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More on Linux....

What is the best kind of computer to run Unix on? Unless you are a wealthy hacker who thinks nothing of buying a Sun SPARC workstation, you'll probably do best with some sort of PC. There are almost countless variants of Unix that run on PCs, and a few for Macs. Most of them are free for download, or inexpensively available on CD-ROMs.

The three most common variations of Unix that run on PCs are Sun's Solaris, FreeBSD and Linux. Solaris costs around $700. Enough said. FreeBSD is really, really good. But you con't find many manuals or newsgroups that cover FreeBSD.

(Note: nowadays you can get Solaris for about $15 if you sign up as a Solaris developer.)

Linux, however, has the advantage of being available in many variants (so you can have fun mixing and matching programs from different Linux offerings). Most importantly, Linux is supported by many manuals, news groups, mail lists and Web sites. If you have hacker friends in your area, most of them probably use Linux and can help you out.

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Historical note: Linux was created in 1991 by a group led by Linus Torvalds of the University of Helsinki.  Linux is copyrighted under the GNU General Public License. Under this agreement, Linux may be redistributed to anyone along with the source code. Anyone can sell any variant of Linux and modify it and repackage it. But even if someone modifies the source code he or she may not claim copyright for anything created from Linux. Anyone who sells a modified version of Linux must provide source code to the buyers and allow them to reuse it in their commercial products without charging licensing fees. This arrangement is known as a "copyleft."

Under this arrangement the original creators of Linux receive no licensing or shareware fees. Linus Torvalds and the many others who have contributed to Linux have done so from the joy of programming and a sense of community with all of us who will hopefully use Linux in the spirit of good guy hacking. Viva Linux! Viva Torvalds!
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Linux consists of the operating system itself (called the "kernel") plus a set of  associated programs.

The kernel, like all types of Unix, is a multitasking, multi-user operating system. Although it uses a different file structure, and hence is not directly compatible with DOS and Windows, it is so flexible that many DOS and Windows programs can be run while in Linux. So a power user will probably want to boot up in Linux and then be able to run DOS and Windows programs from Linux.

Associated programs that come with most Linux distributions may include:
* a shell program (Bourne Again Shell -- BASH -- is most common);
* compilers for programming languages such as Fortran-77 (my favorite!), C, C++, Pascal, LISP, Modula-2, Ada, Basic (the best language for a beginner), and Smalltalk.;
* X (sometimes called X-windows), a graphical user interface
* utility programs such as the email reader Pine (my favorite) and Elm

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