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What Is Linux?
From smartphones to cars, supercomputers and home appliances, home desktops to enterprise servers, the Linux operating system is everywhere.
Linux has been around since the mid-1990s and has since reached a user-base that spans the globe. Linux is actually everywhere: It?s in your phones, your thermostats, in your cars, refrigerators, Roku devices, and televisions. It also runs most of the Internet, all of the world’s top 500 supercomputers, and the world’s stock exchanges.
But besides being the platform of choice to run desktops, servers, and embedded systems across the globe, Linux is one of the most reliable, secure and worry-free operating systems available.
Here is all the information you need to get up to speed on the Linux platform.
What is Linux?
Just like Windows, iOS, and Mac OS, Linux is an operating system. In fact, one of the most popular platforms on the planet, Android, is powered by the Linux operating system. An operating system is software that manages all of the hardware resources associated with your desktop or laptop. To put it simply, the operating system manages the communication between your software and your hardware. Without the operating system (OS), the software wouldn?t function.
The Linux operating system comprises several different pieces:
Bootloader – The software that manages the boot process of your computer. For most users, this will simply be a splash screen that pops up and eventually goes away to boot into the operating system.
Kernel – This is the one piece of the whole that is actually called ?Linux?. The kernel is the core of the system and manages the CPU, memory, and peripheral devices. The kernel is the lowest level of the OS.
Init system – This is a sub-system that bootstraps the user space and is charged with controlling daemons. One of the most widely used init systems is systemd? which also happens to be one of the most controversial. It is the init system that manages the boot process, once the initial booting is handed over from the bootloader (i.e., GRUB or GRand Unified Bootloader).
Daemons – These are background services (printing, sound, scheduling, etc.) that either start up during boot or after you log into the desktop.
Graphical server – This is the sub-system that displays the graphics on your monitor. It is commonly referred to as the X server or just X.
Desktop environment – This is the piece that the users actually interact with. There are many desktop environments to choose from (GNOME, Cinnamon, Mate, Pantheon, Enlightenment, KDE, Xfce, etc.). Each desktop environment includes built-in applications (such as file managers, configuration tools, web browsers, and games).
Applications – Desktop environments do not offer the full array of apps. Just like Windows and macOS, Linux offers thousands upon thousands of high-quality software titles that can be easily found and installed. Most modern Linux distributions (more on this below) include App Store-like tools that centralize and simplify application installation. For example, Ubuntu Linux has the Ubuntu Software Center (a rebrand of GNOME Software? Figure 1) which allows you to quickly search among the thousands of apps and install them from one centralized location.
Why use Linux?
This is the one question that most people ask. Why bother learning a completely different computing environment, when the operating system that ships with most desktops, laptops, and servers works just fine?
To answer that question, I would pose another question. Does that operating system you?re currently using really work ?just fine?? Or, do you find yourself battling obstacles like viruses, malware, slow downs, crashes, costly repairs, and licensing fees?
If you struggle with the above, Linux might be the perfect platform for you. Linux has evolved into one of the most reliable computer ecosystems on the planet. Combine that reliability with zero cost of entry and you have the perfect solution for a desktop platform.
That’s right, zero cost of entry… as in free. You can install Linux on as many computers as you like without paying a cent for software or server licensing.
Let’s take a look at the cost of a Linux server in comparison to Windows Server 2016. The price of the Windows Server 2016 Standard edition is $882.00 USD (purchased directly from Microsoft). That doesn’t include Client Access License (CALs) and licenses for other software you may need to run (such as a database, a web server, mail server, etc.). For example, a single user CAL, for Windows Server 2016, costs $38.00. If you need to add 10 users, for example, that’s $388.00 more dollars for server software licensing. With the Linux server, it?s all free and easy to install. In fact, installing a full-blown web server (that includes a database server), is just a few clicks or commands away (take a look at ?Easy LAMP Server Installation? to get an idea how simple it can be).
If zero cost isn’t enough to win you over? what about having an operating system that will work, trouble free, for as long as you use it? I’ve used Linux for nearly 20 years (as both a desktop and server platform) and have not had any issues with ransomware, malware, or viruses. Linux is generally far less vulnerable to such attacks. As for server reboots, they’re only necessary if the kernel is updated. It is not out of the ordinary for a Linux server to go years without being rebooted. If you follow the regular recommended updates, stability and dependability are practically assured.