Happy Birthday, Dear Linux!

Linux B-Day 2019


On August 25, annually, all human world celebrates the birthday of the operating system kernel Linux, the symbol of the open-source software.



Linux: The story


It simply was a usual student’s work for a test run. This kind of projects millions of students make every year. Young men quite often strive to change the world, but not that many are succeeded in it. Linus Benedict Torvalds, a University of Helsinki student, was.   


He enjoyed SunOS, a Unix-based operating system when he was working on the University computer. Linus dreamed of installing the same OS for his home personal computer. But there was no such type of operating system for PC. Due to this fact, the future Master of Cybernetics was very upset, but he didn’t give up, he searched the solution to this problem. He learned OS Minix, a clone of Unix, created by Andrew Tannenbaum for his coursebook — this book Linus learned in the University. But Minix was not suitable for his purposes, too.


“Well, if you wanna do well, do it yourself!”, the decisive Finn of Swedish ancestry told himself and began to write his product, sometimes peeking to the Tannenbaum’s book. Something, for example, the physical layout of the file-system, he performed like OS Minix. Since the new operating system was a composite of incomplete modifications of the original products and the application of new ideas, Torvalds called it FreaX — from the English words “free” (a reference to the ideology of free software), “freak”, and X, the traditional postfix, which means that the product belongs to the Unix family.  


The success story of Linux is unusual because the author did not have ambitions to conquer the whole world. He wrote on August 25, 1991, at the Usenet conference comp.os.minix, where Minix users hung out:



Thus began a new era in software development, although no one suspected this at that time.


A little earlier, in April 1991, at the same conference, Linus asked users to shelter his project on an FTP server.


Ari Lemmke, an employee of the University of Helsinki, who was also a keen enthusiast in the development of OS kernels, responded to his request. He posted the Torvalds project on his ftp.funet.fi in /pub/os/linux directory. So, the former Freax became Linux — in honor of its creator and... true, with the postfix X :)


SOFTWARE REVOLUTION: THE SECRET OF THE LINUX SUCCESS


A bit earlier, before young Finland man started developing the new OS kernel, the GNU Project was already working in the USA, creating its own OS of the same name. Why was the operating system called Gnu? Because recursion — Gnu’s Not Unix. And its creators did not like Unix very much. First of all, because of the belief that you cannot make money on software that millions of people use.


It's no secret that the war between proprietary and free software has been going on for decades. Microsoft Windows quickly captured the human minds and personal computers, and the server-side — Unix. Proprietary software is tightly connected to paid licensing and, accordingly, legal protection of intellectual property. Actually, this is the basis for the income of software companies.


But many programmers were annoyed with this situation. First, you have to pay for the software; second, you still cannot fix it when you find mistakes or want to improve usability — this is fraught with court trials, penalties, and other inconveniences. And software corporations own support is not what progressive users would like it to get. Therefore, programmers who think globally and openly consider software products the property of all humanity, which will use it and grow intellectually, thereby improving the life of the planet in a whole. In contrast to corporations seeking to profit from software distribution, these people created the Free Software Movement.


The chief ideologist and leader of this movement was an inspired programmer, an old-school hacker (previously the word “hacker” had a different meaning than now) Richard Stallman. An amazingly versatile person, he created the legal philosophical basis of the movement for freely distributed software, the so-called “free software”. Probably, were it not for Stallman, the Linux would never have been created, and open-source software would not have been developed and remained the lot of the fringe of programming.


GNU & Linux – from the movie
Linus Torvalds stands aside the banner ‘Gnu & Linux the dynamic duo’. From Revolutionary O.S.


Linus Torvalds is also one of those IT enthusiasts who believe that open source software is the key to true globalization and excellent quality combined with high usability. When hundreds and thousands of programmers around the world can work on OS code, that's cool. When it’s done for free, it’s doubly cool. In fact, the code compiler and shell that Linus used in his work were created by the Gnu Project.


By the time Torvalds' work on the Linux kernel was completed, the Gnu project already had a huge army of fans who were actively embracing the idea of free software. They enthusiastically modified and refined numerous utilities written by the Project team — a compiler, a text editor, etc. The Project lacked a core. But here Linux appeared, and the puzzle has composed. The software revolution has taken place, Microsoft has a worthy opponent from open source, quickly reached the highest level.


