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What Does the Penguin Say?

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GNU
Linux

I chalk this up to a few factors. First, Linux was practically born on the Web. In Linux’s infancy, Linus Torvalds not only made the kernel available online, but he attracted a throng of would-be contributors via Usenet who collaborated in Linux’s development. The Internet has been a significant distribution channel ever since, facilitating the obtainment and installation of desktop Linux distributions in the large majority of cases today.

Second, since one could not easily purchase a computer with Linux preinstalled until around the last decade, online communities were essential for fielding the questions of Linux initiates. It is comforting to know there are veterans who can help when setting up an entirely new OS, especially one so off the beaten path. This has traditionally been, and remains, Linux’s main analog to customer support that competing OSes offer.

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, Linux simply offers so many choices. Windows gives you Windows the Windows way. On Mac, you get Mac the way Mac was intended. Not so with desktop Linux. Why? Simply put, there is no one “desktop Linux.” With Linux, every distribution gives you a completely different suite of user programs built atop the kernel, sometimes with its own repackaging of the kernel itself.

Not least of the cornucopia of options that the desktop Linux world offers is that of desktop environments. Most distros present a handful of curated desktop environments. Between all the Linux distros out there, one will encounter literally dozens of them. The only hope a humble Linux user has of figuring out which one they might want, aside from taking them all for a spin, is to ask around. Users also really get into advocating for particular desktops. This is nearly always good-natured, leading to amusing, if not informative, discussion threads.

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