Unix has been a NOT so popular operating system for end users that has been around almost since the computers were invented. Linux is a variation of Unix that has made some serious inroads as a viable desktop environment, but still is struggling to gain much foothold in the end user market.
If you have not used Linux before, then there will be several things that will be different compared to other operating systems. Here is a short and brief list of things that you can expect to be different:
No Cost Freedom
It is free and you have a choice between several different distributions. You can choose from about a thousand different Linux distros, and if you like none of it you can create your own. If you choose the Arch or Gentoo distro, you can customize your desktop to your heart’s content: just the software you use and like, to a customized desktop, to a minimalist kernel that is compiled to fit your particular hardware.
No Hidden Configuration or Registries
Almost all of the configuration is done in plain text files that you can change to to customize every single part of the system. This goes for your Linux system as well as your desktop environment, and almost all of the open source and free softwares that you will install and use.
Many of the popular applications and softwares are installed by default in many of the distributions. If you don’t find the exact software you want, then you can download it and install it (and did I say for free?) using any of the package managers that comes with your distribution. If it is not available on your package manager, then there is nothing stopping you from downloading it manually and installing it.
And, if it is not available to download, then you can download the source, compile it on your own and install it as well…And did I say that you are free to modify the source code as seem fit, before compiling it?
If you don’t like the distribution you installed, then go ahead and change it….and pick another distro. You can still use the exact same softwares that you used with the previous distribution. Most open source softwares are created ground up to run on Linux systems, and some of the commercial softwares have support for Linux as well.
If you are coming from another operating system, then don’t get hung up on the brand-name softwares that you used to use. You will find several other softwares that offer the same or better functionality and in many cases even more.
Mature and Stable Desktop
The X window system has been around for a long long time, dating back to before Microsoft. It is mature and very stable …. kind of like what they use on high performance servers. Two of the popular desktop environments, KDE and Gnome has been around for a long time too.
If the operating system is stable and reliable enough to run much of the servers and supercomputers around the world, then it is very likely that it is stable enough for your desktop.
No Constant Rebooting
You can install and uninstall software and applications without having to reboot the system every time. You can also stop and start services and kill processes as much you like without having to reboot. Linux machines are designed to be run round the clock (24/7/365) without ever having to reboot.
The only time you will have to reboot is if you ever have/want to upgrade your kernel.
In addition to the stability and reliability of the Linux systems, the other notable feature the security of the system. You will find that you can configure any number of users and each with just the right granularity of permissions to execute specific operations. Security is front and center to most Linux systems and it is truly multi user.
Only after you have been exposed to the level of security in Linux system, will you realize the lack there of in other operating systems.
Many users find the Linux systems to be hard and complicated, but it truly is not….it is just different from what you are used to. If you are open to learning new things, then you will find that the learning curve is just as much as learning you did for other operating systems (or the one you are used to) the first time around.