Linux and Open Source Software
Linux is a computer operating system. The best known operating system is Microsoft Windows. It appears that many people are not aware of the existence of any non-Windows operating systems. They're certainly missing out, because Windows is known to be fragile and insecure, whereas Linux and some other operating systems are solid and have a good security track record.
Open Source Software means that everyone can review the programming code of a program. This means that anyone can help find security bugs and illogic constructs. It also means that when a security fix is known, a system administrator can apply it without having to wait for a vendor to release a new version.
Most OSS isn't just open, it's also free. Usually free in both senses: free as in free beer, and free as in free speech.
My favourite Linux distributions
I like Debian, which makes system administration easy while providing fairly recent software packages. Installing software in Debian usually is a single command, as is upgrading an entire system including most of the installed software. I use Debian on servers.
I wrote a guide for installing a minimal Debian system on RAID 1 or 5 that is rather populair.
Ubuntu is a nice Debian derivative that I run on my laptops. It's free, complete, and incredibly easy to install and maintain. It manages to get a lot of things working out of the box. I'm not used to installing device drivers anymore :).
My favourite Linux software
Now that you know what Linux and OSS, I'll list my favourite Linux/OSS software:
- bash: often the default shell and quite usable.
- vim: a great text editor (you really need a good text editor if you use Linux. A simple program like Microsoft Notepad is not good enough if you deal with a huge amount of text files.)
- Firefox: although KDE has a very fast browser, the somewhat slower Firefox is better compatible with web sites.
- Inkscape: a great vector illustration program, comparable to Adobe Illustrator, but free and compliant with the open SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) standard.
- Gimp: an extremely powerful graphics program, but it is a bit hard to use. The 2.0 prerelease is much easier to use than Gimp used to be.
- mutt: certainly the best e-mail client available for text terminals. Much faster than Pine, and highly customisable.
- Irssi: the IRC client of my choice. I wrote some extensions, and some of my ideas went into the core program that is used by many people worldwide. This is why I like Open Source.
- Perl: a somewhat cryptic, but brilliant programming language. Almost all of my programming is done in this language, and so is this site.
For connecting to Linux servers with ssh using a Windows computer, just use PuTTY. It emulates a real Linux terminal quite well.