Frequently Asked Questions
What is Linux?
Linux is technically the Linux kernel (www.kernel.org). But the term has come to contain what technically is GNU/Linux, or GNU programs (www.gnu.org) running on the Linux kernel, which is a complete Unix-like system.
Wow, I still have no idea what that means - What is Linux?
GNU/Linux is a collection of open-source software that is a complete operating system for your computer (similar to Microsoft Windows or Apple's Mac OS X). With it, you can browse the internet, compose & access e-mail, create office documents and spreadsheets, and perform thousands & thousands of other tasks possible with a computer that has a capable operating system & software.
What is a distribution? What is a distro?
A distribution is a collection of software that can be installed on a system to give you a fully functional operating system. A distro (shorthand name for distribution) typically contains 3 distinct aspects: The Linux kernel, GNU and other open-source packages, and an installation/package manager to help you setup/configure/maintain your system. Some are focused on specific uses, while others are more general. For more details, see the Wikipedia entry on Linux Distributions. Some focus on ease of use, others focus on technical prowess. Finding the one that meets your needs & works well for you does require some research, whether by reading reviews, talking to friends & associates, or actually looking at different distributions. Here at LinuxCollections.com, we group different distributions by category, and give you a quick and easy way to obtain several distributions for your review.
What "Exactly" is a Distro?
Note that anyone can create a new Linux distribution - because of the GNU type license, you can start with an existing distribution, give it a new name, change the splash screen, change the default settings & packages, and you now have a new distro! Some of the more popular base systems that are used for other distros are Debian, Fedora, Arch, etc. Part of the reason using one of these well established distros as a starting point has to do with managing updates. For a useful system, managing kernel updates, installer updates, system updates, package updates, etc. are all required, so using an established distro as a starting point helps new distros manage these updates.
Why would I want more than one distribution?
Here is a "quick" checklist on what it takes to create a distro:
- Because you need a computer to run the software on, choosing the platform/processor is the first step.
- Then you would choose the linux kernel and its options - ideally you'd configure the kernel build and compile and build the kernel for your target system
- Pick a Package Manager - how additional software will be managed and added to your system. The more popular packages are Debian (DPKG/.deb with APT), Red Hat (Red Hat Package Manager RPM/.rpm with YUM), and Pacman for Arch, Zypper for openSuSE, Portage for Gentoo, or compressed archives (.tar.gz).
- Decide on an Installer and default packages, default configuration, what to ask the installer, what services to start, etc., etc.
- Give it name, give it a splash screen, brand it, pick a Window manager and default desktop (or opening message), and whatever else you think it needs
The number of Linux distributions has continued to grow every year since the first distributions in the early 1990's. Each has its own flavor, characteristics, and capabilities. Just as different people like different cars, finding the distribution that meets your needs and excites your imagination means looking at, running, and playing around with different ones. By packaging distinct distributions together, we give you an easy way to obtain the discs required to install and review these various distributions.
What does the distribution "platform" mean?
Primarily, this is the processor (or processor family) the particular distribution is compiled for, which defines what type of machine it can run on. Most PCs are considered x86-32 bit, or Intel 386, 486, Pentium (586), Pentium Pro (686) compatible. Because of the different processors, the generic term "x86" is used for this family of processors. Note that a 386 distro will run on a Pentium (or generically called 586) platform, but not vice versa (since there may be new processor instructions that the 386 is unable to perform). So in practice, a 386 release is the most compatible, since it can run on 386/486/586/686 compatible processors, while 686 will only run on 686 compatible systems. PPC is used for PowerPC, which older Macs are based on. With 64-bit processors being offered by AMD and Intel, you may need to identify which manufacturer's chips are supported. Typically the AMD64 platform will work (run 64-bit code) for AMD and Intel iCore type processors. There is a distinction between AMD64 and x86_64, but for practical purposes, they are similar - i.e. the 64-bit choice for Intel and Intel compatible processors. An important aspect of open source software is that the actual source code is readily available. This means any architecture specific issues can be easily addressed, and it is typical to find the same software available for many architectures (i.e. the architecture is defined by the processor (e.g. 386 or Pentium), or simply, the "platform"). (Note: This flexibility is why Linux & other open source projects are adopted on so many different architectures and processors). However powerful the source code is, software really shines when it is running. The act of converting source code to running programs is called compiling, and the compiler is processor specific. All distributions are compiled and ready to run, but you need the correct version compiled for your particular machine. So be sure that the platform shown matches the target machine where you wish to install these distributions.
