Windows kernel design is better than Linux.

*Warn everyone that Mactel will destroy Desktop Linux

*Ask "But can it run BSD?"

*If the subject of CLI comes up, reply, "But you could do that with DOS twenty years ago!"

*Predict that Solaris will eventually destroy Linux

*Make completly baseless claims that you are the CEO of a major corportion (don't specify which one!) and say you see no future in Linux.

*Tell everyone that Linux isn't ready for grandma

*Quote Theo de Raadt

*Remind all Linux users that they are still virgins

*Point out that the BSD License is infinitely superior to the GPL

*Incessantly ask every user about what parts of the code in their kernel were stolen from SCO.

*Let it be known that you appreciate Clippy

*Ask if Wine can run <insert program here> yet.

*Use the phrase "total cost of ownership."

*Ask for advise on finding quality Linux games.

*Say that Linux is inferior for development because it doesn't have Visual Basic .NET

*Make it known that $699 (the fee you legally owe SCO if you use Linux) is $300 more than the price Windows Server 2003 Web Edition, which has more features, greater stability, and has been shown time and time again to have a higher ROI.
Fun things you can do with Linux:

*Update your drivers.

*Brag about your kernals.

*Say you use Linux (which will get your ass kicked)

*Eat KFC chicken around the clock.

*Manually edit config files

*Keep your virginity

*Uhh, well thats pretty much it.
by 1A1EC1E730C2 April 06, 2008
A kernel thingy. It pwns Win32.
I like to bash people who use Linux on urbandictionary.com. In other news, I have no life.
by Menchi September 15, 2003

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