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What is / Why Linux?
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by Dwaraka Nath

What is Linux ?

We'll keep it simple. Linux is just another operating system. What makes it so special? Oh... wondering what an operating system is? Okay. All we know is that, a computer is a collection of interconnected components (called 'Hardware'). We have Memory disks, CD Readers, Sound cards, processor and all other teeny tiny things working toether to give us an enjoyable computing experience. The operating system is a set of coded rules installed in a computer (software) that oversees and regulates the functioning of the interconnected components. And Linux is a kind of operating system.

Most of the computers out there, in work places and in homes run on Microsoft Windows. Some, on Apple's MAC OS. No denying, they're fantastic! Absolutely great to work with. But, they do falter on certain things that Linux has to offer.

Too much theory isn't it? I'll tell you a story.

As computers grew large in numbers and were required to perform new complex functions, hardware manipulation to arrive at the desired result, became too difficult to cope with. People realized. Yes, Virginia! We need an operating system, where simple code manipulation would provide the way around. And, so, during 1969, the first working operating system – UNIX (in short for UNiplexed Information and computing service ) was born. It was funded later by the AT&T under the banner of Bell Laboratories.

Shocking as it came to many, AT&T licensed UNIX during 1982, and released its first ever commercial version of its UNIX operating system to universities, banks and research organizations world over, which had hitherto included source code too. This had frustrated the hacker and computer enthusiasts alike for the reason that, no commoner could contribute or modify the code. One such guy by that time, was Richard Stallman – member of MIT's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

He isn't new to you. Is he? We've already spoke about him on our earlier issues. Remember? Yes... He is the one who found the GNU (is a recursive acronym for GNU's Not Unix )project – that aimed at creating an operating system, as good as Unix in both hardware compatibility and in usage, and one that is also free. And he also started the Free Software Foundation. His OS project didn't take off very well and was discontinued.

Few years later, during 1991, a Finnish student, Linus Torvalds, who was equally curious about Operating system as Stallman, had started to work on his own version of an operating system. He wanted to do away with the Commercial versions of the operating system and thus he wrote one. The moment, he shared the news, many like-minded people from around the globe had joined his mission on forming the first ever free operating system – Linux (after 'LINUs' of his name and 'uniX' like feature of the OS )

Enough of stories now. Well, I really have this bad habit of talking on and on. Sometimes, I drift away so far, from where I originally intended to be. Lol :D

Having said all that, why do we need Linux? After all, I'm contented with what I have. Windows is a great OS, isn't it ? :P Needless to tell about Apple's MAC.

Well, for onething, I could bet anything on earth to tell you that Linux is better—Viruses! Viruses are software programs designed to attack the normal functioning of your computer. And, no virus can attack a Linux OS. The statement could get as better as saying, “Please let me know, if you can get me a Virus attack in Linux.”

The next best thing about Linux is that it’s totally free! Not just for using it, also for modifying and re-distributing. You do want you want, edit, remove, add whatever you feel like. It is totally yours—in all aspects. You could contribute to it as well.

One thing I hate so bad about Windows or Mac is their Customer Support. Have any glitches or issues, it may take you days to get a response. You'll have to type an email, properly explaining all the issues. They shall ask you next to send a screenshot. You send it and this goes on forever. If not, we have this usual IVRS system – 'Welcome to blah blah blah support center. Please dial '1' for software related queries, '2' for something- something- something and the like. This sucks! This does not happen with Linux. You have hundreds of Linux Communities and Chat Groups waiting to help you. The response is instant and swift.

Linux, is now slowly shedding its ‘Hi! I'm Linux – The geeky kid ' image with the advent of user-friendly operating systems like Fedora and Ubuntu. It’s everywhere now. From servers to workstations. This surely is one of masterpiece in Open Source literature!