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What Linux Is & How It Changed The World

Updated on April 4, 2013

Linus Torvalds

Origins Of Linux

In August of 1991, a Finnish student named Linus Torvalds asked for coding assistance in a UseNet newsgroup for a project he was working on. Usenet newsgroups one of the prime mediums for communication at this time. This was officially the beginning of the Linux platform as we know it today. Linus' aim was to build a free clone of the UNIX/Minix operating system. Little did he know how widespread and popular his project was to become. He would become an industry leader and part of a growing movement of free software enthusiasts. Shortly after that post, the very first Linux kernel was available, version 0.01.

The message that started it all.
The message that started it all.

The Story of Linux: Commemorating 20 Years of the Linux Operating System

After posting his newsgroup message, Linus released the source code to the few volunteer developers who were willing to work with him.

Over the years, Linux has grown rapidly with a volunteer development team that spans the globe. This team of developers has grown from a handful in 1991 to over 10,000 strong. These developers are volunteers, all working to make Linux the best possible operating system. Linux servers power the internet, banking, telecommunications, and more; all from one student's desire to have a freely available UNIX clone. The power of the world's most popular search engine runs on Linux as well as some of the leading banking enterprises.

In 1992, Linus decided to license the Linux kernel under the GNU GPL or GNU General Public License, in retrospect this was a major decision that would add to its success. The Linux kernel and application development continued to grow. The number of users increased considerably, and in 1998 large tech companies began announcing hardware support for Linux. Shortly after that, Google, the largest search engine on the internet running on Linux. In 2007 large telecom companies collaborated on an embedded Linux Smartphone, heralding a new era for Linux and the advent of one of the most popular Smartphones of all time.

Linux Distributions

Due to the source code being freely available, many users and tech companies decided to build their own variant, or distribution, of Linux. In the early years, there were only a handful of distributions available. Today, there are hundreds of Linux distributions to choose from. Many of these distributions are tailored to specific uses. There are desktop, server, forensics, and many more Linux distributions for any size computing need.

The evolution of the distributions has led to many specialized forms of Linux. Some of the earliest companies that began working with Linux are still around today, their names common in the enterprise computing ecosystem.

  • Slackware
  • Debian
  • RedHat
  • SuSE (pronounced SOO-SUH)

The vast amount of Linux distributions led to innovative ways to demo and use Linux. Prior to Linux's arrival, the only medium to install an operating system was through CD-ROM or floppy disk, however new and innovative ways were developed to try Linux before installing. Thanks to Linux we have a "Live filesystem" that resides in RAM only and is booted from USB thumb drives or media.

Open Source

Linux is open source. This means that the source code is to the operating system (OS) is available for anyone to read, copy, or modify. The source code is the code that developers write; normally paid developers. Source code is usually highly guarded by companies hoping to protect their investment. One very unique benefit of open source is the sheer number of people examining the code at any one time. When exploits or vulnerabilities are found, they are fixed immediately. In the commercial world, it takes days (or longer) for a patch to be released. Virus exploits are virtually non-existent within the Linux environment due to the nature of open source. Linux's open source model has forced its competitors to change their business models in order to stay competitive. There are more joint ventures today between big name developers than at any previous time.

Robust Support

Linux is the middle ground between UNIX and Microsoft Windows, and therefore has had to develop unique traits. It is one of the only operating systems to have virtually universal support for:

  • File Systems - Linux supports many popular (and not so popular) file systems; even proprietary file systems
  • Hardware Support - Linux supports more hardware than any other platform, out of the box
  • Network Protocols - Again, Linux supports more network protocols, out of the box, than any other OS. NFS, SMB, CIFS, AFS, and more are all supported

Taking the Market By Storm

From being a simple UNIX clone in 1991 to being an enterprise level operating system today, Linux has taken computing by storm. Linux ranks as high as its commercial competitors on benchmarks such as disk I/O, virtualization, CPU scheduling, and disk access. This unprecedented growth is due to the medley of open source code, hardware adoption, and Linux's licensing model.

There are virtually no industries or markets where Linux is not a driving force. Many large telecommunications companies use Linux for their server farms, as well as largest online ecommerce sites. Governments all over the world are switching to Linux due to the low maintenance cost as well as the high level of security.

  • Cloud Computing - Using Linux to power cloud computing environments saves companies billions of dollars per year combined. Linux has grown to be a leader in this relatively new market. Amazon alone saves millions of dollars a year since it moved its cloud operation to a Linux environment.
  • High Availability - Linux is built to be clustered for maximum uptime and reliability
  • Database Applications - Linux excels as a database server. In fact, leading database companies have invested massive amounts of time and money into making sure their product works well with Linux.
  • Embedded OSs - Linux can scales from large, geo-redundant server farms to embedded devices smaller than an apple.
  • Virtualization -Linux offers more ways to virtualize your applications than any other OS.
  • NAS/SAN - Due to its extensive hardware support and efficient CPU threading, Linux is widely used as an inexpensive SAN or NAS.

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© 2013 davidwhoward

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I like your poll. It was informative. A lot of it is over my tech-challenged brain, but anytime I learn something new it is worthwhile. You obviously know your stuff so thanks for the education.

    • davidwhoward profile image
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      davidwhoward 4 years ago from Indiana

      I appreciate your compliment. Like any specialized niche, it doesn't seem to difficult /once you know it/; however Linux (and Unix) have a STEEP learning curve.

    • kj force profile image

      kjforce 4 years ago from Florida

      davidwhoward.....very informative and interesting hub.. thanks for the share...a bit over my head, but I did learn some interesting facts.. that will make for good conversation at group get together....

    • Keri Machin profile image

      Keri Machin 3 years ago from Miami Florida

      great hub on linux! thanks :)

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