What is the difference between 32-bit and 64-bit?
This refers to the processor's (Central Processing Unit - CPU) instruction size. At the binary level, switches can be on or off (1 or 0). As you link switches together, you can create logical and arithmetic results. Processors are complicated collections of transistors that can perform logical and arithmetic operations based on instructions - the size of the base instruction for a particular processor is typically referred to as the "type" of processor, e.g. 4-bit, 8-bit, 16-bit, 32-bit, 64-bit, etc. Because the size of the instruction defines how much data and how fast things can be processed, as you double the processor type, you can similarly increase the speed of calculations. So the combination of increasing clock-speed and increasing processor size makes for more and more powerful computers. Typically a 64-bit system is faster and more powerful than a 32-bit system. Note that there are other factors, such as clock speed, memory access speed, storage access speed, video subsystem size and speed, that combine to determine a system's speed, and also depends on what the system is tasked with.
What kind of Computer do I need? What type of system should I buy?
Generally, if you have older computers around or hand-downs, these are great systems to use for learning about Linux. If you intend to buy a system for Linux, using craigslist.com or ebay.com may be a great option to get an older, fully functional system at a lower cost than buying brand new. You can also ask around or use local options to find older PCs that will still happily run Linux. If you want power and speed, buying a "bare-bones" PC (or putting your own together) gives you the best cost/performance, and you don't pay for an OS. Keep in mind that some hardware may require proprietary drivers (e.g. graphics cards) to get the best results, so checking Linux compability before purchasing is always a good idea. Also note that the more people that ask about Linux compatibility, the more the "market" will respond (hardware guys just want to sell hardware).
What does GNOME & KDE mean?
These are the 2 most popular Window Managers for X-Windows. X-Windows is the tool used to create the GUI (Graphical User Interface) in most Linux distributions. The Window Manager is the enivronment that manages each window (which conceptually is its own program/process in the system, contained in a window). To make managing each program easier for the user, the windows are managed, and can be minimized to an icon, or maximized to full screen, etc. In practice, most common GUIs have more similarites than differences - this includes MS Windows, Mac OS X, GNOME, and KDE. GNOME puts its menu at the top, KDE at the bottom. KDE is more configurable than GNOME, as each has different approaches / thoughts / philosophies on the user interface. Some distros offer both as different releases (e.g. Ubuntu (GNOME) vs. Kubuntu (KDE)), or others can be configured with either (e.g. Debian). For details on GNOME, see GNOME.org, and for details on KDE, see KDE.org. For other X-Window managers, see Wikipedia X-Window Manager, and for a general discussion, see Window Manager.
How does Linux compare to Windows and Mac OS X?
This could be a very long answer, and much is subjective. For example, if you are familiar with Windows, and have to do something on a Mac OS X based system, you may find yourself unable to quickly perform the same task in the same way. Then take a Mac OS X user, and put them onto a Windows PC, and they may also find they can't do the same tasks the same way. GNOME or KDE window managers in Linux? Each a bit different. However to complete common tasks, such as e-mail, internet browsing, and word processing, each operating system (OS) provides the tools necessary. Each OS interface requires a learning curve, and as a human, you will tend to like what you are familiar with. Using Virtual Machine technology, often a required application can be run on a different base OS, providing flexibility. The real, simple answer is all 3 are comparable in terms of basic usage and performing OS functions. Of course, Linux is Free software, and is infinitely more flexible because it provides access to the source code. On the other hand, because Windows and Mac OS X are created by for-profit companies, they are more polished, have more commercial applications, but do have limits in terms of licensing and what you can and cannot do with them. So which is the best? It all depends on what you are trying to accomplish. Each OS has its strength and weaknesses.
Can I run Windows Application (or run a .EXE file) on Linux?
The short answer is no. Windows Executable files are meant to run on the version of Windows they were built for. For example, it is highly unlikely you will be able to run a current Windows application on Windows 3.1. Nor can you run a Windows .EXE file on Mac OS X. These are different operating systems (OS), and that distinction is important. However, there are options. You can look at virtual machine technology (such as Virtualbox, KVM, VMWare, etc.) which would allow you to run a Windows OS on a Linux OS. There is also Wine, which allows you to run some Windows applications and games natively in Linux.
This is all new to me. Which distro should I get?
This is a good question. The answer depends on who you are, and what your expectations are. This is the reason behind the Collections in our name - you should really check out several, so you are better able to compare and grasp the similarities & differences. Asking this question, you don't know what you don't know. We would suggest you start with the Most Popular Collection or the Live CD Collection.