On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Linux, in 2001, director J. T. S. Moore shot the documentary Revolutionary O. S., where you can get firsthand how this open-source operating system was created. Recommended for viewing by everyone!


WHAT IS OPEN SOURCE?


Open source code is a software product code that is available for viewing, editing, modifying, and redistributing without restriction. Thanks to the Free Software Movement, a lot of high-tech programs and platforms have appeared in the world. By the way, the popular OpenStack platform has become the leading platform for building cloud services of SIM-Networks, in particular, the public cloud SIM-Cloud IaaS.


Both Torvalds and Stallman consider the open source is the right thing. Therefore, they quickly reached a mutual agreement, and often you can see the designation of the GNU/Linux operating system. Torvalds claims that this symbiosis gives virtually unlimited freedom to software users.


Open-source software can be studied in order to search for vulnerabilities, bugs, determine the functionality, refinement to the user's needs, etc. At the same time, openness implies free to use but requires compliance with certain rules. The main thing is copyleft, a condition underlying the public license for the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL) products.

The main difference between the concepts of open source and free software is the understanding of freedom, as Stallman interprets it. He says that it has two different connotations of the ‘free’ word in English: freedom as a liberty of speech, and free as a non-payed beer. By Richard Stallman, the free distribution of software is not primarily the absence of a fee for using the product, but the lack of desire to benefit from its use at the discretion and desire of the user.


4 freedoms for open-source software


Richard Stallman admits that he was initially looking for a way to merge the ideology of free software and business. He categorically objects to charging for the use of the product, but at the same time insists on maintaining copyright to the result of intellectual work. In spite of copyright, a favorite tool of Microsoft Corporation, he came up with his own definition of copyleft. This is the right that users of open-source software get to use and modify the software as they wish but provided that the modified program will be distributed under the same conditions of the copyleft license.


Linux is also distributed under the GNU GPL, and this is a crucial point for Torvalds.


STRENGTHS OF LINUX SYSTEMS


Ask Linuxoids (fans of Linux OS) why they love Linux, and you’ll get just a gazillion of reasons. Everyone finds for themselves something closest, which becomes a weighty argument for replenishing the ranks of Penguin named Tux fans, the symbol of the operating system.


BTW, there probably is a certain proportion of those who were initially attracted by Tux nice muzzle — against abstract figures and letter characters that are usually chosen for the company logo the penguin stands out noticeably. According to Torvalds, Tux is his plush mascot, which appeared at Linus after a curious case at the Sydney Zoo, when the penguin took the programmer's hand for a fish and decided to have lunch with it. Linus was touched, and he decided that it was all for a reason. Almost like a legendary apple that fell on Isaac Newton’s head. Therefore, Torvalds did not hesitate for a long time, choosing a logo for his breakthrough product.


But this tricky marketing ploy plays, of course, far from the main role. Of the most commonly observed benefits of OS Linux, the following can be distinguished:


  • it is free;
  • it is very reliable (due to this, Linux is widely used as a server OS);
  • it has many distributions for a variety of purposes, user levels and the functionality of physical machines;
  • there are tons of programs you can work with on Linux;
  • Linux systems are less likely to be affected by viruses than Windows;
  • cross-platform (open-source software is nowhere without this!);
  • professionals really appreciate the command line functionality;
  • it is constantly developing and improving, and practically everyone who has the appropriate training and knowledge can contribute to this good cause;
  • it already supports games;
  • on Linux, you can run Windows — by deploying a virtual machine.


Linux family, Unix-like operating systems based on the Linux kernel, are very popular. Of course, like any other product of humanity, they are not without flaws, which are discussed in the IT forums. But it is very encouraging that overcoming these shortcomings with open-source software is much easier than proprietary, especially when hundreds of thousands of experienced programmers deal with the problem.


LINUX DISTRIBUTIONS: WHAT IS THE BEST CHOICE?


