By ; reprinted from the July, 2000 issue of the PC Alamode
A few months ago. PC Alamode ran an article about the new and upcoming operating system - Linux. As a Linux aficionado (promoter, advocate, supporter, geek . . .. call it what you will), I was very interested when I saw the article advertised. But as I finished reading the article, I was mildly concerned. The article had a bit of misinformation in it and left me with a bad impression. So I thought I would try to dispel some of that misinformation, to help you better understand this growing force in the PC World, and let you know about an upcoming Linux event where you can learn more about this operating sys-tem.
What is it?
And that is one of the key points about Linux. Its license is known as the GNU GPL (General Public License), which means that the software is freely available to anyone who wants to use it, Including the source code. So you could take the existing program's source code and modify it to suit your needs or wants. But if you take GPL source code and modify it, you also have to release that software/source code as GPL software - free. You can get more information on this licensing .
Linux is basically a UNIX clone. If you know UNIX, you can handle Linux. Some people also describe it as "the equivalent of DOS before Windows came along". If you were comfortable with DOS and working from the command line before Windows made everything point ‘n ‘click, you'll be comfortable with Linux. That is because early versions of Linux were strictly com-mand line operation. But in the last few years, a GUI (Graphical User Interface) known as the X Windowing System (or X Windows or just plain X) has spread throughout the Linux world. So todays’Linux users have the option of using the GUI, the command line or a combination of the two
But Linux is best run from the command line — a la DOS. When working from the command line, those system CO"U and memory resources that would go toward pretty screens are used to perform other tasks. So from the command line, Linux will outperform any other operating system — even Windows NT (Linux’s equivalent in the Windows world). X Windows is a different matter though. When a computer is running Linux and X, its speed and performance will closely resemble a similar system running Windows NT. The result is that applications with both Windows and Linux X versions perform almost identically on similar hardware.
A few areas where Linux shines are secu-rity and stability (reliability).
Although pos-sibly more difficult to configure securely than Windows NT,
Linux is actually more secure. This is because the operating sys-tem and
software is all Open Source. Vi-ruses can't hide inside of software whose
source code can be obtained and checked out before installation. Also,
exploits and hacks that are found are typically patched within a couple
of days or hours. Compare this to other companies which release a "service
pack" every six months or so. Linux's reliability is one of its biggest
draw-ing points. There are servers on the Internet that have been up and
running for more than three years without a single crash or reboot.
Will Linux run
on my computer?
But should you run Linux? Well, that all depends on what you will use your com-puter for and how much time you are will-ing to put into it. Although there are Linux programs doing almost anything Windows programs can do, Linux still isn't as re-fined in program installation and setup as Windows programs. And of course, there is that "prior experience learning curve". So if you intend to use your computer as a general-purpose desktop workstation, especially when the users have different levels of ex-perience — Linux may not be the best system for you. If you are starting with people new to computers, Linux is a good alterna-tive. And if you want to use it as a server, a high power gaming station, or you are will-ing to put in some time learning Linux — it is definitely time to try it out.
Where can I get
How do I install
So all in all, Linux is growing up. From its beginnings as a weekend project for program-mers and geeks, it has grown up to a full--fledged, powerful operating system. The big-gest pushes in Linux today all seem to be making it easier to install and use for people who are not UNIX experienced. Its already one of the best server operating systems on the Internet, and these efforts will help it spread into the desktop computer area.
And anyone needing Linux help or just some information can join the
mailing list from their web site. It's the best source of Linux information
for some-one in need. No question is too simple or complicated.
Chuck Tetlow has been a communications expert for the AF for 20 years and for the last nine years has worked as a Network Engineer for Randolph AFB. Now he is preparing for his retirement next spring. Chuck got his first computer in 1985 and learned on that Tandy 1000 for six years until he could upgrade to a 386. As an Internet user since 1990, he occa-sionally heard about this new operating system called Linux. In late 1994, he obtained a copy of the software in an"InfoMagic" CD set and installed it a few months later. But since he didn't know much about Unix or Linux at the time, the install was wiped a few days later. After attending a Unix class and security class in 1996, his interest in the system renewed. He has been learning Linux and experiment-ing with it ever since. His primary focus has been system administration, TCP/IP operations, system security, network security, and firewalls. When not glued to his keyboards, he enjoys time with his two sons, his wife and a few other hobbies. One of which is competi-tive shooting where he has won a number of state championships in pistol competition. And once in a while, he pretends to be the Treasurer of the San Antonio Linux User’s Group.