It’s easy to consider Linux to be one of the wonders of the internet. Everyone knows that open-source tech powers the internet, and Linux has set the gold standard for reliable and comprehensively supported open source technology. Linux is highly established too, with over twenty years of history – Linux was designed with a UNIX base and was released under the now well-know GNU license.
Linux has grown explosively over the past two decades in part because of its huge pool of developers who are a true community – and, of course, the fact that Linux was a ground-breaking concept at the time. It is now one of the most popular and most common UNIX-based operating systems in the world. Furthermore, Linux is unique in that it is popular as both a desktop operating system for personal use, and as a server operating system that delivers everything from web pages to complex applications. As a result Linux is used by countless millions of people.
Understanding how GNU, UNIX and Linux relate
There are plenty of commercial server and desktop operating systems around – operating systems are either UNIX based, or based on Microsoft’s Windows technology. However, because Linux has managed to consistently mix a range of important operating system features it has managed to become a highly preferred alternative to Windows and commercial UNIX distributions. Why? Simply because Linux has proven itself to be adaptable, secure, stable and very fast.
This mix of characteristics means that many users have given Linux preference to commercial operating systems. In turn, Linux’s capable mix of features means that Linux is now powering most of the internet and indeed most of the websites we use every day.
Linux is, as we said, based on UNIX which in itself date from more than half a century ago – the first UNIX release was made public in the 1960s. Like UNIX, Linux is highly modular which means that Linux is incredibly customizable, and incredibly stable. Interestingly, when GNU was initiated in 1985 the plan was to provide a software system that is fully UNIX compatible. That said, the GNU project took a long time to come to fruition – until the 1990s most of the work on the GNU kernel and the drivers that power it was still at an initial stage.
Linus Torvalds, seen as the father of Linux, found this progress frustrating and it is Linus that decided to create the Linux kernel – Torvalds was simply fed up with the slow pace of progress. So, in 1991, Torvalds created his own kernel using utilities and libraries which were part of the GNU project. This laid the cornerstone for the Linux, GNU project and is the point in time in which the core of one of the world’s most important operating systems was established.
Why the Linux kernel is so important
The kernel of an operating system is the part of the operating system which manages the communication between the computer hardware, and the software that runs on the operating system. Arguably, the Linux kernel is what makes Linux so unique – and so capable.
This is in large part because the Linux kernel was designed from the ground up to be incredibly fast and also particularly small in size. As a result Linux operating systems are known to be very efficient when it comes to managing essential computer resources including the central processing unit (CPU) as well as RAM storage and of course disk space.
So, the Linux kernel is really what drives every Linux OS by handling all the processes in Linux and by managing the behaviour of the applications that run on a Linux OS. In contrast to some other operating systems, Linux does not run its graphics system (GUI, or graphics user interface) as part of the kernel. So, if the GUI on Linux crashes it can simply be restarted – it does not require a restart of the entire operating system.
The advantages of using Linux
Operating system security is a big issue – hacking and the resulting theft and losses can be expensive. One of the reasons why Linux is so popular is because Linux is known to be highly secure compared to other operating systems. Linux users are lucky in that they work in a largely virus-free environment, so Linux users can use the time spent on virus protection on more productive tasks – whereas other operating system users need to spend plenty of time guarding against viruses.
Linux is open source and everyone knows that it is constantly under development, with a very big community that is dedicated to improving Linux and expanding the feature set included in Linux. Even though Linux is highly dynamic it is still incredibly feature-filled. Whether it is functionality or a friendly user interface you can rely on Linux to meet your expectations.
The ongoing development behind Linux is designed to make sure that the Linux platform retains the required flexibility. This development is particularly important because the internet and the world wide web continues to change at breakneck speed, so Linux must remain adaptable in order to keep up.
The importance of Linux operating system
A very large section of the internet is powered by Linux. The reason for this is simple: Linux is known to be one of the most stable operating systems, and every website owner is rightly concerned about website uptime. For websites, Linux is often using alongside the popular web server software Apache. As a result there is a reliable, highly stable web server configuration that is incredibly popular: the Linux, Apache combination.
Finally, you may have heard of the LAMP open source platform for running websites. LAMP stands for Linux, Apache, MySQL and Perl/PHP/Python. These are a combination of the most popular technologies for building a website – the Linux operating system, Apache as the web server, MySQL as the database and of course Perl, PHP or Python as the scripting language.