The Most Frequently Asked Questions About Linux… Answered
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You have Linux-related questions. I’m here to help. I’m someone who stumbled across Linux a decade ago and have used it most of the time since for writing papers, browsing the web, and occasionally playing games. Over the past decade, I’ve picked up a thing or two.

If you’re just starting off on your journey, or even if you’ve been around the block a few times, I hope the answers below save you a deal of confusion and stress.

What Is Linux?

Linux is the name commonly used for the operating system built on top of the Linux kernel. Unlike Windows and macOS, Linux isn’t one single large project. The experience comes from components created by individuals and teams from all over the world Who Made Linux and Why Is It Free? Who Made Linux and Why Is It Free? Linux is the most widely-used free and open source operating system in the world. Unlike commercial alternatives, no person or company can take credit. But why is it free? And who is behind Linux? Read More .

Most of the software that runs on Linux is free for you to download, use, edit, and share as you wish.

The name Linux is technically inaccurate. Many of the interfaces, tools, and software created for Linux also run on other free operating systems such as FreeBSD. Much of what people say about Linux also applies to these alternatives.

What Is the Linux Kernel?

A kernel is the part of an operating system that enables software to talk to hardware The Linux Kernel: An Explanation In Layman's Terms The Linux Kernel: An Explanation In Layman's Terms There is only one de facto thing that Linux distributions have in common: the Linux kernel. But while it's often talked about, a lot of people don't really know exactly what it does. Read More . Without it, nothing appears on screen, sound doesn’t come out of speakers, and none of the buttons you press are able to do anything.

In the early 1990s, there were almost enough free and open components to provide a functional desktop experience. All that was missing was one crucial piece, a kernel that would actually enable all of this software to work.

When Linus Torvalds started the Linux kernel, he was providing only that one component. Nonetheless, people began referring to the entire experience as Linux, not just the kernel. That practice has continued to this day.

What Version of Linux Am I Running?

frequently asked questions about linux - linux version screen

Every Linux computer consists of any number of different components. As a result, there are many different ways to do everything.

There’s a good chance you can find which kernel version you’re using by searching for something similar to an “About” option somewhere among system settings or tools. In the KDE Plasma desktop, for example, you can find this information in the “About” section of an app called KInfocenter.

You don’t need to use the command line, but it’s an approach that’s likely to work regardless of your Linux distro. Simply enter the following command into a terminal app:

uname -r

Why Use Linux?

Linux gives you much more freedom 5 Reasons Why Software Should Be Free and Open Source 5 Reasons Why Software Should Be Free and Open Source Free software doesn't just mean you get to use the app or game without paying. It's about longevity, privacy, ownership, and much more! Read More than Windows or macOS. For starters, it’s free to download, and so are most of the apps available for it. Not only that, you’re free to look at how most of these programs are made. If you have the expertise, you can use this code to create your own software.

Other advantages of Linux include increased privacy, security, and accessibility. Whether you’re a starving artist or a powerful business executive, Linux fits your budget.

What Is Linux Used For?

Everything! Many people use Linux to develop software, especially for the web. All 500 of the world’s top supercomputers run Linux. The OS is adaptable enough for everything 5 Surprising Ways Linux Is Changing the World 5 Surprising Ways Linux Is Changing the World From hosting popular websites to the future of science and space travel, Linux is furthering the development of our world, and our understanding of the universe. Read More from Raspberry Pis and smartphones to the International Space Station and the Large Hadron Collider.

I work as a freelance writer, and that’s easy to do with Linux Why Linux Is Great for Freelance Professionals Why Linux Is Great for Freelance Professionals I've managed to build a career writing online, using just a Linux computer. Let me show you how you can use Linux to manage your professional life, from managing finances to finding clients. Read More . Linux also has tools for photographers to manage photos 8 Picasa Alternatives Made for Linux 8 Picasa Alternatives Made for Linux You may have heard that Google is closing Picasa, but of course, Google stopped supporting the Linux port of Picasa years ago, so we've plenty of great alternatives already available! Read More and artists to create digital paintings 5 Photoshop Alternatives You Can Run on Linux 5 Photoshop Alternatives You Can Run on Linux it is tragic that after all these years, the open platform of Linux still has yet to produce competing software that can really match Photoshop head-to-head. But powerful options are available... Read More . If you just want a machine you can use to browse the web while sitting on the couch, Linux is simple enough for that job, too.

How to Install Linux

Unless you buy a Linux PC online, you’re going to need to install the OS yourself. That may sound intimidating, but it’s not as challenging as you may think. Here’s what you need to know.

How to Make a Linux Bootable USB

First things first, you’re going to want a flash drive (preferably a blank one). Then you need a special program that will burn a copy of your chosen Linux distro to the drive.

UNetBootin is a tool for Windows, macOS, and Linux that gets the job done. If you don’t like that tool, there are plenty of others.

Haven’t yet picked a distro? You might want to hit up our list of recommendations The Best Linux Operating Systems The Best Linux Operating Systems There are Linux distros available for every purpose, which makes choosing one difficult. Here's a list of the very best Linux operating systems to help. Read More .

