Linux, the Ultimate Unix

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Linux – Linus’ Unix

In the fast paced world of computer technology, anything that happened more than 10 years ago appears to be ancient history. Even the origins of Linux, which was once a new kid on the Unix block, start to fade into the distant past.

The first signs of Linux can be traced back as far as the IBM AT compatible PC era around 1991 A.C. A young student at the University of Helsinki, Finland, had an idea: buildng a Unix-like operating system for IBM compatible PCs.

The student, Linus Torwalds, was experimenting with Minix, a free Unix OS for PCs, developed by Andrew S. Tanenbaum from Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Linus wanted to develop a Unix OS for his PC that overcame the limitations of Minix. It just so happened that the PC architecture, for which he developed his new and improved Unix OS, would evolve into the world’s most successful line of computers. This formed the basis for Linux’s rapidly growing popularity. Linus’ talent and hard work and the support from the open source community did the rest.

During the second half of 1991, the unthinkable started to become reality when Linus made version 0.02 of what would become known as "Linux" ("Linus' Unix") available to the open source community. By 1994 he was ready to release the first stable Linux Kernel (version 1.0) to the world. Once it was out, it quickly spread, gained power and evolved into a variety of species ("distributions").

Today, there are an estimated 29 Million Linux users; many of them actively involved in developing software for it and continuing development of the kernel.

One of the reasons of Linux’s popularity stems from the license under which it was released, the GNU General Public License. It ensures that the Linux source code is freely available to everyone, and everyone can contribute to its development.

This effectively added thousands of programmers to the Linux development team. Despite the concern that many cooks may spoil the soup, it remains a fact that the large number of Linux developers yielded an operating system of unprecedented efficiency and robustness, with countless freely available software packages for both business and pleasure.

Next let's take a look at some of the advantages of Linux that made it the choice for operating system for millions of people around the world.

Linux Advantages

  1. Low cost: You don’t need to spend time and money to obtain licenses since Linux and much of its software come with the GNU General Public License. You can start to work immediately without worrying that your software may stop working anytime because the free trial version expires. Additionally, there are large repositories from which you can freely download high quality software for almost any task you can think of.
  1. Stability: Linux doesn’t need to be rebooted periodically to maintain performance levels. It doesn’t freeze up or slow down over time due to memory leaks and such. Continuous up-times of hundreds of days (up to a year or more) are not uncommon.
  2. Performance: Linux provides persistent high performance on workstations and on networks. It can handle unusually large numbers of users simultaneously, and can make old computers sufficiently responsive to be useful again.
  3. Network friendliness: Linux was developed by a group of programmers over the Internet and has therefore strong support for network functionality; client and server systems can be easily set up on any computer running Linux. It can perform tasks such as network backups faster and more reliably than alternative systems.
  4. Flexibility: Linux can be used for high performance server applications, desktop applications, and embedded systems. You can save disk space by only installing the components needed for a particular use. You can restrict the use of specific computers by installing for example only selected office applications instead of the whole suite.
  1. Compatibility: It runs all common Unix software packages and can process all common file formats.
  2. Choice: The large number of Linux distributions gives you a choice. Each distribution is developed and supported by a different organization. You can pick the one you like best; the core functionalities are the same; most software runs on most distributions.
  1. Fast and easy installation: Most Linux distributions come with user-friendly installation and setup programs. Popular Linux distributions come with tools that make installation of additional software very user friendly as well.
  2. Full use of hard disk: Linux continues work well even when the hard disk is almost full.
  3. Multitasking: Linux is designed to do many things at the same time; e.g., a large printing job in the background won’t slow down your other work.
  4. Security: Linux is one of the most secure operating systems. “Walls” and flexible file access permission systems prevent access by unwanted visitors or viruses. Linux users have to option to select and safely download software, free of charge, from online repositories containing thousands of high quality packages. No purchase transactions requiring credit card numbers or other sensitive personal information are necessary.
  5. Open Source: If you develop software that requires knowledge or modification of the operating system code, Linux’s source code is at your fingertips. Most Linux applications are Open Source as well.

Today the combination of inexpensive computers and free high-quality Linux operating systems and software provide incredibly low-cost solutions for both basic home office use and high-performance business and science applications.

The available choices of Linux distributions and Linux software may be overwhelming at first, but if you know where to look, it shouldn’t take long for you to find good online guidance.

>>Next: How to Choose a Linux Distribution