is the popular name for a computer operating system more properly called GNU/Linux
which works much like the venerable Unix operating system. Linux
is the core component or "kernel" of the system. It is an alternative to both the common Windows and Macintosh operating systems. It has one further feature. It is "free as in freedom" software. Developed by many thousands of contributing programmers, GNU/Linux
is a mature and rapidly expanding system which runs on an extremely broad range of hardware. In addition to the standard X86 computers built around the dominant Intel processor in "PC" computers, Linux versions run on the most powerful supercomputers, small home routers, in addition to cell phones, ebook readers and portable tablets (with the Android distribution).
is distributed to support the four freedoms:
0 run the program for any purpose
1 study the source code and change it
2 make copies and distribute them
3 publish modified versions
[note the geek numbering from zero as the first item]
Because of the four freedoms and the GNU Public License (GPL), end users can get an inexpensive CD to use for installation, and even have the option, and permission, to get the disc image for free by download and to create their own installation CD.
-------------------------- opinion follows--------------------------------------------
The word of the day is given in honor of E Pericoloso Sporgersi, who will be paying good money for Windows 7 so he can upgrade from Windows Vista. The upgrade may also be followed by the purchase of new versions of many other software programs to make the system fully functional. That will be followed by opening and verifying many archived data files to make sure that they still work. Saving those files will, perhaps, put them into Microsoft's new format and that sometimes makes them difficult to open again in older versions of software. Such are some of the joys of moving ahead.
I've gone through E Pericoloso Sporgersi's experience with earlier Windows versions, and eventually decided to try GNU/Linux
. I'm currently very happy with the newest version of the Kubuntu distribution of Linux
and I accomplish my computing tasks with the system and its powerful set of productivity software, which is easy to get, easy to install and easy to use.
The choice of operating system is a very personal one. Good luck, E.P.S. and we all look forward to hearing all about your success. In the meantime, we'll soldier on with our own efforts and think good thoughts for you.
 Linux is a rework of the name Linux (Torvalds) and Unix. Linux began as a student project and matured quickly as Linus Tovalds chose to invite others to play with his creation (one which he did not expect to become significant). The GPL encourages participation and "community" development. Linux has grown in much the same way that the World Wide Web has grown. Both were created in the open with specific intent to be expanded and enhanced by others, not to be or to become the exclusive property of an individual or corporate entity.
Why would anyone do it?
(Amazing confluence. This link came to me less than one hour after my initial post.)
 In fact, I've gone through the upgrade/system change process dozens of times: Timeshare -> TRS-80 -> Apple II -> AppleGS -> Macintosh (several) -> Windows 3.1 -> 95 -> 98 -> Millenium -> Windows XP -> Vista -> Windows 7.
[The upgrade list leaves out some side paths, and mostly suggests I'm old, more than anything else.]
Words are a game. Sometimes I play alone, but you are welcome to play, too.