If you choose to install one of these operating systems, you should be aware of the risks and benefits.
There are no minimum hardware requirements for running Linux / Unix. If you can get it to run, congratulations!
You must ensure that the operating system and all software is kept up to date. Security updates come out for most Linux distributions daily. It is your responsibility to stay on top of these updates to ensure conformance with the acceptable use policy and, more importantly, to keep your machine from getting broken into.
Some of the most common pitfalls of Linux machines are configurations that have been overlooked. A few things to watch out for are:
Additionally, you must run a firewall (such as iptables) to prevent unwanted connections.
Linux is available in many different "flavors" known as "distributions". A few of the most popular ones are:
Ubuntu has been hailed by Desktop Linux and eWeek as the most popular Linux distribution today. It is the easiest to install and use for first-time Linux users, but versatile enough for pro-users as well. Recommended for beginner to advanced Linux users.
The most hardcore Linux distribution around, Gentoo throws you head first into Linux knowledge by having you build your system from the ground up. Recommended for intermediate to advanced Linux users that want to learn a lot and run a very customized operating system.
One of the longest running distributions, Debian is still under active development, but the install process remains difficult. It tends to be used for servers, rather than desktops.
The open source (and free) version of SUSE from Novell.
Another commercial Linux distribution that comes with support. Recommended for Linux beginners.
The open source (and free) version of Linux from Red Hat.
The most common Unix variant (aside from Linux) is BSD, developed at UC Berkeley. The most popular open source distributions of BSD are: