Tag: Linus

Questions and Answers About the Linux Operating System

By Andrea Tessi

The purpose of this article is to give answers to some basic questions common people may have about Linux. Linux is a free operating system whose popularity is increasing day by day and passed from being the toy of a small geek group to a robust and mature piece of code so much as to start challenging Microsoft Windows leadership.

Q. What is exactly Linux?
A. Actually three different things yet belonging to the same environment are named Linux. Originally it was used to name the kernel of the Linux Operating System (whose complete name should be hence “GNU Linux”) and eventually it was used to simply refer to the Linux Operating System. Finally, a lot of application software was added both by spontaneous programming groups and by software companies, creating software collections also known as distributions. So nowadays the name Linux is used for three different things: the kernel, the operating system and the distribution.

Q. Who created Linux?
A. The author of the Linux kernel is basically Linus Torvalds, a finnish computer science expert who developed it as an experiment during his university career. Later, a team of volunteers helped him improving and enhancing it.

Q. Are Unix and Linux the same thing?
A. No, though Linux has been written from the Unix code. Anyway, it is so similar to the operating system family known as “Unix” to the point that experts use to refer to Linux as “Unix like”

Q. How much does it cost?
A. Linux is free and it comes with a licence known as “GNU GPL”, which grants free use, free access to the source code (Linux distributions often come with both binaries and the source code), freedom to copy, modify and distribute it.

Q. Are there many people using Linux?
A. Nowadays Linux is becoming very popular. There are many people that neither are geeks nor computer experts turning to Linux every day. During the last 5 years Linux evolved to become very user friendly, and for some tasks even more than Microsoft Windows.

Q. Can I run a Windows program on Linux?
A. Basically no. Linux and Windows are so different that a program written and compiled for Windows won’t run on Linux and vice versa. An exception may be done for Java programs, provided that the Java Virtual Machine is installed in the system. However, a few developer groups and software companies are committed in developing emulators that make possible, under certain circumstances, to run some Windows programs on Linux.

Q. Are there programs for linux similar to those running on windows?
A. Yes. For the most common tasks we can say that every Windows program has its free equivalent on Linux. In many cases Linux offers more than one alternative. The most famous are Firefox for internet surfing, Open Office for office automation (wordprocessing, spreadsheet, presentation, drawing, html pages, database and more), Evolution as an e-mail client, The Gimp for photo and image manipulation.

Q. Can I run Microsoft Office on linux?
A. No. Microsoft announced that they will never port (i.e. make it compatible) Microsoft Office to Linux. However, it is possible to run the original code (with some limitations, I guess) using a Windows emulator.

Q. Is Linux easy to learn?
A. Linux has become very user friendly nowadays. For a normal user the learning curve is not steeper then for learning Windows or MacOs.

These are some basic answers to questions people ask me when I tell them I use Linux. It still seems strange to most of them that somebody nowadays can use an operating system that neither is Windows nor MacOs.

Andrea is a software developer and writes articles online about computers, software and other interesting topics. Come to visit his new website that helps people find the best cappuccino machine and discusses the 10 top selling cappuccino machines available in the market.

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Welcome to the World of Knoppix
By Mike Ber

Knoppix is a bootable CD with a collection of GNU/Linux software, automatic hardware detection, and support for many graphics cards, sound cards, SCSI and USB devices and other peripherals. Knoppix can be used as a Linux demo, 272px-Knoppix-logo.svgeducational CD, rescue system, or adapted and used as a platform for commercial software product demos. It is not necessary to install anything on a hard disk. Due to on-the-fly decompression, the CD can have up to 2 GB of executable software installed on it.

If one is to believe news from the Linux camp one could be forgiven for thinking that the world was out to destroy the beautiful thing that is the Open Source movement. Angry fingers would be pointed in several directions, surprisingly (or unsurprisingly) all in the general vicinity of Microsoft. Of course, the noises from the other side are just as loud (actually quite a bit louder). They, in turn, claim that Linux is ‘unsafe’, hard to use and even harder to maintain, and worse of all, prone to exploitation by hackers (since the source code is open source and thus can essentially be seen and played around with by anyone).

I’ve always preferred the uncomfortable seat on the fence, despite the green grass on both sides. Granted, you tend to get sore sitting in such a way after a while, but the view from here is great, and argument very clear. The battle between proprietary code (led by Microsoft, no less) and open source (Linux) has been going on ever since Linus Torvalds created Linux and started the process that has made it the genuine force that it is today. And as is the case in such fighting, there are three sides to the story: Microsoft’s tale, Linux’s woes and my bit of the story. And my part begins with the most interesting OS of them all…

What if you had an operating system that ran completely from a CD? That’s right, just one CD. And this CD also contained very useful programs for word-processing, data recovery and system repair utilities, image-editing and internet connectivity, along with excellent audio and video players? What if all you had to do was to boot from this CD and voila, in a few minutes your new OS had taken over your PC. Taken over? Nothing to worry about, as removing the OS from your computer was to be as easy as removing the CD. Literally.

300px-KNOPPIXWelcome to the world of Knoppix.

