Sunday, October 11, 2009

What is Linux?

Linux is an operating system (OS) that evolved from a kernel created by Linus Torvalds. However, without a kernel, an operating system doesn't exist and without application programs, a kernel is useless. Richard Stallman, a propagator of Free Software Movement, provided the necessary programs from the GNU project, and together with a kernel, developed by Linus Torvalds, Linux was born, hence, also called GNU/Linux. Linux belongs to the *NIX family of operating systems. To say that Linux is an operating system means that it's meant to be used as an alternative to other operating systems like MS-DOS, the various versions of MS Windows, Mac OS, BSD, Solaris and others.

A decade earlier in its initial phase of development, Linux was identified to be a "naughty system", hence, it remained normally out of everyday lay users (and due to the lack of internet facility). This “troubled childhood,” haunts many of us still, however, present day Linux is easy to install and use for variety of purposes. Today, Linux is enjoying a favourable growth. This comes from the fact that Linux has proven to be a tremendously stable and versatile operating system and can be installed on desktop PC, laptop, netbook and on servers. Moreover, there is no single report of virus attack/infection in the system till date.

Linux is built and supported by a large international community of developers and users dedicated to free, open-source software (FOSS). This community sees Linux as an alternative to proprietary system and as a platform for alternatives to such proprietary applications as MS Office, Internet Explorer, and Outlook. As a result, there is a very large collection of free software available for Linux. There are graphical environments (GUIs), office applications, developers' tools, system utilities, business applications, document publishing tools, network client and server applications- the list goes on. For every purpose, there is a software - from designing home, maintaining balance sheet, audio-video, games, internet, etc. There are more than 20,000 softwares available on the internet free of cost worth exploring to accommodate one's need.

Linux is most commonly distributed with a collection of applications in what is called a "distribution". The most common are Redhat, Mandrake, Debian, etc. There are also many internet communities that seek to provide support to Linux users and developers. The various flavours of Linux OS like Debian based Ubuntu, LinuxMint, etc. can be downloaded from the internet or can be ordered at zero-cost from the selected distributions. Unlike other propietary softwares, the user is encouraged and legally entitled to copy, reinstall, modify, and redistribute the OS. Linux's open nature also offers the ability to localise Linux distributions for use in local languages.

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