Linux – What is it, where can it be found and what are its advantages?
The first computers appeared in the middle of the 20th century and were extremely bulky pieces of equipment, occupying entire buildings. At the same time, they were also difficult to use, with specific operating systems that could not be used on other computers. This problem worsened as the number of computers increased, creating the need for a common operating system, known to all programmers and easy to install on any equipment.
It was called Unix, but failed to catch on outside academia. The next step was taken in 1991 by Linus Torvalds, who succeeded in making his own version of Unix, later called Linux.
In the article below you will discover how Linux came to be, what its advantages are, what technologies can benefit from this operating system and you will find out which are the main Linux distributions.
1. How Linux came to be – A short history
The foundations of the Linux operating system were laid in 1969, when a team of American programmers developed software that could be run on any computer. It was written using the C programming language and named Unix. Part of the code, called the kernel, was used to develop operating systems for mass users.
In the 1980s, because Unix was an open-source program, all sorts of dialects appeared, again greatly complicating the use of computers. An attempt at standardisation was made by an American researcher, Richard Stallman, who, wishing to make Unix a user-friendly operating system, developed a project called “GNU”, which unfortunately failed to catch on.
In 1991, a Finnish student by the name of Linus Torvald developed a customised form of Unix for the personal computer, using Richard Stallman’s project as a basis. He was soon joined by a team of enthusiasts, who added all sorts of accessibility to the kernel, allowing it to be released in 1992 as Linux to users around the world. Before long, Linux began to be preferred worldwide, mainly because it was free and could be customized as desired.
2. Advantages of Linux
Linux is seen as an operating system, but in fact it is a kernel that provides the link between hardware and software. Although it is not as well known as other commercial operating systems, Linux still has a lot of dedicated fans who take full advantage of its many benefits.
2.1. What are the main advantages of Linux
It is true that Linux is not suitable for every user, but in some cases, it does the job much better and more efficiently than any other solution. The advantages are obvious for people who have some knowledge of computer science and computer technology:
- – It is an open-source program, meaning that anyone can easily download it and modify it according to their own wishes. Code distribution and improvement is encouraged as a solution for the emergence of better programs;
- – Linux has better security than other operating systems, because an administrator must be authorized to install any application, so a virus cannot get in without the administrator providing the system password. Proof of this capability is the fact that the Linux operating system does not require the existence of an antivirus program;
- – Linux is free. It does not require a licence to use it, as other operating systems can be used for a fee;
- – It is small in size and requires little hard disk space. It works very well, even with only 128 MB of RAM, which means it can be installed on almost any device, whether laptop, desktop, phone or tablet;
- – Linux is more stable than any other operating system. It almost never crashes and is not slowed down by applications running at the same time;
- – It is very powerful in terms of network management and allows the connection of a huge number of users, without performance suffering;
- – The Linux operating system is flexible and can be installed on any system (computers, servers, embedded systems);
- – Updates are done directly by the user who can choose what is needed and discard what would load the system unnecessarily. Installing them is very simple and there are never any problems like with other operating systems;
- – There are plenty of free or purchasable distributions that can be easily downloaded and used as needed. Among the most popular are Ubuntu, Fedora, Linux Mint and Debian;
- – Linux distributions usually have a Live USB option, which means that a user can try the operating system on their device before installing it;
- – Even though this system is based on line commands, it also has a graphical user interface, making it easy to use. Even people with no computer knowledge can do it simply and efficiently;
- – It supports most programming languages, so it is suitable for programmers who want to create something new;
- – The Linux user community is large and always willing to help beginners. Tips are available from sources such as forums or videos on streaming sites;
- – Linux does not require you to enter private data like other operating systems, so it is preferred by those who want their credentials to remain anonymous;
- – It supports files of almost any format and thus compatibility issues will not arise;
- – It installs smoothly and quickly, without requiring the intervention of the person in question (perhaps only at certain times, in slightly more complex processes, if a tutorial is not enough);
- – It is suitable for multitasking because the speed of systems is not influenced by the number of applications open at the same time;
- – It is easy to learn, because it does not require a lot of previous knowledge in computer science.
