With Linux, you are free to erase your computer's entire hard disk and run nothing but free (as in freedom) software on it. As an alternative, you could run Linux from a live CD (ignoring your computer's contents without changing them) or install Linux to dual boot with your Windows or Mac OS X system as you choose. The bottom line is that with Linux you are free to do as YOU choose with your computer.
In only a few years, Linux has advanced from being considered a specialty operating system into the mainstream. Precompiled and configured Linux systems can be installed with no technical expertise. Versions of Linux run on all kinds of devices, from PCs to handhelds (see www.linuxdevices.com) to game consoles (such as PlayStation 3) to supercomputers to Mars rovers. In short, Linux has become a system that almost anyone can run almost anywhere.
On both desktop and server computers Linux has become a formidable operating system across a variety of business applications. Today, large enterprises can deploy thousands of systems using Linux distributions from companies such as Red Hat, Inc. and Novell, Inc. Small businesses can put together the mixture of office and Internet services they need to keep their costs down.
The free and open source software (FOSS) development model that espoused sharing, freedom, and openness is now on a trajectory to surpass the quality of other operating systems outside of the traditional Linux servers and technical workstations. What were once weak components of Linux, such as easy-to-use desktops, multimedia codecs and limited driver availability, have improved at a rapid pace. In areas of security, usability, connectivity, and network services, Linux has continued to improve and outshine the competition.
IN THIS CHAPTER
Getting started with Linux Understanding Linux Linux features and advantages
Computer industry heavy-hitters such as Microsoft and Oracle have taken notice of Linux. Microsoft has struck agreements with Linux companies including Novell and Xandros to form partnerships that primarily protect those companies against threatened Microsoft lawsuits. Oracle began producing its own enterprise-targeted Linux system to try to stem the flow of customers to Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
What does this all add up to? A growing swirl of excitement around the operating system that the big guys can't seem to get rid of. For people like yourself, who want the freedom to use your computer software as you like, it means great prospects for the future.
Let this book help you grab your first look at the distributions, applications, services, and community that make up the phenomenon that has become Linux.
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