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
It's STILL not worthy enough to be used for the desktop at this point. You'd think that during the years after the Linux "community" made the fatal mistake of throwing their unfinished slop onto the retail shelves in 2000, they would have learned from their mistakes, completed the damn kernel, made Linux easier to use for Average Joe, and worked together to make a COMPLETE OS that includes support for "winmodems" and hardware that's sold at your local electronics store. Unfortunately, that is not the case because instead we have over 200 half-assed distros and the same old religious sermons that the Linux loons made in 1999.
So Windows costs $199.99 at the retail stores and I have to memorize a 16-digit code. At least unlike Linux, it installs flawlessly, is compatible with pretty much all of the hardware on the market, and it gets all my work done efficiently.

I will try out Linux after the geeks drop dead from fighting amongst themselves and no less than five quality distributions remain.

Year of the Linux Desktop my ass.
by true April 25, 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
n. An OS that is awesome for geeky programmers. For everyone else, it is much too difficult to install and use.
Linux will always have a small installed base on desktop computers, because the only way it can become mainstream is if it loses the difficulty of installation and use. The only way to attain that is to completely change what linux is.
by truth teller December 29, 2003
Many people think it is an OS, but it is actually just a clever trap devised to capture and mark elitist morons so normal people can avoid them.
"Nice to meet you, what operating system do you use?"

"Linux because it is so stable and it runs everything better then eveyrthing else and it is perfect and better then any other OS"

"Goodbye!"
by TheDog November 27, 2005
If you want to see how crappy Linux is without having to waste your time installing it on your computer, try out a live CD of Knoppix or SLAX (Slackware-Live).
I agree with the few people who were brave enough to post the truth about Linux. It is just the same poorly-coded turd that the geeks tricked us into trying out a few years ago, only this time with more colorful GUIs.
by normal person May 04, 2004
A operating system whose only superiorities versus Windows is its server stability and ability to be altered by its code, because its open-source software. Windows cannot be altered like this because learning C++, then butchering Window's code is illegal.

Windows is used by a common computer user who has no interest in running gaming/website servers or being a programmer. Windows is much more compatible, almost everything except Unix/Mac software. Windows is also made by capitalist pigs governed by a monsterous irresponsible behemoth called Bill Gates who failed to completely debug its software in the first place and only does something when somebody personally mails him a death threat.
The linuxers program, and the Windowers use. Enough said. Maccers, I don't know, don't care, only Space Command units use them for their ability to do math better than our common shit PCs.
by Chang Tan October 26, 2003
A kernel made by Linux Torvalds; a product of consumption of an hilarious amount alcohol.
<oppstoppersnopp>Linux is the best
<femilh>STFU, or I'll rape your mother with a Hitlerjügend-knife
<oppstoppersnopp>But Linux is the best!
<femilh>No, BSD is the best.
<oppstoppersnopp>No
<femilh>Yes
<oppstoppersnopp>No
<femilh>Yes
<oppstoppersnopp>OK ALREADY! BSD RULES THE FSCKING EARTH!
by Mr. Charles Beastie IV.IV May 17, 2005

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