GNU/Linux Frequently Asked Questions

Our page about GNU/Linux covers the essential information. We hope this FAQ list can help if you are more curious.

Entrugues xenerales

¿Hai dalguna diferencia ente "GNU/Linux" y "Linux" ?

Siguís refiriendovos alternadamente a unu y a otru, ¿hai dalguna diferencia?

Orixinalmente, Linux refierse a una parte central del sistema, denomada kernel o nucleu, qu'allúgase dientro del sistema GNU. Lo que los usuarios usen nos sos ordenadores son, pa ser precisos, "distribuciones del sistema GNU/Linux".

Na práutica, la pallabra "Linux" tuvo meyor recibimientu, y anguaño la xente usa cenciellamente "Linux" pa referise al sistema enteru. (Nun creyeríeis la controversia que xenera esti fechu...)

Calling the system GNU/Linux is much more meaningful, technically (end-users use a lot of "GNU" and a little of "Linux") but also philosophically: the strength and momentum of the Free Software movement started with and are still carried by the GNU project.

Denomar Linux al sistema ye más práutico y cenciello pa usuarios de ordenadores que creen que Windows ye lo único sobro la Tierra.

To avoid confusion, we use "GNU/Linux" to refer to operating system distributions that include GNU software and the Linux kernel. When we use "Linux" without the GNU part, we refer to the kernel.

And what has that software to do with a GNU?

When Richard Stallman started to design GNU, the main system in use was Unix, which is proprietary. Because GNU is similar in function to (and compatible with) Unix, but is free software, he coined the term GNU which stands for GNU's Not Unix. It's a recursive acronym. If you enjoy that kind of humour, check out what GNU Hurd means.

¿Linux ye una marca rexistrada?

Yes. You cannot sell any random software under the name of Linux®. The trademark is held by the Linux Mark Institute.

¿GNU/Linux ye l'únicu sistema operativu llibre esistente?

Non. GNU/Linux ye, con muncha diferencia, el sistema llibre más usáu; sicasí, esisten dellos sistemes más que tamién son llibres.

These include the UNIX derivatives FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, the BeOS clone Haiku OS, the Windows NT clone ReactOS, the DOS clone FreeDOS, and Syllable, just to name a few.

Is macOS a distribution of GNU/Linux?

No. There are a few free software components in macOS, and it is technically similar to GNU/Linux systems. But overall, it is proprietary software: all the issues about Windows apply to it as well.

Pescanciar el software llibre

¿"Software Llibre" y "Software de Códigu Abiertu" son lo mesmo?

Yes and no. Technically, the great majority of open source programs are free software and vice-versa.

Filosóficamente, son mui distintos. El términu "códigu abiertu" acuñóse pa facer ver al "software llibre" más atractivu; los que lu sofiten venlu como una meyor forma de desendolcar software.

Supporters of the "free software" term value the freedom, not merely the way software is made, and thus argue that the term "open source" misses the point.

El términu que vusté decida usar dependerá de la so visión del software.

Why are some GNU/Linux distributions sold, not given away?

Some websites actually sell distributions of GNU/Linux. So, why do you write it is "free as speech and available at no charge"?

The concept of free software, refers to freedom, not price. You have the freedom to copy, study, modify, and give free software away.

La mayoría de les empreses que desendolquen software llibre ganen dineru vendiendo servicios rellacionaos col so software, n'arróu de vender el propiu software. De vezu esto faise vendiendo too como un paquete: el cliente merca'l CD, el manual y el contratu de serviciu téunicu al mesmu tiempu. El software entá garantiza los tos drechos.

Más: Cómo malinterpretar el software llibre | FLOSS concept booklet.

Why are some GNU/Linux distributions not fully free?

Some GNU/Linux distributions are available at no charge, but include restrictive software. Why is it so?

Normalmente hai trés tipos de polítiques rellacionaes cola inclusión de software privativu:

  • Dalgunos creadores de distribuciones de GNU/Linux permiten software privativu p'activar funciones del hardware. This happens because some hardware manufacturers such as NVidia do not care about their customers' freedoms, and only release restricting firmware and drivers (some of them don't even release anything, like Broadcom). These are available at no cost (they are freeware) but under restrictive licenses. Distributions such as Ubuntu thus include such components to improve hardware compatibility.

  • Some GNU/Linux distributors do not compromise on the freedom of software, and make sure their distribution are entirely free. Such is the case of Trisquel, which is a Ubuntu derivative with all restricting components removed.

  • Dalgunos creadores de distribuciones de GNU/Linux empaqueten software llibre y privativu ensin distinción. A ellos nun-yos presta que los usuarios camienten na so llibertá, y prefieren dar publicidá a les carauterístiques téuniques del so productu. L'usar tales distribuciones nun ye muncho meyor qu'usar Windows. ¡Nosotros valoramos la to llibertá y encamentamos qu'escueyas con procuru!

Is macOS also a free operating system?

Do all the reasons for avoiding Windows apply to macOS?

Ye habitual que los usuarios de Mac crean tar llibres de les torgues asociaes con Windows. Desafortunadamente, nun ye'l casu.

macOS does have some low-level components which are free software; and Apple puts less energy into customer lock-in (with some notable efforts such as BootCamp).

However, the end-user is still fundamentally restricted — because of the proprietary license, he/she cannot use macOS for all purposes, nor copy, study, modify, or redistribute it.

Happily, because these freedoms matter a lot, it's possible to run popular GNU/Linux distributions (such as Ubuntu) on Mac computers.

Aren't GNU/Linux users the ones who make illegal downloads?

Isn't GNU/Linux about cracking, "piracy" and illegal download websites?

No. Wherever you read or heard this, you should update your views. GNU/Linux is completely distinct from such things. Whether you want to do them, or whether you prefer intelligent, legal downloads, GNU/Linux will work just as well as Windows. Unfortunately you can't identify gangsters by the make of their cars; the same thing goes for their operating system.

GNU/Linux creóse por persones a les que nun-yos presta la idea de que tolos ordenadores del mundu usen los productos privativos d'una mesma empresa. ¡Y eso, definitivamente nun tien res de malo!

Más información nel artículu: Cómo malinterpretar el software llibre.

Is GNU/Linux a form of communism?

"Everything has to be free" and "No one owns anything" sounds somewhat frightening. Are GNU/Linux and its GPL License something for anarchists or communists?

GNU/Linux has nothing to do with a political system and anyone — regardless of their political views — can use it. We have this explained simply in our article Cómo malinterpretar el software llibre.

Installing GNU/Linux

Does GNU/Linux come pre-installed on computers?

Yes it does. has built a website specially for that purpose, listing vendors that sell GNU/Linux desktops and laptops.

¡Pero nun necesites mercar un ordenador nuevu pa usar GNU/Linux!

¿GNU/Linux ta disponible na mio llingua?

Si. Toles distribuciones principales, como les qu'encamentamos, tan disponibles en delles llingües, y sofiten munches tribes de tecláu.

A la escontra de Windows, toles llingües tan incluyíes en cada CD d'instalación, asina que nun fai falta que descargue (¡o pague!) otra versión completa pa camudar la llingua del so equipu.

Is it legal to install GNU/Linux on my computer?

There is a shiny Windows sticker on it! Am I allowed to erase Windows or use it together with GNU/Linux?

Yes. It is absolutely, completely legal, provided of course it's your computer!

La etiqueta ye pura publicidá, nun tien valor llegal. Creemos que ye un drechu fundamental escoyer qué software instalar nel nuesu propiu hardware.

In fact this right is threatened by the rise of things such as DRM and Trusted Computing. Read our article "La importancia d'una sociedá llibre" for more information.

Do I have to purchase a new computer to run GNU/Linux?

Definitivamente, non. Furrulará tranquilamente nel to ordenador actual.

The only thing you might be worried about is using very recent special hardware, such as graphics cards. Otherwise, almost all GNU/Linux distributions can run on normal PCs (often called "i386" or "x86" computers), 64-bit-processor computers and Apple Mac computers. Read how you can try or install GNU/Linux on your computer, be it instead of or together with Windows.

Using GNU/Linux

Will Microsoft Office run on GNU/Linux?

No. It is technically possible to adapt Microsoft Office to GNU/Linux, but Microsoft isn't keen on allowing Office users to choose their operating system. There are other issues with MS Office and openness — like Microsoft's fierce opposition to supporting the OpenDocument format.

However, a complete, free, reliable office suite exists: LibreOffice. Or you can choose its close cousin, Apache OpenOffice. They will both happily use all your existing office files in MS-Word, MS-Excel, and MS-PowerPoint format, and are really free (both as in freedom and as in price). And they run on Windows as well as on GNU/Linux.

¿Puedo reproducir los mios DVDs y MP3s en GNU/Linux?

La rempuesta cenciella sedría "sí", magar que namái sedría la metada de la verdá.

Quite a few GNU/Linux distributions do not include MP3 playback software due to the patent situation of the MP3 format. These patent issues do not affect the user directly, so most distributions make it fairly easy to install MP3 support over the Internet after the installation, making it possible to legally play MP3 files, for non-commercial use.

Per otru llau, la situación colos DVDs ye más complexa. La mayoría, sinón toos, los DVDs tan cifraos con un sistema denomáu "CSS". Hai un programa llibre con bon sofitu, nomáu libdvdcss, que pue descodificar DVDs. Sicasí, esmucir les torgues de los DVDs ye illegal en munchos llugares del mundu, incluyendo los Estaos Xuníos y la Xunión Européa.

There is a legal solution to play your DVDs on GNU/Linux where libdvdcss is illegal. The Fluendo company has developed an (non-free) application for that purpose which can be purchased from their website.

Los DVDs ensin cifrar, como la mayoría de los creaos en casa, puen reproducise perfeutamente usando namái software llibre.

¿Puedo xugar a los xuegos 3D más famosos en GNU/Linux?

Yes and no. Some games, for example the Quake series, Rust, Counter-Strike, Tomb Raider, Portal, Left 4 Dead, and many more have GNU/Linux versions. Since the release of the popular Steam platform to the GNU/Linux operating system, the number of GNU/Linux compatible games on Steam has been growing rapidly. Check out the Steam store where you can find a wealth of high quality, GNU/Linux compatible games.

Most popular games, alas, only work on Windows and occasionally on macOS. Some Windows games can be run on GNU/Linux with Wine or its non-free variant CrossOver, which involves some unpleasant effort for the user. For a list of games known to work on Wine, see their games database.

¿Más entrugues?

Si tienes una entruga que nun se trata equí, hai munches comunidaes p'ayudate. La nuesa seición "Más" t'ayudará a alcontrar un sitiu afayadizu nel qu'entrugar.

If you can think of a frequent question that we haven't answered yet, do let us know, or file an issue.