Basic Linux

Copyright (c) 1995 John M. Fisk
For information regarding copying and distribution of this material see the COPYING document.

So... you've heard about Linux from your friends (who are raving about it :-), or maybe you've seen ads for "This CD ROM set lets you run UN*X on your home PC for the ultra-low price of$ 69.95 and if you act now...", or maybe you've used it at school, or you've stumbled into one of the numerous Linux Usenet groups...

In any case, you're asking yourself...

So what is LINUX ?

Linux is a freely distributable "copylefted" UN*X for 386/486/Pentium PC's. Yup, that's right, it's free! It is a robust and dynamic true 32-bit, multiuser, multitasking OS that supports gigabytes of applications including EMACS, TCPIP, X Window, serial communications such as PPP, SLIP, and CSLIP, TeX, LaTeX, GCC, Open Look, NFS, and much more. The internet has been the primary vehicle for its development and continues to be a primary means of obtaining Linux, although a growing number of vendors are offering it on CD for $10 to $60 for a full installation.

Curious? Interested? Keep reading...

To get Linux up and running on your PC you'll need or want:

Linux began life as a project of Linus Torvalds of Finland who had set out to write "a better Minix than Minix." Since its inception in the early 1990's Linux has gained tremendous support and momentum from around the world. While the basic kernel development continues to be coordinated by Linus, a lot of software from various sources has been added including GNU, XFree86, the Free Software Foundation, and many others.

For this reason, most people install Linux from one of a number of distributions which package the OS kernel with a varying amount of software. These range from small distributions with a modest amount of software to enormous packages such as Slackware which can take over 200 MB of space if it is installed in its entirety. Cool, eh? That's a boatload of software...

Now let's go places...

Want to jump right in and get some software? There are a number of well maintained and supported distributions that can be obtained via anonymous ftp. Keep in mind that the typical Linux distribution is quite large... on the order of ten's of MB worth of files. If you have a fast networked or PPP/SLIP connection, or want to download only a portion of a distribution (most will let you set up only those components that you really want which can mean a LOT of savings in terms of harddrive space) then anonymous ftp may be a good choice. Check out:

Can't get onto Sunsite? (Yeah, they're busier than the Garden State Parkway on the the 4th of July...) Check out one of it's many mirrors. They're generally a LOT less crowded and much faster.

If you've got a CDROM drive then getting one of the growing number of Linux CD distributions may be the best way to go. Why you ask?

If you're interested in getting Linux on CD there are several good places to start looking. These include: For e-mail or phone orders try: There are, I'm sure, many other folks selling Linux on CD... but these will at least give you an idea about where to start. If you need some information about the various distributions, read Erik Troan's Linux Distribution HOWTO which can be found amongst the other helpful HOWTO's (see below) collected by Matt Welsh.

You've gotten Linux but are having problems with installation, your sound card, or getting the CDROM configured? A great place to get some answers are the numerous HOWTO documents collected and organized by Matt Welsh.

Finally, want to cruise LinuxSpace and see what's out there... Here's a couple excellent places:

Linux Documentation Project (LDP)
The definitive site, the Linux Documentation Project (LDP) Home Page is maintained by Matt Walsh, Coordinator of the LDP. It is a treasure trove of information on all aspects of Linux including: HOWTO's, FAQ's, LDP documents, vendors and products, ftp'ing Linux software, User-Groups, the Linux Journal, books and publications, and a slew of links around the globe.

Linux Organization
The Linux Organization Home Page. Another great site for the support and maintenance of a Linux system. LOTS-o-linkz to a variety of spots around the 'Web.

Harvest Broker
Looking for a certain program... can't find a certain type of editor... use the Harvest broker to search the Linux Software Map (LSM): a database of over 1,200 programs written for, ported to, or supported by Linux. This search engine is a powerful means of finding specific pieces of software or those in a given category.

This document was prepared using xhtml (ASHE, A Simple HTML Editor ) under X Window (X11R6) on an AMD 486/66 PC running Linux from the Slackware 2.2.0 distribution. Interested in writing HTML documents?

Got any great ideas for improvements! Send your comments, criticisms, suggestions, and ideas.

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This page written and maintained by:
John M. Fisk at