Linux, seems to be the in thing now, and more since valve is pushing it, I shall attempt to explain the super basics for people who are thinking of moving over and dont know what the fuss is about.
So I welcome you into a world of freedom, power and limitless possibilities, which windows should have been.
Myth Busting first though...
Linux is 100% immune to hackers, No it is not, where do you think hackers live? Here, they help you, protect you, attack you, patch your system, all in the name of progress (Well mostly) okay and they may not attack you personally but yeah you get the idea.
Thing is this, while more secure online stuff can be attacked still, your base system is protected and attacks generally wont come through your system, so imagine it as a front line to defending your other PCs.
With windows you can get infected before you are fully ready and setup, if you activate internet you are ready and this is for a number of reasons, Main 2, Kernel and Networking.
The kernel which is actually Linux, is maintained better, by hackers, pro devs, new basic devs, anyone if you help someone you are helping linux to be maintained better, But because people add there own stuff and check the kernel chances are any security holes are patched asap, not 2 weeks down the line when adobe has already destroyed half your system thanks to exploits.
And if you do have adobe on linux (I do) chances are the exploits may not effect you, as they are mainly windows targeted take a look at this report. here
Second is networking, there are things called ports, all it takes is 1 and your entire system can go down, think of them as an open window, Windows has a lot of these open and active at launch, Linux does not, and you may notice better network performance for this, what needs to be active is active, you want other ports open. you do it your self, Anyways hackers listen for ports, if they spot one they are all over it like a rash, Linux takes better care, and then the system its self takes over with exploit protection stuff (Wizard magic!!)
Linux is faster than windows...
Although this is harder to spot on standard use these days with SSDs and quad/octo core CPUs etc, but if you go into gaming be ready, Linux will hold a fight, linux had an update around 6 month ago (At time of writing) which boosted AMD by 50% via kernel, adding to this no DirectX to hog the system, expect your system to last a lot longer. Adding to that the system is lighter, I have an i5 2500 and 8GB RAM I am currently using 6% max cpu and 10% max RAM, (800Mb) I have about 10 tabs open in firefox, 151 processes running from all over the system and am using 0 swap to SSD/HDD In windows with this I would be using at least 2GB with a 15/20% CPU load. Oh and I have 4 desktops... ;P
Lets say this, I can run games at ultra I cant in windows. Thanks to the kernel and system, Built by hackers.
Linux is hard to use...
Depends where you go, it can get hard to use, but for basic use, its easier than windows, I find XFCE easier than Windows GUI, and dare I say OSX layout? I plan to try a text based desktop soon (crapping my self) which will be even less on resources and teach me more about the terminal, you can even get windows look a like on linux using Zorin OS or LXDE.
Until you hit the terminal and start doing advanced stuff chances are it works easier than windows.
Linux does not have my drivers...
It may not, but chances are there is an open source one ready and already in the kernel, GPUs are different as you need actual drivers, but they take 5 mins to setup, and work like a dream, With linux on networking I noticed better performance, Now I have fibre optic so no matter the OS I can run it at full, but when I was on 5mbps I couldnt run 1080p decently in windows, Linux I could xD
The networking performance is another thank you to the kernel, as the drivers created are a lot better and faster compared (In experience) my AMD GPU in linux runs harder, faster and cooler with the linux drivers from AMD, and it actually sleeps propperly on here, I cant hear my system on linux.
In gaming expect better performance also, I do hear that AMD is the better person in Linux, but I cant comment, I can run Metro Last Light at ultra in Linux, now you cant edit as many options at the moment, but it still runs better than windows does, And other games my GPU doesnt even ramp up like it does in windows.
Dont expect to learn in one night..
Zoltan posted this other day so I shall link you over there, He is more qualified with experience than me to talk about learning in linux, and chances are will help you if stuck, as well as the rest of the community (Brennanriddell, Zoltan, Freqlabs, If I have missed you out and you do contribute let me know I shall add you.)
Zoltans post is here 'Discovering Linux: take it easy!'
Okay thats out of the way, lets talk package managers.
I am no pro here so some pro pitch in if need be.
A little over view which can count towards each.