I can download these by myself - why would I pay you for these?
Convenience. Why do people pay for a car wash, when they can do it themselves? Why do people eat in restaurants, rather than make exactly what they want to eat at home? Most people value their time, and while downloading a single distribution may be acceptable for someone who already pays for a high-speed internet connection, downloading 3, 4 or 5 distributions, burning CDs or DVDs, and THEN installing & reviewing them is quite a time investment. Surely it is a whole lot easier to have all those ready-to-go CDs / DVDs arrive at your doorstep in a handy LinuxCollections.com case? Our customers sure think so!
Why do people buy these discs from LinuxCollections.com?
There are many reasons - here are a few: Some people don't have high-speed internet connections. Some people don't have CD (or DVD) burners. Some people want their shipment tracked. Some people like the convenience of getting these different distributions from one place. Some people value their time, want to review multiple distributions, and want these delivered directly to them. Some need older distributions that are hard to find elsewhere. Some want source discs for running systems. Some want professionally duplicated discs. Some need quantities that preclude doing it themselves. Some don't want to learn/take the time to do the steps required for a bootable disc or USB. Some like our LinuxCollections.com Disc case! The list goes on ...
Can I get a distro on a USB Flash Drive?
Yes - newer distros that are single discs will have this as an option - you can select the disc, the LinuxCollections.com USB Flash Drive, or both USB Flash Drive and Disc. In general, for systems that can boot from USB, the USB Drive option will be faster. However, the USB Flash Drive media is more expensive. There can also be system configuration required - see Boot from USB reference information for more details. If you find a distro that doesn't include this option, please let us know - we can investigate and add this option if it is possible.
What about Quality?
All downloads are verified, produced on professional-quality industry-standard duplicators, checked, and packed with your satisfaction in mind.
What are the Prices?
CD's are $1.49, and DVD's are $2.49 - multiple disc sets go up accordingly. Older discs and items that haven't been ordered in a while will be archived (moved off of our production server). Archived discs have increased prices to cover the additional handling required to deliver these items. Delivery on a LinuxCollections.com USB Flash Drive is $14.99 and a dual USB/DVD (or CD) is $16.99.
What about Support?
LinuxCollections.com customer support is limited to the quality & readability of the media we provide. The pricing reflects the cost of producing the media, and does not allow for any technical support personnel.
But these are free if I download them - how can you charge for them?
Any operating system installation or system/hardware based issues should not be addressed to LinuxCollections.com, but to the distribution source, as we are only a re-distributor of the released software on physical media. Often there are forums, installation tips, or technical support options available from the distribution release team or through the original source developer.
All USB Flash Drives are boot tested before shipping, but we cannot provide support for USB Flash Drive booting - there are too many variables, settings, and BIOSes. Also the drives can be written to, which may modify or damage the boot files. For these reasons, LinuxCollections.com recommends purchasing the dual USB/Disc option. You should refer to the Boot from USB details. Also, if you discover a specific setting or option on your system, please let us know and we will update the reference information for future customers.
LinuxCollections.com's service is as a media duplicator and shipper, not as a technical support resource.
We are not charging anything for the software contained on the discs. We are charging for the media and the labor required to burn, test, assemble, package, and ship your distribution set.
How can all this software be "Free"?
There is a long answer and a short answer to this question. We will have to skip the long answer, but the short answer is that this is a collection of the works of thousands and thousands of individuals stretching back over decades. Software is unique in that once written, debugged, and tested, it can be duplicated essentially for free. But software also needs hardware to run on, so there is an implicit assumption that you have a computer that you have (or someone else has) paid for. So the dynamics of these distributions and the development of free software fall into these general categories:
For further details on free software, check out these links: GNU Project at www.gnu.org, Free Software Foundation at www.fsf.org
- Developers that are employed by hardware and other computer companies (promoting free software may boost the bottom line by selling more hardware, more books, or more services)
- Developers that use the free software and have assisted both in small and large ways for free (as a kind of payment for the original free software)
- Individuals who ran into a problem, solved it, and gave back to the community by providing the update (as a thank you / payment for the free software / being part of an actual community)
- Developers that simply like to code or customize their actual computing experience (and are only too glad to provide the resultant software to others)
- Those that feel that freedom and the ability to freely exchange software is important ("Free, as in Freedom")
Finally, note that none of this would be possible (or relevant) without computers and data communications (e.g. the Internet), and these industries are alive and well.