21st century tech, Linux and the occasional rant...
Thursday, 16 June 2011
What Is: the Linux Operating System
It's possible that some visitors to this site don't actually know what is this thing Linux to which I keep referring.
The word Linux is generally used to describe an Open Source computer Operating System based on the Linux Kernel which forms the basis for free alternatives to Microsoft Windows or Apple Mac-OS. Linux runs on a variety of hardware platforms from mobile phones, PC's, embedded devices, right up to mainframes...
Where Linux refers to the use of the Linux Kernel, then Linux distributions like Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Debian, Fedora or OpenSuse are the actual operating systems. Most of these are free distributions - free as in not charging license fees to use them (although paid commercial support may be offered). Most are also Open Source, as in the source code is published and freely re-distributable - although some commercial vendors keep the proprietary code they add to their Linux distribution closed.
Linux is the most popular server operating system and becoming increasingly popular as a client desktop system as well. RC
Who uses Linux? Many large organisations and government bodies around the world use Linux to varying degrees including IBM, Google, Oracle, Amazon, US DOD, US Navy, City of Munich, German federal police, the French Parliament and the Commercial bank of China. The Russian state has mandated a switch from proprietary to Open Source software for all government departments over the next few years.
Where does Linux Originate? The Linux kernel, the core of the operating system, was developed by Linus Torvalds in 1991. Technically, it a variant of the older UNIX, an operating system itself built around POSIX standards. Linux as a whole is developed over the Internet by a group of people spanning the globe, and has evolved from a limited computer science proof-of-concept to a powerful enterprise computing platform. The operating system (and the source code for it) is free for anyone to use.
Much of the operating system is contributed by the GNU and BSD communities. "BSD" originally stood for "Berkeley Software Distribution", a collection of software tools developed at the University of California at Berkeley in the early 1970's to enhance the original AT&T UNIX operating system. "GNU" stands for "GNU's Not Unix" (a ridiculously recursive acronym), a software development effort begun by Richard Stallman in the early 1980's to build a variant of UNIX that is entirely free of proprietary, commercial and closed-source code.
Who Can Use Linux?Linux is for you if:
You're strapped for cash and need a solid, modern operating system that is free of charge, complete with word processors, Internet mail and browser software.
You have moral and ethical objections to the majority of commercial software encumbered with license restrictions and fees.
You have older computers that are still serviceable with the right combination of free-of-charge, lightweight and customisable software.