When using the terminal you sometimes need to pull downloads, maybe an update or an app install, now in windows you use websites to download the .exe etc, In linux it can be done via the terminal or a package manager, so you may use sudo yum update yum, sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade, sudo pacman -Syu or sudo pacman -Syyu. (these are sync and update commands for RPM, Aptitude and Pacman) these need to get the information from somewhere, in your OS there is something called a repository list or repo list for short, when these commands are typed, it will check the list, and then go to each repo set and download everything from it if the update command is issued, If it is a single application you only pull required files.
Repos are servers on the internet which have everything the terminal needs, it will contact the server using standard contacting methods (request and accept 'Networking') and pull down the information, now Yum will install automatically with yum update yum as far as i can see, aptitude will need the upgrade to actually upgrade the packages and pacman also auto installs as far as I know.
How is the kernel maintained (Explained detail)
Linux foundation youtube channel answered this rather well in basic terms but here is one in words.
The linux terminal is open source and free, now this does not mean it is always free to download and edit, RHEL works on purchases via subscription, but they are for enterprise and require engineers.
But the open source comes in with devs, Remember that the kernel its self is linux and can be edited by anyone but if you want to have your features added into the main kernel release it has to go through a chain of command, First write the code which will add the change, then submit it to the community, which after it will be checked, if it is accepted it will go to be checked again and eventually make it upto the final team for checking, hence why a lot of problems dont get through, If the senior devs say its passed, It goes to Linus, he does his own checks and adds them into the kernel, which is then pushed out and able to download via the terminal.
This is different to how Apple and MS do it, they add features with their own teams, not communities, but you would think with all this checking it takes ages, your wrong there, it takes about 3 months, which is faster than what both MS and apple together could push out, due to the base, community and senior devs working and anyone can add into the kernel, ideas and patches are installed quicker, faults are found easier and quicker, and engineers are not under as much pressure as MS and Apple engineers are, welcome to open source contributions, these people are one of the reasons your system is so secure. hackers add into the system, not just script kiddies, but professionals, making Linux the most advanced kernel on the planet, if not one of the most advanced.
So if someone says because Linux is held together by a community over a team, refer them here, no company can match speed of a community working 24/7 to improve what they love.
This is still very vague I do not know the full process off by hand, but with that knowledge you now know how a bit more on how the system can perform faster and be more secure without any user input, because people do it for you.
Linux Security (Explained)
So you may have herd Linux is more secure, and you will have done if you red any of this, but I explained it in basic terms, I will attempt to go more in-depth here, although I am no security expert I do study the field a bit.
So the community takes care of security a lot, due to the verification process and it been checked by multiple sources, rogue code does not get in easily, and cannot be executed as easily due to it using a different system to windows and OSX.
Now you may have herd also OSX is hard against hackers, well it is, but not that hard anymore, more and more reports are coming in that OSX is getting less secure due to it becoming more popular, and there are no AV companies or communities able to edit the kernel, although its not as bad as windows, if it keeps going it could be.
Linux does not have this problem, if you get attacked and you know where from, and what code did it (Or can reverse engineer) you can submit it to the community for analysis once the code has been checked, the kernel can be adapted to handle the threat with patches, this would take about a week (That is giving it time) for the program to be patched, now a lot of attacks come from the internet via Java or Flash player exploits (Please HTML5 hurry up) so browser security is only really needed but you can also use stuff like IPTables, a truely configurable firewall, it can be setup to be more than that, making your system solid, you do have AV tools like Clam AV, which scan for windows viruses, but to be honest unless your trying to look for a virus for linux you are not going to catch it.
Its not just the community that helps in your security though, In a way windows does, Windows is cannon fodder for linux, people use that and get infected and while its major holder in the market it always will be, even if linux does get an outbreak of viruses the community will be ready, scanners will be made and patches will be pushed all the time.
Dont expect this to happen though, it never has happened yet, and if linux keeps going the way it is, it wont happen.
