What is Linux, and why your friend is excited about it? It is an amazing free and open operating system

What is Linux, and why your friend is excited about it? It is an amazing free and open operating system. Like most people, I grew up before smart phones were a thing. My gaming console had a small pixel Italian man named Mario. My computer was a big box with a mouse and a keyboard.

Eventually things like smaller phones, ipod nanos, smaller windows computers were a thing.

Ads, hacking, sketchy programs were common, and I get where you’re coming from. Sounds like you know how to use a phone and a computer, how everything works seems confusing, and mysterious.

For myself, eventually I got into programming like most of us here did, and like any discipline, you start slow, 1+1, and work your way up till you understand the more complex things like 2*2 or 44

To give you an “explain like I’m five” version, the most basic concept to understand is that: Everything is a computer.

Your PS5 is a computer. Your phone is a computer. Even your microwave and dishwasher are computers.

So what IS a computer, and what does it have to do with raspberry pie, and linux of all things?


What is a computer?

You can think of a computer as a light switch. When you turn it on, electricity runs through it and turns on your light bulb. When you turn it off, the electricity from the wall is cut off and it stops.

That’s it! But… wait… how is my phone a light switch? Well think of traffic lights. In that example, maybe there are 3 light switches. 1 for green, 1 for yellow, 1 for red. There’s more to it, like a clock that times how the colors change. The more switches you add to something, the more we can do!

A calculator might have 125 switches that are super small, and get turned on and off when you push the buttons.

Your iphone would have billions of these tiny, microscopic switches that all work together.


What is Linux?

We have a basic idea of what a computer is, but what is this really weird cult “linux” that your geeky friends keeps raving about? Without going into details, in this day and age there are 3 main “Operating Systems” (you’re familiar with 2 of them already most likely).

  • Mac
  • Windows
  • Linux

If you’ve used an iphone, ipad, macbook or any Apple things you’re very familiar with the Mac operating system. Mac is actually a distant cousin to Linux, so if you’re familiar you’re not far off.

Windows is of course Microsoft, and windows computers. Almost everyone has used a windows computer at some point in their life. Then there’s this distant cousin Linux who only the nerds seem to use, but not so much.

Linux began in 1991 as a personal project by Finnish student Linus Torvalds with the goal to create a free and open operating system. Prior to Linux, operating systems like from Microsoft cost cold hard cash, and poor students like Linus couldn’t afford them.

What happens when you get something built by a bunch of poor students and volunteers? You get something amazing!

Linux is not widely used by most common people. Your grandma won’t have used it. My gaming buddies probably don’t use it for gaming. Your favorite celebrities probably don’t use it.

What is a Linux computer

If you ever get a Linux computer you’ll notice it looks “different”, and feels “off”. It’s built by nerds for nerds, and that is seen as great by some, and part of why it’s only used mostly by programmers.

There are some who spend lots of time making it look and feel as good as a Mac computer or Windows computer, or playing games, creating art, or watching 4k movies. But it’s not for everyone, it’s like an automatic car vs a manual car with a stick shift. One is more streamlined, more accessible, and the other is a bit harder to use but offers more control, more customization.

If you get into Linux, the “mysteries” of computers start to vanish, as at it’s core it’s much more simple. I could name you everything about my Linux computer, how it works, what every folder does, and every program. It’s just about the simplicity, the control, the speed, and the lack of mystery that draws us to it.


Why use Linux?

Ubuntu is the most popular way to get Linux on your computer. It’s created by a company called Canonical, similarly that Windows is created by Microsoft. Think of Linux like a recipe, and Ubuntu like the final cookies that your Uncle baked. Everyone’s cookie is going to be a bit different, they do things a bit differently, but it’s all from the original recipe.

“Free and Open (source)” is a philosophical term that basically tries to get rid of the “mysteriousness” of computers by making all the “code” (the recipes) free for all to see and use! When you buy Microsoft cookies the recipe is a held secret for no one to see what’s inside.

“Brave” is an internet browser. If you’ve ever used Safari or Google Chrome or Internet Explorer you’ve used an internet browser before. Again, similar recipe, but different final product.

Raspeberry Pi” is like a tiny computer that runs Linux! That’s all there is to it. It’s a cute little computer that’s inexpensive and runs a whole computer on it!

Getting hacked” is one thing a lot of Linux users don’t worry about because since it’s all free and open, and used by such a small subset of society, hackers don’t usually waste their time trying to make ads on websites that would hack your Linux machine. When I grew up, viruses, firewalls, and “cleaning” the family computer was a common occurrence, but switching to Linux I have never once had a virus!


Hope this helps and isn’t too patronizing. The best part of the Linux community is how open and accepting everyone is no matter what you know or don’t!