What’s So Special about Linux?

Stallman’s dream of having an operating system free from commercial purse strings came true with the completion of the kernel by Torvalds. As the community of programmers grew, so did the draw to GNU/Linux. The metamorphosis of the operating system grew to gain the attention of the world.

More and more people started joining the Linux movement by adopting GNU/Linux as their operating system of choice. Many migrated to it looking for a stable environment from which to create programs, while others sought something that wouldn’t crash when performing simple daily tasks like word processing.

Both groups of users were pleasantly surprised with GNU/Linux. With the popularity of GNU/Linux increasing, some programmers created special distributions of the operating systems by adding in their own special programs as enhancements.

You can easily obtain some of these systems, while others encourage the purchase of their packages. Still others include software at a price, which dilutes the openness of the source. Here the lists some of the more popular Linux distributions:

All can be purchased from store (except Debian) or downloaded from a site like www.linuxiso.org where all you have to do is burn the distribution image to a CD for you own copy. Some of these distributions were created from other distributions.

For instance, Linux-Mandrake uses a Red Hat base while Corel and Storm Linux both originated with Debian. Surprised? Even though some of the distribution originated from other distributions (like Linux-Mandrake originated from Red Hat), each one adds something a little different to the mix—a graphical installer, special configuration tools, or even hardware detection software.

Below is the lists of some significant differences between Linux and the other operating systems:

  • Costs nothing - Linux is the only operating system that costs nothing. All others listed have some purchasing fee ranging from just under $100 to several hundred dollars. For a business with several servers and workstations, this can add up fast.
  • Downloadable - With a fast Internet connection, you can have your operating system available in a short period of time. No need to order it, have it shipped, or visit a local computer dealer to get the copies you need.
  • Freely distributed - Make as many copies of Debian GNU/Linux as you want or need. There is no copyright with GPL software except that the source code must be included. Other operating systems require a purchased license for each installation.
  • Built by volunteers - Other operating systems are company creations in which all the work is either contracted or programmed in-house. Volunteers make up the primary programming body of Linux. Some companies contribute to the cause for the benefit of the whole. This volunteer principle contributes to its overall stability.
  • Source code available - When you buy an operating system off the shelf, you only get the compiled version ready to run straight out of the box. If there is a problem or a minor change you want to make, you have no chance to make it because of no available source code. Linux encourages individual adjustments, modifications, and fixes because the source is always available. As a result of the available source code, fixes to problems can take place literally overnight.
  • Reliable - Though this may not be unique to Linux, it is important nonetheless. Linux is very stable as are some of the other operating systems. I have known Linux servers to run without needing to be restarted for months at a time (and then only for hardware maintenance). In contrast, some Windows NT servers need to be restarted every day to ensure their reliability.
  • Flexible - With the vast numbers of programs available for Linux, its uses can range from a single task as a monitor, to uses as a workstation for calculating advanced mathematical formulas or graphics. You can use Linux as an Internet router, firewall, proxy, Web server, or mail server that is as powerful as any on the open market.