Free operating systems

LINUX

Linux is an operating system (OS) that was initially created as a hobby by a young student, Linus Torvalds, at the University of Helsinki in Finland. Linus had an interest in Minix, a small UNIX system, and decided to develop a system that exceeded the Minix standards. He began his work in 1991 when he released version 0.02 and worked steadily until 1994 when version 1.0 of the Linux Kernel was released. The kernel, at the heart of all Linux systems, is developed and released under the GNU General Public License and its source code is freely available to everyone. It is this kernel that forms the base around which a Linux operating system is developed. There are now literally hundreds of companies and organizations and an equal number of individuals that have released their own versions of operating systems based on the Linux kernel. More information on the kernel can be found at our sister site, LinuxHQ and at the official Linux Kernel Archives.

Apart from the fact that it's freely distributed, Linux's functionality, adaptability and robustness, has made it the main alternative for proprietary Unix and Microsoft operating systems. IBM, Hewlett-Packard and other giants of the computing world have embraced Linux and support its ongoing development. Well into its second decade of existence, Linux has been adopted worldwide primarily as a server platform. Its use as a home and office desktop operating system is also on the rise. The operating system can also be incorporated directly into microchips in a process called "embedding" and is increasingly being used this way in appliances and devices.

Throughout most of the 1990's, tech pundits, largely unaware of Linux's potential, dismissed it as a computer hobbyist project, unsuitable for the general public's computing needs. Through the efforts of developers of desktop management systems such as KDE and GNOME, office suite project OpenOffice.org and the Mozilla web browser project, to name only a few, there are now a wide range of applications that run on Linux and it can be used by anyone regardless of his/her knowledge of computers. Those curious to see the capabilities of Linux can download a live CD version called Knoppix . It comes with everything you might need to carry out day-to-day tasks on the computer and it needs no installation. It will run from a CD in a computer capable of booting from the CD drive. Those choosing to continue using Linux can find a variety of versions or "distributions" of Linux that are easy to install, configure and use. Information on these products is available in our distribution section and can be found by selecting the mainstream/general public category.

A Linux distribution is a collection of software applications built on top of the Linux kernel and operating system. There are many variations between distributions, as each strives to provide a unique user experience.


UBUNTU

Ubuntu is a community developed, Linux-based operating system that is perfect for laptops, desktops and servers. It contains all the applications you need - a web browser, presentation, document and spreadsheet software, instant messaging and much more.

Ubuntu is and always will be free of charge. You do not pay any licensing fees. You can download, use and share Ubuntu with your friends, family, school or business for absolutely nothing. Ubuntu has a fast and easy graphical installer right on the Desktop CD. On a typical computer the installation should take you less than 25 minutes.
The task bar contains an update area where we'll notify you when there are updates available for your system, from simple security fixes to a complete version upgrade. The update facility enables you to keep your system up-to-date with just a few clicks of your mouse.

Need more software? Simply choose from thousands of software packages in the Ubuntu catalogue, all available to download and install at the click of a button. And it's all completely free!

You'll be able to find help using the desktop browser or online. If you have a question about using Ubuntu, you can bet someone else has already asked it. Our community has developed a range of documentation that may contain the answer to your question, or give you ideas about where to look.

This is also where you'll get access to free support from the Ubuntu community in the chat and mailing lists in many languages. Alternatively, you can purchase professional support from the Canonical Global Support Services Team, or local providers.

Ubuntu aims to be usable by as many people as possible, which is why we include the very best localisation and accessibility infrastructure that the free software community has to offer.


FreeBSD

FreeBSD is an advanced operating system for x86 compatible (including Pentium® and Athlon™), amd64 compatible (including Opteron™, Athlon™64, and EM64T), ARM, IA-64, PowerPC, PC-98 and UltraSPARC® architectures. It is derived from BSD, the version of UNIX® developed at the University of California, Berkeley. It is developed and maintained by a large team of individuals. Additional platforms are in various stages of development.

FreeBSD offers advanced networking, performance, security and compatibility features today which are still missing in other operating systems, even some of the best commercial ones.

FreeBSD makes an ideal Internet or Intranet server. It provides robust network services under the heaviest loads and uses memory efficiently to maintain good response times for thousands of simultaneous user processes.

FreeBSD brings advanced network operating system features to appliance and embedded platforms, from higher-end Intel-based appliances to Arm, PowerPC, and shortly MIPS hardware platforms. From mail and web appliances to routers, time servers, and wireless access points, vendors around the world rely on FreeBSD's integrated build and cross-build environments and advanced features as the foundation for their embedded products. And the Berkeley open source license lets them decide how many of their local changes they want to contribute back.

With over 20,000 ported libraries and applications, FreeBSD supports applications for desktop, server, appliance, and embedded environments.

FreeBSD can be installed from a variety of media including CD-ROM, DVD, or directly over the network using FTP or NFS. All you need are these directions. FreeBSD is free