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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.
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. 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?
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:
Why Use Linux?
Linux gives you much more freedom 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 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. Linux also has tools for photographers to manage photos and artists to create digital paintings. 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.
Haven’t yet picked a distro? You might want to hit up our list of recommendations.
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.
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 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. 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.
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 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, 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.
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.
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.
As usual, you can turn to the terminal instead.
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.
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!