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 best operating system (OS) in the world.
I love booting into knoppix linux with my live CD and hacking from an internet cafe'.
by l337994 May 02, 2005
A kernel that many operating systems called "linux distros" are based off of. Linux is known mainly for being open source, and in most cases, also free to use. Many linux distros are do-it-yourself operating systems, and some come with a full GUI, and many automatic features, which makes it easier for normal people to use. These easy-to-use linux distros are commonly used as a price-effective and useful platform for public and private access to computers, and on servers. Many people criticize this operating system for not being able to run most applications, specifically games. Linux is somewhat limited to which applications it can run, but many people have made alternatives to those applications, and even ways to run those applications inside linux. In fact, many popular games can run on linux, contrary to the packaging of the game. Overall, linux is a great kernel that formed many popular and useful operating systems, which are in use by millions of people today. Linux is also available in a liveCD format, which lets users try linux before they fully install it.
"Hey, can you help me with my computer, windows crashed on me again."

"Oh, I'm sorry, I use linux, and I'm not too fond of microsoft products."

"Dude, linux sucks! It can't even run games!"

"Actually, unless you're planning to install every game on the market that was ever made, linux is actually a pretty good gaming platform. The only advice I can give you is to use linux. Here's a LiveCD"

"Okay, I guess I could try it."

2 days later.....

"What the hell man, when I tried to instal your stupid linux, it erased my windows!"

"Did you read the back of the CD? It clearly says that by default it'll erase all existing software, unless you partition your drive or install it inside windows. See, it says it right here on the CD."

"Well, it should've warned me!"

"Dude, maybe you should've just RTFM"
by 0per4t0r August 13, 2009
1) An awesome operating system that PWNS the windows for sure.
2) Using Linux makes you l33t.If you don't agree, then you are wrong. STFU n00b.
3) Totally, the most configurable system ever!(except you are using the system that you wrote and done by yourself)
4) You cost nothing to get Linux. And windows costs $200.
5) Linux IS l33t itself, undoubtedly.
When I use Linux and running console with beryl on the background...
Me: So this is Linux, see?
Classmate 1: Oh, (Chinese) so that's l33t?
Me: Of course!
Classmate 2: Then what's the reasons that we should use Linux?
Me: Using Linux makes you l33t! And Linux can't be infected by any virus!
Classmate 1: Can I play my online-game "MapleStory" on Linux?
Me: Probably no.
Classmate 2: Linux SUX.
Me: STFU n00b. _/00 _/|_|5+ 4|_|_ /\/00|35, 455|-|0|_3! |_1/\/|_|X P\/\//\/5 _/00 4|_|_!!!
by Roger W. January 30, 2008
The BEST OS I've used in a long time, that piece of crap made by Microsoft (let's face it, all things Microsoft are crap, it's a good thing there is a way to run Linux on an XBox, assuming anyone would want to which they probaby would) was as unstable as hell. Linux is free, stable, can be used for home computing though not many people do as they think. Also, Linux is ideal for server applications though most college IT admins use Windows server instead because they are lame arses. My advice, go and get some blank cds and download Linux, you have nothing to lose
Windows: Piece of crap made by that crap software company called Microsoft (who stick product keys on the software)

Linux: Unix-type OS that is free, stable, and works 24/7
by Pika_Pikachu July 20, 2005
Simply put, it's an operating system that you can download (legally.) I's most commonly used by experienced computer users because it doesn't hold your hand as much as Windows does. It also requires emulators to run Windows programs. The source code for the kernel is available somewhere. The kernel was written in the early 90s by one Linus Torvalds in Finland, and is released under a "General Public License."
How's that? No airline suff, just the real definition.
by Utz89 June 27, 2005
the best operating system for people who really want to use a computer
man... this new linux server is fast.... it only installed in a few minutes and it dont hog RAM like windows server 2003 did.... and you can completly customize the kernel!
An operating system made for open-source software. While more stable and dependent, it is harder to learn, which confuses the poor illiterate moronic rednecks putting up spam. They are confused by an OS that wont come with everything to make life easy for them, hence the misplaced anger.
Seriously, all you anti-linux posters, just because your iq isnt above 2, doesn't mean that you can post crap.
Linux rules.
"uhh.......linux.....pedo....dork.........what was i saying?......lets go have a little backyard wrestling and then go rape some sheep!"
by Anonymous June 10, 2003

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