Linux is the kernel! The kernel just runs the hardware: disk, monitor, network, etc.
The Linux kernel is distributed with programs that
allow the user to control the hardware
allow the user to accomplish useful things
browse the web
applications for everything: databases, document processing, much more
Linux is all about choice!
Distributions for scientists: biologists, astronomers, physicists, chemists
Distributions for educators
Distributions for software developers
Distributions for humanists – like me!
... and more!
DistroWatch.com: the place to keep up with all the distributions
This article has a table with the purpose of the distribution listed in one column:
Ubuntu desktop: general purpose
Kubuntu w/KDE desktop: general purpose
Xubuntu w/XFCE desktop: general purpose
Edubuntu: aimed at users 6-18 years; for use in classrooms, etc.
Goobuntu: an in-house distro for Google employees; security configurations, in-house applications
Linux for older hardware
With Microsoft's announcement that it will no long support Windows XP, many users are looking to upgrade or change operating systems. Those with older hardware are particularly hard hit, and upgrading to Windows 7 or 8 is not an option. What to do? There is a distro for that!
Puppy Linux: 100MB disk footprint; 128MB RAM
based on Ubuntu
can access software from Ubuntu repositories
512MB ram recommended, uses more disk space
If these distributions are too much for your computer, you really need a new computer!
Live Linux on a CD/DVD/Thumb drive
Boot from a distro's LiveCD
Does not interfere with your current OS or hard drive
Typically slower because everything goes from the CD drive instead of the hard disk
When do you need a Live CD?
To try out a Linux distribution
When you can't boot your computer, for troubleshooting
When you are borrowing someone else's computer: creating a familiar and efficient environment to work
Boot from a Flash drive
Moving from Windows to Linux
For those who want a familiar Windows desktop enviornment and all their favorite Windows programs, there is the Zorin OS, an Ubuntu variant
You can get Zorin OS by visiting http://zorin-os.com/free8.html. There are only two versions currently at version 8 and they are the core version and the educational
If you have a computer a little light on resources then you will want Zorin OS 6 Lite.
There is also a Live DVD or USB drive version you can download for checking it out.
Zorin looks like Windows 7 by default. There are 2 icons on the desktop for "Home" and "Computer". There is also a taskbar with a "Z" instead of the word "Start", a quick launch bar and a system tray.
The developers have worked very hard to integrate Wine into their distribution. And their purpose is to create a very Windows-like environment to help those moving to Linux adjust to the change.
Zorin is an Ubuntu variant, and like any Ubuntu system, it has all the programs you need for most tasks.
If you have any Windows programs that you want to run within Zorin then there is WINE which is not an emulator. WINE is a compatibility layer that enables you to run Windows software. It isn't 100% perfect but works for a good number of applications. Zorin has made this even better by installing PlayOnLinux which makes installing your Windows applications as simple as point and click.
In theory you can run Microsoft Office within Zorin and if you want to run Internet Explorer then you can.
It has a premium version, which I don't think is worth it. Use Zorin to get used to Linux, and move on to Ubuntu as you become familiar with the system.
"Living with Linux"
So you've installed Ubuntu Linux and you're looking at a snazzy new
desktop. What now? Remember Linux is like an onion: there are layers
and as you learn, you peel back those layers.
Don't try to learn everything at once
How to find stuff: side bar, top icon
If you know the name of the program you want, you can type in the
first few letters and Ubuntu will find it for you. First, click on the
"A" at the bottom of the window. Then click on the "Filter results"
link on the top left. There you will see categories of software such
as games, graphics, office software and so on. It will also show
programs in the selected categories that are available, but not
How to change things: appearance, keyboard, etc.
Equivalent to Windows Control Panel: System Settings, gear and wrench icon
If you want to change your desktop wallpaper, click on
"Appearance". If you want to change your keyboard, click on "Language
I recommend you click through everything as a survey of what's there
and what you can do.
Remember your "root" password that you set during installation
Root is the equivalent of Windows' "Administrative User". Becoming
root, also known as becoming the "super user" is powerful – and
dangerous! Ubuntu will tell you when it needs you to authenticate with
the super user's password.
The "Software Updater"
When there are updates for your system and software, there will appear
on your sidebar a "Software Updater" icon. Click on that and it will
tell you what needs updating. Normally, you'll just click on the
"Install Now". From the System Settings, you can set Ubuntu to update
automatically, just like Windows. I prefer to do it manually and watch
How to install software
The Software Center is the graphical interface to Ubuntu's installer
programs. Its sidebar icon is the orange "bag" with the letter A with
a progress bar on it. It will let you search for the possibilities,
give you information about the programs and let you read reviews as
well as actually install the package. You need to be connected to the
Internet in order to do this.
RTFM: "Read the Fine Manual"
Linux is rich with documentation.