Networking is also another problem with Windows, because again hackers use ports, and windows has loads open and exposed at launch, its easy to break, although IE is not the lease secure browser, it cant match firefox and its clones, so first point browser, then updates, updates patch points of the system that are exploitable, and they take a week to push out a new patch, Windows 7 SP1 has around 200 updates after install, now unless you have 40gbps internet (Granny in Sweden) you cant apply the patches fast enough, Linux can update patches as it installs, or it is more secure at launch, with firefox or iceweasel, and the fact minimal systems dont have many programs installed mean less attack points, adding the fact that windows and OSX exploits dont always work on Linux also means another thing.
(I am no expert here, The more advanced Linux users understand PAX better than me, Fill in guys?)
Pax is a patch for the linux kernel, for the basic understanding its like this, there are holes in the kernel that are not yet patched, PAX does that for you, it is an independent effort outside of Linux kernel, so if you want it go and install it.
This tool arranges the data memory into a random order, which in one can prevent specific types of buffer overflow attacks (Violating memory safety) it cannot protect you from everything, so dont expect it to be something that makes you immune that is still impossible and always will be, but it adds yet another wall into an already secure fortress.
Searching for PAX will lead you to an application called GRSecurity, this is what is needed to get PAX, It will work with SELinux without breakage, so double security xD for free :)
Please do avoid AppArmor also, SELinux out weights AppArmor and from what I read AppArmor is no longer supported and I believe the devs moved to MS (Is this true?)
Clam AV I think is one of the best scanners around, Although my fav AV scanner on Windows is Malwarebytes, where Malwarebytes fails Clam will come out on top, This is on windows also, but I wouldn't say its as powerful due to limitations, which is annoying but anyways, You dont really need this if you only have a Linux system(s) in your house, But if windows is in your house somewhere (My dad uses it sigh..) Clam AV is a good idea for network protection, If you some how download a windows virus via Linux that can spread with USBs or via networks Clam AV will detect it, the fact the malware cant actually launch in linux also means that no processes have to be stopped in Linux to clean the malware, Why do you think windows always needs a restart after been scanned?
Anyways this tool is available on most live CD distros (Fedora, Kali, Trinity Boot etc.) and can clean a windows system without restart, to say it scans everything in windows, It is suggested to be on the most up to date, so in fedora or kali use apt-get update && apt-get upgrade or yum update to get the app up to date, I have had the application fail before update, A little annoyance but nothing for the power of the tool.
Also use it if you have a 2nd partition with Windows on it, scan that via linux and see if you are infected.
Linux Performance (Explained)
Linux is smaller than Windows, in many areas, as said I use about 800MB under standard use load, where windows would take 2GB, means something under the hood is working, the kernel again is working thanks to the hackers, old hardware can work faster than windows on new hardware can, games scream in Linux due to no Direct X and the fact a lot of stuff is 2D not 3D, You dont need virus scanners constantly on check, less memory use, applications are lighter, less HDD use, kernel governors and schedulers are more optimized, which also means less strain on the system.
Hard to think is this, components can be pushed harder in linux without overclocking, How is this possible? well the sensors in the system works better, as stated my GPU works cooler under heavier loads on Linux, so I get more performance without my GPU having to heat up, which in turn lowers performance as the parts lower performance to keep them selfs safe.
Power management is also better, now on desktops this is not so much a problem, but with laptops it becomes a problem, we always want more battery, Linux can provide that, kernel releases can improve power management, this maybe via a driver, or a patch, which ever way it works, I can get 3 hours on my Acer Aspire D260-A on fedora, and this is not designed for battery saving.
Amazing how much you get for free :)
Apt-get (Aptitude) Debian based
Debian based Operating systems use this (Ubuntu Linux Mint etc) this is a very good and powerful manager, I dont think it is the easiest but it certainly works well, expect super stability from this unless using testing repos.
Pacman Arch based
I personally think to date this is the easiest manager to use, no pacman -S install needed just use -S and the name chances are it will get it, it seems a much better put together manager for new users although arch is generally not recommended for new people, This again is stable but also uses more testing unless instructed to do so otherwise.
Yum RPM Based
I am liking this manager more than the others at the moment, its faster and the fact if the mirror goes down it will relocate to the next in line and continue to pull files from there even if in the middle of a file, there is no messing with this, its setup to do what it needs, you can mess with it but I mean its self is setup to be stable.