2.2. Technologies that benefit from the Linux operating system
The advantages of the Linux operating system have been recognised by many developers who have accepted to incorporate it into various products offered to customers. Although most people don’t know this, they are certainly, perhaps even now, using products that incorporate this type of kernel:
- – Many mobile phones (those running the Android operating system) are based on Linux, which is small, stable, free and easy to incorporate;
- – Most web servers are Linux-based, using a special distribution called Apache;
- – Networking (routers, modems) runs almost entirely on this operating system;
- – Smart TVs run on Linux distribution operating systems;
- – Most industrial robots and smart machines in factories are Linux-based;
- – Laptops and desktops are often sold with the Linux operating system pre-installed.
3. Main Linux distributions
The initial version comes in a complete form and is used as a specific operating system. Users are, however, free to take the source kernel and modify it as they wish, adding or removing components. These efforts result in “dialects” of Linux, known in the jargon as distributions. These have emerged over time either through the efforts of companies, such as Fedora, Suse or Ubuntu, or through the work of volunteer communities, such as Debian or Gentoo. Most of them are still free, but there are some, especially those for servers, that require a license before use.
Most Linux versions have a common graphical user interface, easily recognizable by Windows users. Today, hundreds of such distributions can be used, some familiar to most people and others with a niche purpose. There are also Linux distributions with Romanian contributions, such as Redcore or AcademiX.
3.1. Ubuntu Linux distribution
Ubuntu is the most popular version of Linux, developed by the software company Canonical Ltd. The owner of this company has sponsored the development of the distribution and offered it for free to anyone interested.
Ubuntu can be successfully used to replace Windows on old or new laptops or desktops, as it has a similar graphical user interface and even offers applications that can successfully replace other operating system programs.
Installing the Ubuntu operating system is simple, as it is free to download from the Internet and is available in Romanian, with easy-to-follow instructions. If you want a server version, you can easily download it.
The advantages of the Ubuntu Linux distribution, besides being free, are the minimum system requirements (256 MB of RAM and 3 GB of free space on the hard disk or SSD), ease of use, stability and increased security.
3.2. Kali Linux distribution
Kali Linux is a distribution made specifically for testing the security of systems and was designed so that programmers can discover vulnerabilities in their programs. It includes numerous security applications.
3.3. CentOS Linux distribution
The CentOS Linux distribution is the free version of the commercial Red Hat Enterprise Linux and is built specifically to equip servers. This free version comes with all the toolsets as the paid version, but does not benefit from commercial and technical support from the company. Because of this, it is especially popular with non-commercial users who want to create a server to solve their own problems.
3.4. Linux distribution for Android
The Android operating system, so familiar to mobile phone owners, is based on a Linux kernel, modified to meet the needs. Google developed this system in 2007 and used it to create a flexible and highly upgradeable OS. Android is not always a Linux distribution, because it does not use the whole kernel, especially the GNU libraries, which are available in all other Linux distributions.
3.5. MX Linux distribution
This distribution is increasingly installed in recent years, because the interface is very similar to Windows, it does not have high hardware requirements and has a lot of applications that can be used in any field. It never crashes, which makes it desirable for people who use computers for productivity, where such a crash could mean losing dozens of hours of work.
3.6. Debian Linux distribution
It is a long-established distribution, created by a community of enthusiasts who wanted to offer a very efficient and stable operating system for free. Debian’s strength is the huge community of users who are always willing to help for free those who have problems or even those who want to learn more about the system’s customization and upgrade possibilities.
3.7. Fedora 33 Linux distribution
The Fedora 33 distribution is preferred by those who want to benefit from the introduction of the latest technologies in the field. The Linux community uses this distribution to test new solutions that lead to visible improvements. Fedora 33 has, from this point of view, the possibility to maximize the performance of a system, even if it benefits from outdated hardware.
In conclusion, the Linux operating system, although it does not have a very long history, is present in billions of devices, being preferred because it is free, stable, efficient and because it has multiple customization and upgrade possibilities.