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
an operating system, created solely for computer geeks like my sister to argue about
Computer Geek 1: Linux is cool
Computer Geek 2: Linux is lame
by connman August 06, 2006
While microsoft and apple were stealing from their rich neighbor, Xeros, linux was at home eating Cracklin' Oat Bran.

Linux is an OS where files have no association to programs; all configuration and settings are stored "wherever" in text files that grow to be megabytes long; most shell commands are so abstractly named that you would never be able to use them without knowing how they work.. or first reading its "manual page".

Linux is an operating system of inconsistancy. Theres over a thousand distributions of linux, and over a billion different modified versions of it. Programs come shipped as source code that you must compile and configure (by way of large scripts that attempt to figure out how your system is running.. since nothing is standard).

Very few consumer hardware companies support linux because there are far too many different scenarios they would have to support.

Linux is great as a server OS, but its when people try to use it as an everyday OS that it turns them into babbling idiots that stop caring about what a program does and start trying to figure out and change how it works.

Since linux was created by people with no aesthetic differentiation... most GUI's you will encounter look like a poor ripoff of windows 3.1.
When I was 8, me and my friend tried to make an operating system in QBASIC that used nothing but text files. I gave up. My friend succeeded and created linux.
by Olene Q'Dell December 16, 2004
An operating system second only to UNIX, but since UNIX isn't free Linux will have to do. Frequently insulted by cockjockies who's only experience with a computer is games and only experience with women is 'Saucy-sues-spanking-hotline'.
As the saying goes "Linux you can get a less powerful opperating system ut it will cost you more and Bill Gates is a greedy cunt."
by Doge September 22, 2003
When a woman uses a computer mouse to touch her clit. especially the rolly bit on the bottom. She then rubs her breasts over the keyboard and licks her modem until she cums.
Girl on internet chat: Oh yeah, feels so good!
Guy: Damn girl, Linux that screen!
by Maximusx3 April 25, 2009
An Operateing System that's great for running network servers, but despite it being increadable stable, you have to be a Guru to make it work.
Also when it does crash, and yes it does occasionally, it does a spectacular crash.
Every OS has it's place in the world of computing:
Windows - Gameing/Network Clients/Home Users
Linux/Unix - Servers
MacOS - Multimedia and Special Effects
Not that they're limited to these roles, it's just that's where they best perform.
by Canadamus_Prime September 07, 2005
An operating system that should only be used for hardcore developing and 24/7 services. Gaming on Linux is almost impossible. Linux is everything but user-freindly.
So many Linux-elitists think they are better than everyone else.
by Mr.Wobble June 21, 2004
Wait while it compiles at the speed of light and windows users actually do things
Compiling a linux program takes longer then a windows crash and reboot...
by D January 14, 2004
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