First of all, I am happy that you have chosen to get `freed’ from the closed-source world. Welcome to this new world which lives on and around it’s friendly community. Let me give you a short introduction before we move on to the real transition:
“What makes GNU/Linux (yes, the operating system is named: GNU/Linux and it is the kernel that is named Linux) interesting and a strong operating system?”
It is due to it’s adherence to the Free Software Philosophy. Most software available (and there are many many to choose from!) come along with the source. Source is good in a way that it can be compiled in your own system so that it will make use of your hardware’s capabilities to the best. Also, you are able to edit, modify and use the way you want the software to run for you. This gets you the best software as all software is made for and by people like you and me. Bugs are reported and always solved as fast they can be.
“Why is the operating system named: GNU/Linux and not Linux as I used to think?”
Linux is the kernel. For an operating system, the kernel is the most important aspect or core of the system. It abstracts the hardware aspects from the software and offers an interface for software so that it can deal with the hardware more easily and can be (mostly) generally coded without knowing the clients’ hardware. Having just the kernel is not so useful. Furthermore, to be called an operating system, the system should have essential utilities and applications. We need software that uses the kernel. GNU (GNU is Not Unix) provides many many range of software for this kernel. Thus, the correct name for the operating system is GNU/Linux.
“I searched with the query `GNU/Linux’ and it came up with some pages giving me links to distributions. What are `distributions’?”
Distributions (or `distro’, as they are called in the community) can be thought of flavors like just we think about ice-creams. We have chocolate, vanilla, strawberry and other flavors for ice-creams. Such is the case with GNU/Linux. There are many distributions. They are obviously based on the Linux kernel. So, what makes them different? There are many or at least some differences among different distributions. For example, distributions differ according to philosophy, package management, directory differences, support, commercial or free, release dates, software used, etc.
“Why do we need so many distributions? Why is there no `standard’ distribution?”
With GNU/Linux comes the freedom of choice. One person’s interest may not be of interest to another person. So you are able to choose from the three hundred or so distributions which suits you the best.
“What is package management?”
Package management, as the name suggests, allows for the management of software packages. They provide an easy way to install, update or remove packages. They also automatically resolve dependencies, thus relieving the user from manually installing the software.
I will write more soon… Do comment.