The Linux operating system is one of the main operating systems used in computers and other devices today. It is probably best known for its use on businesses’ computer servers, but different flavors of Linux are also used in desktop, laptop and mainframe computers, as well as in more esoteric devices. Google’s Android operating system for smartphones and tablets, as well as its Chrome OS system for computers called Chromebooks, are based on Linux. Different types of Linux systems are more suitable for different purposes.
Linux operating system history
Linux was created in 1991 by Finnish computer programmer Linux Torvalds, who tried to build a version of the Unix operating system compatible with desktop computers running on Intel processors. Unix is an operating system originally developed at AT & T’s Bell Labs, the telephone company’s stored R&D unit, in the 1970s, and although the term is still a trademark, it is often used generically for other systems inspired by and largely compatible with the original Unix.
An early Unix-like operating system called Minix already existed for computers, but licensing and other issues made it unsatisfactory for Torvalds and the group of programmers around the world who helped develop Linux. Linux technically only refers to the kernel of the operating system, which means that the inner core of the system that sits between the application software and the computer’s hardware, handles memory, processor time and access to the computer’s devices.
Read also: Unix Vs. Linux
Much of the other software that is usually installed on a Linux system comes from the GNU project, which was largely developed under the Free Software Foundation, which is committed to developing and marketing software that promotes user freedom. Richard Stallman, the founder, and president of the Free Software Foundation advocates calling the GNU / Linux combined system rather than just talking about Linux OS. In principle, the Linux system provides the operating system kernel, GNU provides many of the application-level tools, and in many modern installations, additional organizations provide much of the other core software running on Linux machines.
Today, the Linux kernel is maintained by many developers around the world, many of them employed by software companies that rely on Linux either for internal use or for use in products offered to customers. Both of these developers ensure that the Linux kernel is compatible with a wide range of hardware and introduces new features to increase usability, security, and efficiency. The Linux kernel is open source, which means that anyone can use and modify the freely available source code for their own purposes. Much of the other software available for Linux is also available under similar conditions, but exact licenses vary. So make sure you understand the situation of software you install on your personal or business computers.
Understanding Linux OS Distributions
Since Linux first released in the early 1990s, many organizations have come up with their own software packages to complement the Linux kernel. These bundles are known as distributions, and although they were once distributed by compact discs, DVDs or even floppy disks, they are now most commonly distributed online.
Distributions often make choices about which versions of which software – including graphical user interfaces, server tools, programming software, and end-user applications – will be available and which configurations will be adopted by default. Most include package management software designed to easily install distribution-approved software, similar to the app stores now used on mobile phones, although many of the package managers precede iOS and Android.
Related article: Linux server operating system.
Slackware, the oldest maintained distribution
The oldest actively maintained Linux distribution is Slackware, which was created in 1993. At that time, Linux itself was new and not fully compatible with all computer hardware on the market, and users were mainly professional developers or computer hobbyists who thought of the new system. Many older programmers today have fond memories of cutting their teeth on Slackware Linux and are struggling to get the system up and running on an extra work machine, college desktop or even a family computer.
Even today, the Slackware interface may be better suited to power users than those looking for something that only works with a few clicks. The configuration system used to install and maintain the system is based around the command line, not a graphical user interface with mice or touch screens, and Slackware may require some more manual adjustments to get up and running.
Debian, Ubuntu and Mint Distribution
Another long-standing Linux distribution is Debian, which was officially founded in 1993. It was designed to enable open user community contributions and is still maintained by a non-commercial group, known as the Debian Project, and communicates mostly remotely over the Internet. It contains tens of thousands of packages that represent different sets of software tools that can be installed with its package management tool, known as APT.
In 2004, a South African developer-entrepreneur and his colleagues created the company Canonical, which created its own Linux distribution called Ubuntu, after an ancient African word meaning “humanity to others.” Based on Debian, it is available to anyone for free and among the most commonly used flavors on Linux. Canonical provides regular official releases of the system and support for interested paying customers.
The Linux Mint system is in turn based on Ubuntu. It was created in 2006 and designed to be an elegant and easy-to-use operating system based on Ubuntu. It has gained popularity with many desktop users in particular, both by being simple and by providing various special tools that other distributions omit by default, as they choose to focus on open-source software.
