GNU/Linux is an open source operating system, less formally called just Linux. I've used it on both my home and laptop computers since 2004 in preference to the more common Microsoft Windows systems. Why?
- Linux is developed by an a worldwide community of people and organisations under an 'open source' licence agreement. This means that the computer source code is available to all, to learn from, to improve and to fix.
- The security model is stronger and as a result the damage that can be done by writers of malicious software (viruses, worms, spyware) is much reduced. Being less common also gives it the advantage of being a smaller and less attractive target to hit.
- I feel much more in control of what is going on on my computers by using GNU/Linux. Put simply I have found it to be more reliable.
For general computing and office use most distributions come with the sort of things you would expect (email client, web browser, word processor, spreadsheet etc.) already installed. My Mum converted to a Linux based laptop in 2008 and has had no problem making the transition. If you want to run certain specialist software, the latest commercial games or use some very new hardware from a manufacturer who doesn't support Linux then you may have some difficulties.
See my list of projects for computer and software stuff.
There are many disributions of GNU/Linux. Most are derived from a few main ones. I currently use Fedora on my main home computer and Ubuntu (derived from Debian) on my laptop. Using two different distributions gives me a feel for what is going on in the two development communities supporting them.