Introduction To Linux

There’s no need to fear when you hear the word ‘Linux’. Check out the basics here so you can feel confident the next time someone starts talking technical.

Some people cringe upon hearing the word Linux. Change can be scary, and hearing that a computer can run something other than Windows or OS X can be hard to grasp. However, Linux is actually much easier to understand than is sometimes believed.
So what is Linux?
Linux is an Operating System (OS), just as Windows or Mac OS X are. An operating system can be thought of as a middleman between your computer’s hardware and software. It relays messages between the two so you don’t have to speak in binary code to get your computer to do anything.
One major difference between Linux and other operating systems is its command line interface (CLI). Windows and OS X use a graphical user interface (GUI), which consists of all those icons you see on your desktop. With a CLI you manually type in the commands that you want your computer to do. This can be tricky at first, but once you get the hang of it you’ll have much more control over your computer, allowing for more customization options.
Note: many of today’s versions of Linux utilize some form of GUI. It usually comes down to preference whether a Linux user chooses a GUI or a CLI.
Another reason for Linux’s success is the fact that it’s open source. A Linux user has access to the complete source code, meaning they can customize and change anything on the OS that they like. This has led to various versions of Linux, known as ‘distros’.
Brief History Of Linux
Linux was developed in 1991 by a Finnish Computer Science student named Linus Torvalds. Torvalds was looking for an alternative to his school’s UNIX operating system. He was fed up with the existing OS, so he did what all good computer scientists do: he set out to create a better one.
Torvalds didn’t expect his newly-created operating system to become what it did. In fact, prior to launching the OS, he said:
“I’m doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won’t be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones”
Today, Linux is the third most used operating system worldwide and powers the vast majority of web servers around the world.
Why do we often refer to Linux when talking about web hosting?
As mentioned before, a huge portion of web servers around the globe use Linux as their operating system. There are a few reasons for this:

  • It’s usually free, or very reasonable depending on whether it’s for personal or commercial use.
  • The command line interface makes it ideal for controlling a server the way an administrator intends.
  • It is much more secure than the alternatives.
  • It is more reliable and has higher uptime.

Here at WestHost, all of our servers run Linux in order to provide clients with a cheap, yet secure hosting experience.
What are distros?
We mentioned earlier that there are many different versions, or distros, of Linux. That’s because Linux is technically the kernel of an operating system, the kernel being the central piece to an OS. It’s like the beef patty in a hamburger: without it, you just have some veggies and a couple slices of bread.
Since Linux is a kernel, it requires other pieces to make it complete. Just as you wouldn’t eat only the hamburger patty, you wouldn’t just use a kernel. Distros make Linux a complete operating system by providing the rest of the details that an OS needs.
Each distro has unique features, but each is open source so a seasoned Linux veteran can customize the distro to his or her own liking. Here are some popular distros used today:

If you’re looking to download Linux onto your own computer, we suggest researching the various distros to find the one that works best for you. Generally, Ubuntu is a great option for beginners because it’s user friendly and very popular, meaning there are plenty of help forums and information around the web to guide you along.
Moving forward with Linux
Since no one owns Linux, it’s up to the Linux community to keep it updated and running smooth. Developers are constantly working to improve Linux, which means more and more updates will be released as time goes on.

WestHost uses the most up-to-date version of Linux for its servers. Check out our shared, cloud and dedicated web hosting packages to find the perfect solution for you.