How to Install Linux on Windows 10

The steps above will work on Windows 10, since Linux installation happens before your operating system actually boots up. But here are some tips to help make your transition easier 5 Tips That Make Switching to Linux From Windows Easy 5 Tips That Make Switching to Linux From Windows Easy There are many reasons to migrate from Windows to Linux. For instance, Linux might offer a lightweight environment. If you're tired of Windows and want a change, switching to Linux should be easy. Read More .

How to Dual Boot Windows 10 and Linux

During the installation process, Linux gives you the choose of erasing your current operating system or installing Linux alongside it. If you want the option to run Windows 10 and Linux on the same PC, you want to choose the latter option How To Dual-Boot The Windows & Linux OS's On Your Computer How To Dual-Boot The Windows & Linux OS's On Your Computer It's like having two computers in one - start your system up and choose between Windows and Linux. It's called dual-booting, and it gives you access to two of the best operating systems on the... Read More .

How to Dual Boot macOS and Linux

Putting Linux on a Macbook isn’t more challenging than it is with a Windows PC. The steps are largely the same. Nonetheless, here’s a guide specifically aimed at Macs How to Boot a Linux Live USB Stick on Your Mac How to Boot a Linux Live USB Stick on Your Mac There are a few ways to get a create a live Linux USB drive that will boot on your Mac: you can do it with freeware, or get your hands dirty with the command line. Read More . The installation process will give you the option to keep your keep your current copy of macOS and all your files alongside Linux.

How to Install Linux on a Chromebook

Installing Linux on a Chromebook is different process. Since Chrome OS is built on top of Linux, you don’t even have to replace your current system. Want in-depth instructions? Here you go How to Install Linux on a Chromebook How to Install Linux on a Chromebook Do you need Skype on your Chromebook? Do you miss not having access to games through Steam? Are you pining to use VLC Media Player? Then start using Linux on your Chromebook. Read More .

Want to Install Ubuntu, Linux Mint, elementary OS?

Going to Linux.com won’t lead you to a big download button. Instead, you need to know which specific system you’re looking for. Want Ubuntu? Head to ubuntu.com. Heard about Linux Mint? Check out linuxmint.com. Want elementary OS? There’s elementary.io. Fedora (fedoraproject.org) and openSUSE (opensuse.org) are also great places to start.

The process for installing any of the above options won’t different much from the steps provided above. The story is different for more DIY distros such as Arch Linux (archlinux.org) and Gentoo (gentoo.org). If you want a thorough list of hundreds of different options, pay distrowatch.com a visit.

How to Use Linux

With so many different options out there, Linux is as complex or simple as you want it to be. Here’s a handy guide Getting Started With Linux and Ubuntu Getting Started With Linux and Ubuntu You're interested in switching to Linux... but where do you start? Is your PC compatible? Will your favorite apps work? Here's everything you need to know to get started with Linux. Read More for anyone approaching Linux for the first time. At some point, you’re likely to need help with a few specific tasks. Here are answers to a few common questions.

How to Zip a File in Linux

Linux has multiple desktop environments It's Your Choice: The Top 10 Linux Desktop Environments It's Your Choice: The Top 10 Linux Desktop Environments From Gnome to KDE, from MATE to Unity, there's a lot of choice out there. Where should you start? Overwhelmed? Start here. Read More , so there isn’t one set of instructions that works on every computer.

If you’re using Ubuntu, Fedora, or Debian, there’s a good chance you’re using GNOME. In that interface, right-click on the files or folders you want to zip and select Compress. A window will appear giving you the option of several formats. ZIP is one.

frequently asked questions about linux - zip a file

The process tends to be similar for other desktop environments. If you want a method that works regardless of your setup, you can turn to the command line. Here’s an example:

zip -r photos.zip /home/user/Pictures/pics

How to Unzip a File in Linux

Again, right-click the ZIP file you would like to open. This time, select either Extract Here or Extract To.

frequently asked questions about linux - unzip a file

Or turn to the command line:

unzip photos.zip -d /home/user/Pictures/pics

How to Create a Directory in Linux

On the KDE Plasma desktop, creating a directory is as simple as right-clicking and selecting Create New > Folder.

frequently asked questions about linux - create a directory

As usual, you can turn to the terminal instead.

mkdir /path/to/directory

How to Create a Soft Link in Linux

A soft link, or symbolic link, is a way to make a file or folder appear to be in multiple places on your computer at once. In the screenshot above, you can see the options to create a new Basic link to file or directory or Link to Application at the bottom of the menu.

To create a soft link via the command line, use this command:

ln -s /path/to/file /path/to/symlink

How to Install Java on Linux

Are you sure you even need Java anymore? Here are some things to consider.

If you do need Java, you can download installers on its website. There are a few different package formats to choose from. Here’s a little help figuring out what to do with them How to Install Software on Linux: Package Formats Explained How to Install Software on Linux: Package Formats Explained You've switched to Linux, and want to install some software. But package managers differ depending on your distro. So which apps can you download and install? It's all in the acronyms. Read More .

Have More Questions About Linux?

Of course you do! Ask them in the comments and let’s see if we or other readers can help nudge you in a helpful direction!

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