Introduction to Linux: What it is, and Why You Should Care

If you haven’t heard of Linux, I don’t blame you.  It is relatively unknown to the majority of humankind, and unless you work in the

The Linux mascot, Tux

tech industry, you’d be an outlier if you knew what it is.  If you do know about Linux, I tip my hat to you: you are one of the enlightened ones who have joined the ranks of FOSS, and you deserve a cookie.  If however, you don’t have any prior understanding of what Linux is, I invite you to read onwards.

So what “is” Linux?

At it simplest, Linux is a software kernel, which in layman’s terms is the bit of software that interfaces between the hardware (the physical parts of your computer) and the software (the 1’s and 0’s).

However, Linux is far, far more than the kernel.  The most common usage for the word “Linux” is actually a misuse.  When most people talk about it, they are in fact referring to Gnu/Linux, which is a the basis upon which a number of operating systems, or “distributions” are built.  Linux as an OS is built upon the software kernel, but also includes a large number of standardized components which make up what is generally considered to make up the OS.

Quick History Lesson

Linux was created by Linus Torvalds, a Finnish software engineer who was aiming to create a hobby OS in his spare time.  The first prototypes of the kernel were released in 1991, and version 0.01 released later on in that year.  Linux quickly gained a following on USENET newsgroups, and gradually different developers started contributing code, and porting GNU components.

Why should I care?

Now, for some statistics: while Linux is a relatively unknown OS for desktops and laptops (hovers around 2% market share), it dominates every other sector of computing.  Most impressive stat is without a doubt the supercomputers one, since 99.4% of supercomputers run Linux.  Pretty impressive for what started out as a one-man project!  Android also uses the Linux kernel, which means that over 3 billion devices run it in some form or another.

Finally, a huge amount of servers run Linux as there OS, and websites such as Google and Amazon use it.

So, to sum up, Linux is one of the greatest stories of collaboration in the last few decades, and it is only continuing to grow.  I hope you learned something, and please do comment on how you found this post 🙂

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