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 free operating system like free UNIXes. The most popular is Ubuntu(still), yet the even more stable Memphis Linux is what you really should have. The Russians and Chinese prefer Linux over Windows all the time. Most servers is either Ubuntu Server or CentOS. The WWW runs 60% Linux servers, because less viruses.

The most stable Linux ever created is usually always Slackware, yet no one heard of it (distro created back in 1994)

UNIX is obsolete in comparison.

Easier to operate than 2 years ago.
Person 1: I run Ubuntu Linux Server for my web server
Person 2: I run Cent OS, because its a free Red Hat Enterprise Linux OS.
Person 3: I'm a hardcore Linux user and I run Memphis Linux
by hellads2 November 09, 2010
The common name for any open-source Operating System running on the Unix Kernal.

Common linux distributions include Ubuntu, Redhat, SUSE and Fedora.

The advantages of Linux over Windows:
-faster boot/loading times.
-no need for anti-virus software
-no bloatware, spyware or useless programs to slow your computer down.

The disadvantages of Linux over Windows:
-game makers and large software companies stick with Windows because of its market share.
-less users than windows (which is also advantageous in a way) means less people working on making it even better.
-often not user friendly (although Ubuntu is considered to be the most user-friendly version, and is very easy to get used to).
I just installed Linux on my laptop. So glad I'm rid of Windows Vista.
by DALEK DRACO February 27, 2010
The OS that is used by people who know what they are doing.
Windows is for loosers, MAC OS is for housewifes, real men use Linux. Linux, makes your balls 20% heavier.
by Hui-Nu February 17, 2010
A kernal so oftenly mistaken for an operating system on Most nerds will cream whenever linux is mentioned in a conversation and will get go super sayian whenever it is insulted. Most people do not actually know what linux is (and from the definitions on this site it seems to be less than i thought) and probably wouldent care if it overthrew Microsoft (then again, why would they?)
Sure linux might be liek 1000000 times better than anything microsoft has ever/will ever come up with... but nobody cares.
linux > windows
fresh air >>> linux
by LOL LINUXMAN October 13, 2008
An OS that runs servers a lot more fucking stable than Windows. By the way Windows fucks, RH9 is pretty damn simple to install. You can try it, or you can be amazed at the pretty icons Windows offers you.
Linux > Windows
People who can't use Linux should have their computers confiscated.

By the way, I hate you all.
by Boris August 16, 2003
A very stable operating system released under the JPL. Originally a spare time project by student Linus Torvalds, Linux has developed into a popular back-end and server operating system. Linux is beginning to make inroads on the desktop.
It is frequently maligned by Windows users because Linux actually requires some degree of intelligence to use.
"That new Linux server is much better than that old WinNT-based pile of crap we used to use!"
A stable alternative to Windows, used primarily on servers and workstations. A favorite of graphic artist, 3D animators, and programmers, as well as corporations that can't afford for their computers to crash. Runs programs such as Alias|Wavefront's Maya, SoftImage's XSI, Adobe Photoshop etc. extremely well, but has trouble running software designed solely for the Windows operating system such as games (duh). In other words, Linux is used mostly by professionals who need a stable platform to do work on, rather than for playing games.
I use Linux on my servers and workstations that are designed for Maya and Photoshop, and I use Windows on my gaming computers.
by Parallax May 26, 2003

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