Given the fact that we are in the midst of multi-gigabyte operating systems that we there would be such a competent one that could be run entirely from a CD-ROM is stupendous. Imagine the possibilities. Customized versions of the Knoppix OS would mean that you could literally carry a streamlined version of your home PC around with you wherever you went. Need to recover data from a crashed hard-disk? Boot into Knoppix and use the system repair and data recovery tools to retrieve your data (burn it to a CD-R, or transfer it via a PC-to-PC connection) and maybe attempt to fix the disk as well. Secondly, if you are a web developer who wants to check how sites look from within a Linux environment, all you need to do is pop Knoppix in and check out your websites from Mozilla or Konqueror. Away from the office and want to work on customized software specially made for your company? Knoppix, along with a USB drive to store data, turns your crisis into a simple matter of finding a PC. And like all Linux versions, meeting the minimum system requirements (see http://www.knopper.net/knoppix/index-en.html#requirements) would be a snap (82 MB RAM, CDROM drive, SVGA card, Intel compatible CPU (i486 or better)).

Knoppix also boasts a classic boot screen

KNOPPIX_booting440width

There is a lot to be said for Knoppix, especially for its appeal to Linux newbies (or ‘noobs’, as vernacular has it). With no need for an installation (although that is given as an option), and with excellent hardware detection, Knoppix has single-handedly done away with the two major concerns for Windows users wanting to try out Linux: A complicated installation process, and the problem of finding the right drivers for all your hardware. In effect, Knoppix is an excellent choice for someone who wants to try out Linux without having to go through the usual hassle. It’s easy to use, and doesn’t mess with your system either. Despite being run completely off the CD, it runs pretty quickly as well.

Knoppix also boasts a comprehensive suite of programs that has almost everything that home/office desktop could be used for. The package list is tremendous, with the compression system allowing for over 2GB of stuff to be stored. This is amazing and is certainly more than any other single live CD can hold. For a basic idea as to how you should be fine, Knoppix contains 2 office suites (Koffice and OpenOffice), has KDE, Mozilla (web+mail+IRC), PHP, MySql, samba, xmms and tons more. This is no gaming platform, but more than enough is packed in there to let you do accomplish most of your usual tasks on the PC (see http://www.distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=knoppix for a complete list). And if you want more, do an installation and now that you can write on the hard-disk, use apt-get upgrade, apt-get dist-upgrade (after making sure your sources.list is correct) to get more.

Knoppix does have a few minor problems. These are limited to a few quirks within the KDE, some problems with hardware detection and complaints that 5 minutes to boot a PC is too long (which, by the way, is quite quick for a live-CD OS). The reality is that such problems are expected from an Open Source operating system. Linux platforms are not judged by the same criteria that Windows, or any other ‘paid-for’ OS is (this is perhaps a major reason behind the Linux-bashing that goes on in Microsoft-related circles). No one expects Knoppix to work perfectly when detecting hardware, and the fact that it more often than not works extremely well forms the basis of our judgment, whereas if Windows XP Professional refused to detect my LAN card I would not stop cursing their ineptitude (no matter that it detected everything else, or everyone else’s card). The standards applied here are totally different, and thus Knoppix survives all such criticism and continues to bathe in the afterglow of a job well done.

A few thoughts on customization. One gets a feeling that the package is perhaps too comprehensive (how many text editors do you really need?). My view is that at least for the downloadable version, there should be a way for the user to select or unselect the programs that are required. As such, one could select their favorite browser, text editor, office suite, etc. and produce a more compact installation package. Theoretically, you could also build a custom Knoppix installation that would even run your office applications (as mentioned earlier). The possibilities are great, and hopefully the Knoppix development team will take into consideration the idea of streamlining / customization, if only for the downloadable version.

So there you have it. A special flavor of Linux that offers, apart from a live-CD OS, a quite stable operating environment as well (and comes bundled with lots of goodies) that is unprecedented in terms of hardware detection. And more importantly, this could be a precursor of things to come with respect to OS development and how the industry perceives the role of an operating system, be it Linux or Windows. Maybe it’s time for diversification and specialization in the OS market, and maybe, just maybe, Microsoft is set to lose more ground as the ‘free’ operating systems get better and better.

Mike Ber is the owner of the Canadian Domain Name Portal called http://www.Every.ca. He is also a contributing author to Canadian Computer Magazine and http://www.Developer.ca website.

Buy Knoppix today!

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Milestones in the creation of Linux

+1960s No one can argue that with the introduction of Unix in the 1960s we would not have Linux today. It was originally developed by AT&T employees at Bell Labs

History of UNIX systems

History of UNIX systems

+1983 The GNU project was started with the purpose of creating a free UNIX style operating system consisting of free and open source software (FOSS)

+1980s BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) was a free operating system project developed from AT&T’s 6th edition of Unix.

+1991 Linus Torvalds realized his terminal emulator based on Minix was turning into an operating system, and this was the makings of today’s Linux kernel

Linus Torvalds

Linus Torvalds

+1992 Linus suggested releasing the kernel under the GNU General Public License. He first announced this decision in the release notes of version 0.12. In the middle of December 1992 he published version 0.99 using the GNU GPL.

Linux and GNU developers worked to integrate GNU components with Linux to make a fully-functional and free operating system. Torvalds has stated, “making Linux GPL’d was definitely the best thing I ever did.”

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