What is Linux?
However, Linux differs from most other Unixes in many ways because of it’s relatively recent origins, it’s license, and it’s user base.
Linux isn’t the only Unixish alternative OS available today. Both MacOS X and BeOS are both also very Unixish.
The Linux operating system provides all the features you’d expect in a modern 32-bitand 64-bit operating system and then some. In fact, Linux has some of the best networking and multi-tasking capabilities available in any OS today.
Furthermore, Linux is very stable: It’s not that uncommon for a Linux computer to go a year or more without being rebooted, and most Linux systems can run for years with reboots only for system upgrades.
Linux is used everywhere.
From embedded applications, network computers, and home systems, to mission critical servers. Linux runs on PC’s, Alphas, Suns, Apples and a plethora of other architectures.
Also supports a vast array of hardware. Linux runs on computers both tiny and large.
Unlike other OSes, Linux is not a single monolithic thing available from a single vendor. Simply stated, Linux systems consist of two parts: The kernel, and user packages.
The kernel is Linux itself.
The kernel does all of the OS functions, and it contains all of the device drivers.
Talks directly to the hardware and keeps various programs separate from each other.
However, the kernel is not very useful alone; you need to have some programs to run on your system to be useful.
User packages are not technically a part of Linux, as Linux is just the name of the kernel. However, A kernel by itself is similar to a computer without an OS.
So, organizations put the Linux kernel together with Linux compatible user packages into a complete software system called a Linux distribution.
There are about 700 user packages in a modern Linux distribution. Although, there are some single-purpose Linux distributions that only have a few packages.
A typical distribution also provides a system for managing installed software, as well an install system, and tools for controlling system configuration.
Most distributions come with similar sets of user packages, and the locations of most files are set by a Linux-wide standard that all popular distributions conform to.
Most Linux packages and the Linux kernel are distributed under the GNU General Public License(GPL).
Because a Linux distribution is under the GPL (and other licenses with similar provisions), it comes with it’s source code, and it is freely redistributable.
Linux systems are developed by thousands of programmers over the Internet.
Because of this, some call Linux the OS for the people by the people.
To a thousand eyes, any bug is shallow, which is why the Linux kernel and the applications in a Linux distribution are more stable the common commercial alternatives.
Of course, no software is perfect. However, with Linux you are never locked into a vendors path.
You don’t have to stake your system’s reliability on the ability of a single vendor to provide support. Most often, important bugs in Linux systems are resolved within hours of a good bug report, the most limiting factor being the bugs reproducibility.
Even trivial bugs get tracked and resolved, and you can get a bug fixed even if you are the only person in the world who cares about it.
Since Linux developers are spread out through the world, development is constantly occurring twenty-four hours a day.
Most of the thousands of Linux developers develop software on their own time or as a non-primary part of their job, though there are quite a few who are paid full time just to develop Linux software.
This diversity of software also leads to higher quality software.
Also, since anyone who can program (or can pay someone to program) can add features they need to parts of Linux, and can contribute those features back for general use, many Linux packages have a complete feature set.
What is Linux? Software for free?
The concept of something good for at no cost is foreign to many people.
While Linux is free in a no-cost sense, more importantly, Linux is free in the freedom sense.
Unlike most commercial software, which comes with licenses telling you what you can and can not do with the software you just paid for.
Linux gives you the freedom to do almost ANYTHING with it (the only freedom you don’t have is the freedom to redistribute the software without passing on the same freedoms you received with it). This freedom is very important and is the reason Linux is so good, and why it has been so successful.
What’s in Linux for you?
There are as many reasons to use Linux as there are people who use it (about 15 million).
Some people use Linux because it’s customizable, others because it’s stable, some even for moral reasons. It’s sad that many computer users today do not understand how stable their computer should be, they accept crashes as a part of life.
However, Linux is not for everyone. Linux isn’t for you if:
If you are happy with the OS you have and don’t want to try something new.
You have certain applications that are only available for your current OS, there are no Linux equivalents you can use, and you can’t invest the time to make your apps run in an emulator (most Windows apps CAN be run under Linux via VMware or Wine.)
If you can’t already use your computer without frequent help from friends, family, or coworkers, and none of them know enough about Linux to help you with it.
You definitely should try Linux if:
If you aren’t happy with your current OS and don’t mind investing some time to learn something new.
The idea of participating in software development interests you.
If you can’t afford the large expense of normal commercial software, or can’t stand it’s frequently poor support or bugginess.
You’d like to learn to program.
Even if you don’t fit in on the ‘definitely’ list, Linux still may be for you.