Now, is linux 100% free? I mean can I download Redhat or Mandrake, and install it on any amount of machines I want?
Yes. But I mean it about spending some time to choose one or more distributions.
I emphasize that you can happily get Linux running well
on any old 486 and upwards (it's slightly easier if it's a 486DX or pentium, but I have a network firewall/gateway happily running on a 486SX with 16MB and no HD, for example). Because of this it commonly makes sense to split tasks out to separate (much cheaper) machines. Then you can get to learn about networking, too. I've got at least six machines with their guts hanging out at any one time, plus a few that I rely on.
Don't fall into the "Windows" trap of assuming it all has to fit into one machine which has to have a hi-res GUI, big monitor, fancy graphics card, lots of memory, monster hard drive, sound card, mouse and so on.
If you want to learn about running Linux as a webserver, start with something like an old 133 or 200 pentium someone is throwing out. Then you won't be afraid to mess with it, rebuild kernels, install different programs or whole distributions, plug in wierd cards
and so on. Start with a small distribution or a minimum install of a large one with no GUI
. Don't get sucked into the KDE/Gnome/X/Window-Manager whirlpool until you can fix things over a serial cable or a telnet session from the other side of the world if you have to.
If you don't push the limits and screw up sometimes you'll never learn much. So keep your development and internet/JavaRanch machine separate and safe from late-night mistakes. Only a real stress-fanatic drives to work Monday morning in a car he had in pieces on the bench midnight Sunday. If you spill coffee
or beer into your "experiment" machine while you are reaching to tweak that pesky ethernet cable, and it dies with a smell of burning TCP, put it aside until you have more time, and if you have to throw it, it was cheap, right? Anyhow, I feel somewhat loyal to sun, because if I learn solaris I feel it will strengthen Sun and hence the Java camp, only because if Solaris starts loosing, won't Sun start loosing? Thereafter, won't java start loosing?
I don't think this holds up, even for Sun. Both Java and Solaris are really just "hearts and minds" these days to Sun. Their money comes from selling server hardware, and they feel they need a good reputation and a locally-owned OS/Language platform to ship with it. They would love
to charge more for Solaris, though, but they know that us regular folks would just go to Linux straight away. Only corporates who value some sort of "vendor security" (or who have purchasing departments who like Sun's sales technique, I guess) buy things like Solaris. Was javaranch ever on anything else besides Linux? Why did you guys pick linux?
We never explicitly chose it. What we chose were some cost-effective hosting companies. Those hosting companies couldn't have offered the deals we needed if they had to pay for OS licences and expensive hardware. Do the math I'm just a curious guy, who can't wait to get away from windows!
While there are some people here who have successfully abandoned Microsoft completely, I typically have several Windows machines here to experiment with just as I have several Linux machines here to play with. I wouldn't trust my network infrastructure or file storage to it, but Windows is fine for web surfing, reading email and writing letters. For some things (like video editing) it's more affordable than Linux, at the moment, too. Sorry for the big post
Big post, big reply, I guess.