So we know 3 basic managers, there are more but I have not used them.
Lets move onto what distro.
Okay now don't take my advice 100% you may not like what I recommend so use a live distro and see.
Oh yeah you can run linux without actually installing it xD, which makes stuff like tails (Super secure distro) work perfectly :) unless you know how to freeze RAM.
Debian based distributions (Aptitude)
Ubuntu - In a way this is seen as the main face of linux, it is a fairly large distro maintained by Canonical, It still is open source and free, but I would not say your freedom reaches some distros ability, This is designed for the basic user wanting to use linux, its UI is easy to use, and it allows users to completely avoid the terminal, and is setup to run OOB.
A good distro to start but if you value privacy dont go for it, as far as I understand NSA or GCHQ has not got there code into it, but they do collect data for amazon, this is not a bad thing but I like to stick to the values of linux.
Linux Mint - Linux Mint is like the little brother of Ubuntu, it is Ubuntu/Debian based so it works similar to Ubuntu, but it does not have Unity and the so called Spyware that Ubuntu has (Not malicious but still tracks data) It also runs lighter due to less applications installed, but don't think this distro is not capable, it can still hold its own.
Debian - The father of Ubuntu and Mint and a lot of other distros, This is valued as the lightest aptitude distro around, Although with tweaks Ubuntu/Mint can match it, but not OOB, Its very good for environments that need stability such as servers, as it uses stable repos and does not allow them in until they are tested.
Kali/Backtrack - Based on Debian also, this is known as the best security distro, In Kali you get over 300 tools, all for security jobs, from wireshark to yersinia and more, although I class this as a dangerous distro it can be valuable, Do not use this as a daily distro though, It was not designed for that.
Tails - This is the opposite of Kali, this is based around defending your system, It runs live (From RAM) and uses TOR by default, this is a brilliant distro for privacy, it puts security before anything else, Again based on Debian, If you know of people like Jacob Applebaum they use this distro with no hard drive in their laptops.
OpenSuse - This is a recommended RPM based distro for beginners, Although it is said to be a little tricky to setup I never had a problem with it, If you do ask on here or get a friend to help, This uses YAST for setup, and is easy to install programs into, Although if you want RPM I recommend Fedora this is also a good way to go.
Fedora - Linus his self uses this distro with GNOME3 tweaked, and it is possible to see why, it is a very fast, stable and secure distro, I run this now on both my laptop and desktop, I get on with it better, Although it is regarded as bleeding edge, It is still super stable.
CentOS - If you want to do servers, Home or VM and love RPM here you go, it is basically free RHEL. And if you know what RHEL is you know its reputation for servers and enterprise, if not its very good.
Pacman (Arch Based)
Arch Linux base - Arch linux with terminal install, you need to use the terminal to get everything, this can absolutely scream at launch, it can take a few hours on your first run, Brennanriddell has a guide for it here
Manjaro Arch - This is a easy to setup version of arch, It has brilliant support out of the box, only driver I had to install was AMD, I didnt even need to download Steam.
Archbang - a super duper light version of arch, again easy to install but needs some time after install as you need to setup repos, I recommend experience with linux before this.
Arch Linux ARM - basically a ARM CPU version of linux, runs on stuff like raspberry pis and Cubieboards etc, same as desktop counterparts.
Chakra - an easy to use Arch distro although it is moving away from pacman, it is still using it at the moment as far as I know, I used this before actual arch base, as I struggled with the install, so if you struggle with the install but still want some configuration use this.
So I recommend if you want a basic user experience go with debian based distros, they will hold your hand, I dont like hand holding as much as some, I like to explore and ask questions, but go nuts on the live distro thing, it will really help you or do a week on each OS and see what you like.
But dont listen to what others say about you need to go this distro, you dont, they are afraid to try and probs on windows or OSX and never moved out of there OS, which again is fine but dont let your judgement be on them, Again dont let my words push you also, I just wanted to explain some things.
A word to the ones more in sync than me, If I have written anything wrong please do post it below, I will correct it as soon as possible. Thanks