Sure, radically changing the operating system from Windows to Linux is a more serious challenge than a person who was born and raised somewhere in a Siberian countryside, suddenly withdraw from his place and move to live in New York, Dublin or Singapore. Everything unusual, strange, you need to learn basic things anew. But there is good news: you are not the first. Millions of people have already done so, or are doing it now. On the Internet, you can easily find a lot of information that will facilitate your adaptation to the Penguin, if you jumped out of the Windows. For example, you can see analogs of Windows programs in Linux.


If you decide to join the Penguin Tux fans army, you should first determine what level you need. Lists of popular Linux distributions are compiled regularly by various portals, software observers and Internet projects: like this, or this, or this. You always can easily find the Linux distro that fits you most.


Most frequent users’ choice:


  • Mint, best for beginners who are transitioning from MacOS or MS Windows to Linux;
  • Ubuntu, a popular distribution based on Debian;
  • ElementaryOS, another distribution on Debian;
  • Solus, a new distribution, developed from scratch, uses Gnome3 technology;
  • Fedora, the development of RedHat, which has won many fans;
  • Arch Linux, it can run games for which computer resources are freed up, and there are ample opportunities to configure the OS;
  • openSUSE, is particularly popular because of the ease of system configuration, due to the YaST configurator;
  • Manjaro Linux, one of the simplest Linux distributions, suitable for working on laptops right out of the box.


And for experts – TOP 5 Linux Distributions for Development in 2019, collected by Linux Foundation.


WHERE IS LINUX USED?


In 1991, Linus Torvalds honestly admitted at the Usenet conference mentioned above that his operating system is not suitable for porting to platforms other than 80386 and that he is unlikely to support anything other than AT hard disks. As we recall, he did not plan to conquer the world — he simply did what he liked. History proved that he was wrong — Linux has gained extraordinary popularity, now it is used by many different platforms, distributions score hundreds, and millions of programmers are involved in development.


Where are the Linux OSs used? First of all, it has established as an OS for servers and cloud infrastructures. Since the Android operating system installed on most smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, etc., uses the Linux kernel, we can assume that the market for mobile gadgets at least 2/3 also belongs to the Penguin Tux.


On July 2019 statistics from the StatCounter website show the share of the total market for desktops and mobile gadgets:



As we can see, the combined market share of Android and Linux-kernel OSs family exceeds 40%. It seems not too impressive, right? But the situation will change if we clarify that these statistics display only Internet users, people with PCs, laptops, and mobile devices. It excludes servers, cloud services, supercomputers, web servers, trains and a huge number of consumer goods – such as electronic readers, smart TVs, equipment for smart home technologies, and software for drones. Moreover, the operating system of electric cars is built on Ubuntu, the Linux distribution. But these data radically change the statistics of using Linux OS!


Moreover, some governments, financial institutions, and educational programs in various countries, including Spain, India, Brazil, Portuguese, China, Russia, France, Germany, and so on, use Linux-based software. Even the most technologically isolated country in the World, North Korea, chose the Fedora distribution for its operating system, Red Star OS, approved by the authorities to use.


Although Linux is still not a leader in the market of operating systems for office and home computers, it is confidently moving this way.




The unique Scientific Linux project, common development of CERN and Fermilab, was specifically designed for scientific research. This distribution is used by scientists on all continents, including the Antarctic polar stations. And comprehensive research of the deep sea and even the Large Hadron Collider are also controlled by software based on the Linux kernel.


It seems, there are no barriers for this Penguin either in the water, or on the earth, or outside the Earth. Yes, Elon Mask project SpaceX decided that Tux will go to the stars: Falcon 9 airborne flight systems are running the Linux-distro operating system.


Only twenty-eight years have passed since Linus Torvalds opened access to his product. What scale Linux OS has reached to date is a tremendous success. And with it the whole open source community. August 25, 1991, was the day when humanity changed the course of its history. And this happened thanks to a simple Finnish student without special ambitions, but with great curiosity and a desire to make the world a better place to live.


HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU, LINUX! KEEP GROWING AND EVOLVING MORE!


And SIM-Networks reminds our customers that you can choose a convenient operating system for your infrastructure in data centers in Germany – both for dedicated servers and for a protected cloud IaaS.



Автор: Alisa Kandieieva

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