Six years ago, I started using Linux as my full-time computer operating system. Unlike many Linux newcomers, I actually came from the world of Apple’s OS X (now macOS) as opposed to Windows. And at first, I was not planning to make a drastic change. I was simply curious about Linux, which I first encountered in the late 1990s when you could still buy physical boxes containing distributions like Red Hat or Mandrake in bookstores. (And yes, this was also when we still had physical bookstores.)
In any case, the more I worked with Linux, the more I liked it. More to the point, I found I was more productive while using Linux than with macOS, which I often found too restrictive, or even Windows, which I used while working in office environments and saw as cluttered. Linux-based operating systems tend to strike a good balance between flexible and uncluttered, and as you gain more experience with the system, it becomes easier to tailor the computer to meet your exact needs.
cvilleFOSS is a blog designed to help introduce other freelancers and self-employed professionals learn about not just Linux, but free and open-source software (FOSS) in general. In fact, unlike many other Linux-focused blogs, podcasts, and YouTube channels, I won’t be spending much time comparing and contrasting Linux distributions and desktop environments. Instead, this blog’s primary focus will be on application software and “getting things done” in a daily working environment.
What Is a Linux “Distribution” and How Many Are There?
If you are new to Linux, the first thing you should probably learn is that “Linux” is not really an operating system. Instead, it is what’s known as a kernel, which is basically a group of core programs that allow applications to interface with the computer’s hardware. So when people, including myself, use Linux in everyday conversation, what we are really talking about is a “Linux-based operating system.”
And there are, in fact, hundreds of Linux-based operating systems. These are referred to as distributions. Since the Linux kernel is a type of FOSS, it can be adapted and redistributed by anyone who has the technical skill and resources. As of this writing, there are 276 known distributions listed on Distrowatch, a website that has tracked the growth and development of Linux-based and other FOSS operating systems since 2001.
Many of these distributions cater to a specific niche, such as running servers or providing support for users who speak and read a particular language. For purposes of cvilleFOSS, however, we’ll mostly be sticking to the Ubuntu family of Linux-based operating systems. Ubuntu is a Linux distribution published by Canonical Ltd., a privately held company based in the United Kingdom. Canonical, together with U.S.-based Red Hat and Germany-based SUSE, are effectively the “Big Three” companies whose business models revolve around supporting Linux and related FOSS projects.
Ubuntu itself has many derivatives, i.e. distributions that are based on Ubuntu but not necessarily produced by Canonical itself. In my daily work, I use Ubuntu MATE, which is classified as an official flavour of Ubuntu. This means that the Ubuntu MATE team receives some degree of infrastructure and support from Canonical–and the project’s lead developer, Martin Wimpress is himself a Canonical employee–but it is otherwise an independent, community-driven distribution.
What This Blog Will Not Do
Finally, I want to make three things clear at the inception of cvilleFOSS. First, the fact that I choose to discuss certain Linux distributions and FOSS applications should not be interpreted as a criticism or attack on any other software project. This message is admittedly directed primarily at existing Linux users. Some users develop a tribal loyalty to a particular project–especially desktop environments–and this spawns countless flame-wars on Reddit threads, YouTube comment sections, and so forth. As I said in the previous section, I happen to use Ubuntu MATE. But this doesn’t mean that the other Ubuntu official flavours and derivatives are bad or inferior. It’s simply a matter of personal preference.
Second, my intentions in writing about Linux and FOSS are not to “convert” anyone away from using Windows or macOS. Heck, I continue to use a Windows PC in addition to multiple Linux machines. My goal is to provide useful information that other self-employed and work-from-home professionals can use to evaluate whether Linux and FOSS applications are right for their needs.
Third, although Linux is often perceived as an operating system geared towards software developers, systems administrators, and other “technical” professionals, I am not any of those things. I’m a freelance writer who provides blog ghostwriting services to law firms and small businesses. (I am based in Charlottesville, Virginia, hence the “cville” in the blog name.) Indeed, the main reason I started this blog was to reach out to other non-technical professionals who might benefit from using Linux and FOSS applications.
With those caveats, I look forward to writing this blog and, hopefully, communicating with those of you who choose to read it. I will not be maintaining a comments section for cvilleFOSS, but please feel free to email me at email@example.com with any questions or concerns.
Categories: Welcome to Linux