What Is Linux?
Linux is a computer operating system. So, it's just like Microsoft Windows, but Linux is NOT Windows although it supports an environment that looks and feels like Windows.
It is a variant of the venerable UNIX operating system. There are many flavours of UNIX, like BSD and Linux. Even Mac OS X is based on UNIX! All these UNIX variants inherit most of the advantages of UNIX and most of them, like Linux, are free!
Besides being a free and open-source operating system (note that they are not the same thing!), it's a lot more flexible. But with such flexibility comes a greater learning curve - it's heck of a lot harder than learning to set the clock on your VCR!
Fortunately for Linux, it is supported by countless seasoned users. Therefore, any bug or problem you encounter when running certain tools are immediately taken care of. Now, that's what you call software support. And you don't even have to worry about red tape about authentication or licensing.
Why Should You Learn Linux?
There are many reasons why you should learn to use Linux. Linux servers are really common, especially among web designers and developers. So, it would really be good if you knew how to administer your own account, wouldn't it?
In addition, if you're a student or a programmer, Linux provides a robust environment with loads of neat tools like gcc, gdb, Java, Perl, Php, Python... I could go on and on!
Or perhaps you might prefer the stability of Linux, and the fact that you don't have to keep rebooting your PC. There's also the ever-present problem of BSODs, viruses, Trojans, spyware with more mainstream operating systems like Microsoft Windows. You get the gist.
But Linux, with its mighty command line, can seem pretty daunting to a new user. So, I've come up with a little guide to get you started on Linux!
The Shell Is Not A Shell!
The shell is what you would call in Windows, the 'Command Prompt'. It is a command line interpreter that also supports scripting languages.
The most common types of shells are 'bash' (Bourne Again SHell) and 'tcsh' (Tenex C SHell, which is an extended C shell).
How the shell prompt actually looks depends a lot on the Unix distribution and Window Manager you are using, as well as how you configured your shell prompt, and so on.
Oh, depending on your Linux distribution too, the Shell Console may be called 'Console', or 'Terminal', or 'Konsole', or even 'Shell'!