Red Hat, Fedora, and CentOS
Another company behind a popular distribution of Linux is Red Hat, which also began in 1994. It took its name from a red Cornell University cap habitually worn by one of its founders when he worked to help fellow students in a lab at Carnegie Mellon University.
Red Hat’s core system, known as Red Hat Enterprise Linux, was designed to be a stable, commercially feasible distribution, originally sold in stores along with software such as Microsoft Windows and versions of Apple’s Macintosh operating system. It has proven to be a hit among companies interested in a solid and stable version of a Linux operating system.
Another version of Red Hat, known as Fedora, aims at faster releases and acts as a kind of incubator for features that can be included in Red Hat Enterprise Linux. A project called CentOS Linux releases a distribution of Linux that is virtually identical to Red Hat Enterprise Linux, but it takes the publicly available Red Hat Enterprise Linux and removes Red Hat’s trademarks and other materials.
At the end of 2018, IBM announced that it acquired Red Hat in a deal worth approximately $ 34 billion.
Read also: BENEFITS OF LEARNING RED HAT LINUX.
Security-focused Linux operating system
Some Linux-based operating systems are developed with security in mind. One is Tails, the abbreviation for The Amnesiac Incognito Live System. It is designed to run from a USB flash drive or DVD rather than being regularly installed on a computer and automatically uses various encryption tools including the Tor network for anonymized router software to keep user data secure and anonymous. It is designed to leave no data on computers unless you explicitly instruct it to do so.
A system called Subgraph OS is a Debian-derived system designed to be permanently installed on a computer but to use encryption and other technologies to keep data secure. It also severely limits what part of the system each application has access to through a technology called sandboxes that are also often used for operating systems for smartphones. Subgraph OS is currently in alpha, which means it is still in an experimental state.
Linux distributions are also being developed by the United States and other governments for security purposes, and it is likely that some private companies have also developed their own hardened Linux distributions.
Other Linux systems, especially Kali, are designed for use by security professionals. They are loaded with software designed to test the security of other systems and networks.
Small and lightweight Linux versions
Some Linux distributions are deliberately designed to minimize the number of system resources they need, making them suitable for use on older and less powerful computers.
Among the most well-known of these distributions is Puppy Linux, which is designed to run fast on even slower machines. It is often used from a DVD or USB stick to quickly access a computer in Linux even if it has other software installed. It can sometimes be useful for extracting data or troubleshooting a machine that is nearing the end of its lifespan.
These types of systems can also be used from a bootable device to give people a taste of how Linux can run on their machines without replacing Windows or any other operating system they already run.
Popular Linux desktop environments
It is possible to use Linux systems strictly through the text-based command line, and many software developers and system administrators do so when it comes to servers. But when people use Linux in desktop or laptop environments, they often want to use a graphical user interface similar to Windows or macOS. This makes it easy to access known types of software such as browsers, email programs, multimedia software, and word processors.
There are several desktop environments popular with Linux. One is GNOME, which is commonly used on Debian and Fedora systems and designed to be as powerful and versatile as commercial desktop software. The current version of GNOME is GNOME 3, although some users still prefer the older GNOME 2, or a tool derived from what is called MATE.
Another popular environment is KDE, which together with GNOME is one of the longest standing Linux desktop environments. Newer systems called XFCE and LXDE have also gained fans for their simple and fast code and appealing design.
Google’s Android and Chrome OS
Android, the Google-developed operating system for smartphones and tablets, is one of the world’s most used and based on Linux (its operating system core is the Linux kernel). But the rest of the software on an Android phone often differs from that on a regular Linux computer or server machine, and traditional Linux distribution software usually can’t run directly on Android, and Android software can’t run without help on typical Linux -Machines.
Similarly, the Chrome Operating System, another Google operating system, is also based on Linux.
You can read also Linux app compatibility coming soon on Chromebook devices.
However, it is more directly compatible with mainstream Linux software, which is easy to install on many Chromebooks. It is not necessary to use Linux tools to use a Chromebook, and many simply prefer to use Chrome and other built-in tools on the machines.
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