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  What is Linux?
Part I | Part II
By taubz
Part I

(This is a modified version of an article I wrote for my school's newspaper.)

An operating system, such as Microsoft Windows or MacOS, is the first program that runs when a computer starts. Linux, a type of Unix operating system, allows a user to start other programs such as word-processing or e-mail applications, for instance.

Unlike Windows and MacOS, however, Linux does not always use a point-and-click interface. Instead, many users opt to type in text commands to start programs.

The appeal of Linux is not obvious at first, yet more and more universities are beginning to set up Linux computers.

Red Hat Linux is one "distribution" of Linux. Though technically identical to every other type of Linux, Red Hat is supplied by Red Hat, Inc. in a way that is easy for people to set up.

Professor Larry Peterson who will be teaching COS 461: Computer Networks next semester said Red Hat Linux is one of the most widely used types of Linux. Red Hat, Inc. went public in 1999 at $14 per share, and within a year the stock had increased by a factor of 10. Despite the dominance of Microsoft Windows, Red Hat has become increasingly popular. Computer hobbyists, corporations and even universities are turning to Red Hat for a more stable, powerful operating system.

Director of Red Hat's University Program Emily Forester said Red Hat is not seeking out institutions that would be willing to buy the operating system universities are coming to Red Hat.

"They just want some semblance of guidance," she said, adding that she believes universities are choosing Red Hat over other distributors of Linux because the company has the most resources available to help these institutions make Red Hat work for them.

But, Peterson also said Red Hat is no better than other types of Linux on its technical merits. "I don't think it has any particular advantage," he explained.

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