Linux is a UNIX-compatible operating system that features a tremendous collection of available software and hardware support. If you think you're unfamiliar with Linux or non-Microsoft operating systems in general, you're probably more familiar than you know. Linux is the core of many consumer electronics, including home automation systems, Android cell phones, routers, and even televisions. It powers everything from strange homemade robots to parts of the International Space Station and military submarines. Renowned for its flexibility and stability, Linux is a good choice for many applications.
Linux as a desktop environment isn't as unfamiliar as you'd think either. Linux features a large collection of software for desktop users, including Firefox, Google Chrome, LibreOffice, and Thunderbird. Many of the programs Windows users run every day have Linux compatible versions that are exactly the same in almost every way.
Linux management, however, is quite different. Software is installed from the people who package your OS directly, ensuring that everything each program needs is automatically installed and updated. Updates for both the OS and programs come from the same place. Linux automatically purges temporary files every time it shuts down. Linux is designed to keep fragmentation to a minimum, meaning routine maintenance is almost non-existent.
Linux even has the ability to run many Windows programs, including many games, via a compatibility layer called Wine. Wine attempts to run Windows software in the most transparent way possible, converting the program's ties to Windows to equivalent Linux underpinnings as the program runs. Not all programs are compatible, but most are. Yes, even some viruses work. That's not the best thing for users, but still impressive.
Linux does still need your help to keep it safe. Running programs from the internet is never a good idea, especially if you aren't sure of the source. Linux installs its own software from servers that are trusted, and checks the contents to ensure they came from the right place. If you're using our Linux distro, packages can be installed from Octopi, which is found under System Tools in the launcher. Security updates are a good first line of defense, and should be run regularly to protect the system from known security problems. Software installs are handled through the package manager, and never come from websites, ensuring that users will be more likely to question a website that tells them to install something it provides. It will still let you run Windows programs downloaded from shady websites, though, so try not to do that.