While it is convenient to download one or two new programs over the Internet and fairly feasible to download something as large as the Linux kernel, getting an entire working system over the Internet is difficult without a high-speed Internet connection. Over the years, therefore, commercial and noncommercial packages called distributions have emerged. The first distribution consisted of approximately 50 diskettes, at least one of which would usually turn out to be bad and have to be replaced. When CD-ROM drives became widespread, Linux really took off.
After getting Linux, the average user is concerned next with support. While Usenet newsgroups offer very quick responses and meet the needs of many intrepid users, you can also buy support from the vendors of the major distributions and a number of independent experts. Linux is supported at least as well as commercial software. When you buy a distribution from a vendor, you typically are entitled to a period of free support as well.
Intel’s x86 family and other compatible chips are still by far the most common hardware running Linux, but Linux is also now commercially available on a number of other hardware systems, notably the PowerPC, the 64-bit Intel Itanium processor, Sun Microsystems’ SPARC, and the Alpha (created by Digital Equipment Corporation).