After Linus Torvalds created Linux back in the 1990s, he wanted to stop working for a little bit. So, what he did was he made the source code for his new operating system completely available to the public. This allowed everybody in the world, especially computer geeks, scientists, etc., to start playing with and changing the Linux operating system as they saw fit.
Major companies and educational institutions decided they liked Linux. And since Linux is open source, they are able to see the source code. This gave them the ability to start creating their own versions.
People from University of California, Berkeley, decided to start creating their own version of Linux. People from China also started creating their own version of Linux. People from all over the world—from all walks of life—started making their own versions of Linux that fit their own personal needs. Today, you have Red Hat Linux, Ubuntu Linux, Google Android, and many more.
Making Linux’s source code available to the public facilitated the creation of something called distributions or “distros.” Distributions are the various versions of Linux that people have created over time. There are many different versions of Linux that are out there. Different distributions have different capabilities. Now, when you need to decide which Linux distribution you want to use, you are going to have to think about what you want your computer to do first with Linux.
It is much more important that you understand what you want your computer to do, before you install the Linux operating system. With Microsoft Windows, you just install it first and then worry about what you want to do with your server later. With Linux, every distribution is built to do things in a certain way.
For example, there is a version of Linux called Trustix. Trustix Linux is considered to be the most secure Linux operating system out there. It is just a brick. You set Trustix Linux up and as long as you do not do anything completely stupid, nobody can hack it and no viruses can get to it. It is just one solid, secure server. But, you have to decide that you want a solid and secure server first, before you go and get that particular distribution to install on the server.
So, if you want a computer that you can use some office applications or you are going to surf the web with, then you may want Ubuntu Linux’s desktop version. If you want a super secure computer, then you might want Trustix Linux. If you want something with enterprise level support, let’s say you want to use a Linux distribution that has a tech support center out there to help you if necessary, you may decide to use Red Hat Linux. But again, you have to decide what you need your computer to do in order to determine the exact Linux distribution to install on your computer.
If you install Ubuntu Linux distribution on all your computers, and then you decide you need enterprise support and you call Red Hat Linux, they will not be able to help you. Red Hat Linux does not support Ubuntu Linux. Every distribution does things their own way and is created by different entities. So you must familiarize yourself first with what a particular distribution does, and whether it fits your computing requirements exactly.