I have been using open source software for over ten years now. I have been using Linux for about the same time, too. A lot has changed in ten years but my love for idea of open source hasn’t changed. It has always been my goal to get everyone I meet to start using open source software, even if it is within a proprietary system.
What is Linux?
Linux is best known as the most used open source computer operating system in the world. You can think of Linux as the the software that is under all the other software on your computer, making requests on behalf of those programs and forwarding the requests onto the computer’s hardware.
We use the term Linux to refer to the Linux kernel but Linux is much more than that. It is a set of programs, tools and services that are bundled with Linux kernel to give the users a necessary set of tools to give fully functioning operating systems.
So what makes Unix different from Linux?
You may of heard of Unix, which was a operating systems that was developed in the 1970’s at Bell Labs by Denis Richie, Ken Thompson and many others. Both Unix and Linux are very similar. Linux, in fact, was created to be similar to Unix. They both share similar tools for interfacing with the system, programing tools and file-systems layouts. The main thing that makes Unix different from Linux is that Unix is not Free. Over the years, there have been a number of attempts to create UNIX-like operating systems but none of them have been as popular as Linux.
Linux: a short history
Linux was created in 1991 by Linus Torvalds while attending the University of Helsinki. Linux was designed to be a open source alternative to Minix, a Unix clone which was widely used in academic institutions. It was originally going to be called “Freax” but the administrator owner of the server that Linus used was distributed the original code named directory “Linux” after combination of Linus first name and the word Unix, and the name stuck from that point on.
Who Owns the Rights to Linux?
Linux is freely available to anyone, by using open source licensing. However, the name Linux is trademarked and belongs to the creator of Linux, Linus Torvalds. However, the Linux source code is under copyright by many individuals and licenses that full under the GPLv2. The challenges of having so many contributors over the years of development, contacting each person or party then getting them to agree to a new license would be an impossible task.
What Makes Linux is different from other operating systems?
Linux is no different from Windows, OS X or iOS. Linux, like other operating systems, has a graphical user interface and a large collection of software that can be found on other operating systems.
What makes Linux different from other types of operating systems is that Linux is open source software. All the code that has been used to create Linux is free and is able to be viewed publicly, available to be edited for those who have the skills to contribute.
Another thing that makes Linux different is that core pieces of the Linux operating system are the same. There are many types of Linux distributions, giving the end user freedom of choice when it comes to software, which makes Linux very customizable. This allows the Linux users to choose what core components they want, such as display graphics and user-interface components.
How do you get started using Linux?
The easiest way to get started using Linux is by picking a popular distribution and give it a shot inside a virtual machine. Once you feel comfortable, install it on your system. Some of the popular distributions I can recommend are Debian, Fedora, Mint, OpenSuse and Ubuntu to name a few.
How to contribute to Linux?
The Linux kernel is mostly written in the C programing language as well as a little bit of assembly. A good place to start is heading over to Kernel Newbies FAQ, where it will help you understand concepts and processes that you will need to be familiar with.
If you are not a programmer, there are many more things you can do to help out.
Designers to create users interfaces and graphics for the distributions and the various programs.
Evangelists to spread the word about Linux and open sources.
Developers to write software or make Linux version of their existing works.
Packagers to take software programs and place all the parts together and make sure that they run in all the different distributions.
Testers to make sure everything works on different configurations of hardware and software and to report the bugs when something doesn’t work.
Translators to take programs and documentation from their native languages and make sure they are updated and correct, and if there isn’t documentation and you have the ability to do so.
So if you have ever thought about using Linux, stop thinking about it and just start using it. It is much easier than when I begin ten years ago and you might just learn to fall in love like I did.