Installing and Connecting to a Linux System

The course is part of this learning path

Linux Distributions

In this course, you will learn how to install a Linux system and connect to it, whether that be on Mac or Windows. You'll also learn how to install Linux from scratch. This course is part of the Linux Administration Bootcamp learning path, designed to get you up and running with Linux.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand what a Linux distribution is, what the most common Linux distributions are, and how to choose the right one for you
  • Learn how to install VirtualBox on Windows and Mac
  • Learn how to install Linux using an image for VirtualBox
  • Understand common issues that may arise with VirtualBox and how to deal with them
  • Learn how to install CentOS from scratch
  • Learn how to connect to a Linux system

Intended Audience

  • Anyone with little to no knowledge of Linux who wants to learn more about the operating system
  • Professionals who want to learn about Linux to enhance their career prospects


This is a beginner-level course so there are no prerequisites, but an interest in Linux and programming knowledge in general would be beneficial.


The external resources for this course can be found here:


In this lesson, you're going to learn what a Linux distribution is, what the most common Linux distributions are and how to choose the right one for you. Generally, when someone uses the term Linux, they're referring to the Linux operating system as a whole.

An operating system is a collection of software that manages hardware resources and provides an environment where applications run. The operating system allows applications to store information, send documents to a printer and interact with users for example. Linux distribution is simply a collection of software and applications bundled together and distributed as a single operating system.

For example, one Linux distribution might come with one particular web browser installed, while another Linux distribution will come with another web browser installed by default. You'll be able to browse the web on either distribution, but the specific piece of software used to do that might be different.

It's important to point out here that the software that comes installed by default can be changed. If you don't like the web browser that shipped with the Linux distribution you're using, you can install another one and use that one. You can think of a Linux distribution as a curated collection of software that works well together, but you're more than free to use the software and applications that you like best.

Before we continue, I'd like to point out that you'll often hear the term distribution shortened to distro. Also, some people refer to the various distributions as flavors. What every Linux distribution has in common though, is the Linux Kernel. Again, typically when the term Linux is used, it refers to the Linux operating system as a whole, however, it can refer to just the Linux Kernel as well.

The Linux Kernel is the core or the heart of the operating system. It's the layer that sits between the hardware and applications set. Another way it's the intermediary between software and hardware. However, to have a useful operating system you need other components in addition to the Kernel, these components can include system libraries, graphical user interfaces, email utilities, web browsers, and other programs.

To summarize a Linux distribution is the Linux Kernel and a collection of software that together create an operating system. By far, the two most popular Linux distributions used in information technology departments and by Linux professionals are Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and Ubuntu. So, if you plan to use Linux in your current or future career as a Linux system administrator, Linux systems engineer, or even a database administrator or software developer, then I highly recommend focusing on these two Linux distributions.

You can forget about the literally hundreds and hundreds of Linux distributions and choose between Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and Ubuntu. If you want to work for large traditional organizations like financial institutions, transportation companies, telecommunication corporations, large retailers, and healthcare organizations, then you should choose Red Hat.

By the way to run Red Hat, you need to pay for a license. However, there's really no need to pay for a license if you're going to be running Linux at home or want something to practice on, instead use centOS, which is a Red Hat Enterprise Linux derivative that's completely free. It's really Red Hat with a branding and logos replaced with CentOS branding.

If on the other hand, you want to work for a Startup or smaller more nimble web-based companies like software as a service type businesses, social networking sites, smaller e-commerce stores, or practically any company that relies heavily on Cloud computing then Ubuntu is the distribution for you. If you're using Linux strictly for fun for personal projects, or just want to see what other distributions have to offer, feel free to try out some other popular distros like Linux Mint, Debian, Mageia, Fedora, openSUSE, Arch Linux, and Slackware.

When choosing a Linux distro for personal use, it mainly comes down to personal preference and if you like most of the software that comes installed by default. Of course, don't forget about CentOS and Ubuntu, they make great distros even for personal use. Ultimately Linux is Linux at the core, no matter which choice you make, the Linux concepts are going to be the same.

Sure, each distribution is going to be a little different, but if you can do something on one distribution, you'll most likely be able to figure out how to do it on another. What this really means is that you can't make a wrong decision. Know that by simply choosing a Linux distribution, any distribution you've already made the right choice.

To recap, a Linux distribution is the Linux Kernel and a collection of software that together create an operating system. The two most popular Linux distributions used in the industry today are Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and Ubuntu. If you want to gain Red Hat Experience without paying a licensing fee, then use CentOS is it's really Red Hat with a branding and logos replaced with CentOS brand.

About the Author
Learning Paths

Jason is the founder of the Linux Training Academy as well as the author of "Linux for Beginners" and "Command Line Kung Fu." He has over 20 years of professional Linux experience, having worked for industry leaders such as Hewlett-Packard, Xerox, UPS, FireEye, and Nothing gives him more satisfaction than knowing he has helped thousands of IT professionals level up their careers through his many books and courses.

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