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(?) question please please please answer

From Lindsey Seaton

Answered By Frank Rodolf, madeline, Thomas Adam

(?) Excuse me. I have a question

As a computer project, I was assigned to get on the computer and find out what linux is and what it is used for. I don't know if it's an orginization or if it's part of HTML script or anything. Please e-mail me back with the answer please. I just know so little about computers and one name can mean so many different things on the internet. I had only just now I had been spelling it wrong (linex) until I found out it was spelled linux.

(!) [Frank] There are so many possible answers to that question, I won't even start to try to answer it.
What I can do, is send you to the list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). The question you ask is the very first question in there. You can find it here:

(?) Thank you for your help.

(!) [Frank] I hope the link helps you!
(!) [Madeline] I just looked at the FAQ and noticed that they're really not too helpful for a beginner. So here's a more straightforward answer:
Like Windows and Mac OS, Linux is an operating system, which is a program that is in charge of organizing and running everything on your computer. Here is a definition of operating system: http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/o/operating_system.html
Unlike Windows and Mac OS, Linux is free, and the programming code that was used to create it is available to everyone. As a result, there are many versions of linux (such as Red Hat, Gnome, and SuSE) which are somewhat different but with the same foundation (called a "kernel"--this kernel is updated every so often by the creator of Linux, Linus Torvalds, and company). Linux is usually the operating system of choice for computer programmers and scientists because it is very stable and well-designed (not crashing randomly and often as Windows tends to do).
I hope this helps.
(!) [Mike] Thanks, Madeline, I was about to say something similar.
Many people also find Linux and other Unix derivatives more flexible than other operating systems.
(!) [Thomas Adam] I don't really remember this address as being advertised as a "do your research/homework" one. Nevertheless, I can try and answer your question....
Firstly, your question is far too broad. There have been numerous books written about the history and use of Linux, and it is beyond the scope of my knowledge to tell you everything.

Considering that Thomas is "The Weekend Mechanic" and has written several articles for the Linux Gazette over the years, that's saying something significant. -- Heather

Linux was created by scratch in ~1991, by Linus Torvalds, a very gifted person for Finland. His goal was to create a Unix like operating system. Thus, he was assisted by numerous loosly-knit programmers over the world, to produce the kernel, the "heart" of the operating system. Essentially, this is what "Linux" refers to.
Linux is an operating system, and is an alternative to the de facto operating system "MS-Windows". Linux is a Unix-like operating system (as I have already said). There are many different "distibutions" of Linux, which use different means of distributing data, either in RPM format, .tgz format etc.
If you are interested, you could try Linux out (by using a floppy based distibution, such as HAL91 available from the following:
and then you can run Linux off a floppy disk. Bear in mind however, that this will offer no GUI frontend.
I hope this has answered a little of your question, even if it is brief.

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Published in issue 70 of Linux Gazette September 2001
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