For someone who was familiar with UNIX in its heyday they will find that Linux is pretty much a clone of UNIX with one major exception, Linux is free! UNIX is a world class operating system that has been around for more than 30 years. Before, nearly every different machine type had its own special code or operating system written for it. Its creation was a successful attempt of making an OS that would work on many different types of machines. Linux gives you these same qualities and more for little or no cost.
The kernel or “heart” of Linux is free at least. At work we used one copy of Ubuntu Linux on ten computers at our office and nearly saved $2,000 total on the OS alone. The computers were sometimes used to remote into a Windows server via MSTSC to train our users on various Windows applications. We gave one class where we needed to teach some advanced operations in Excel. Everyone logged into the windows application server from their Ubuntu machine using terminal services. They had their own folder for their Excel projects. Not only did this save on licenses but the RAM, and processors needed to run Ubuntu were much cheaper. We bought new machines with somewhat lower resources than a Windows machine would require and ran Linux flawlessly.
Linux is Open source
Linux means freedom on many different levels. Being an Open Source operating system, it allows anyone to modify the kernel in any way as long as they publish their finished distribution.
Programmers can create new technologies on Linux machines at a fraction of the licensing costs that come with Windows. There is a whole community out there who devote their lives to the idea of Open Source. They are out there resolving issues and promoting Linux every day. It allows developers, technicians and users the benefits of low cost, adaptability, and usefulness.
I was once a member of a Linux users group. Their regard for open source and Linux was more like a religion. Few of them talked about running Linux to make a profit. They boasted about the savings but were definitely not capitalist.
http://www.lugoj.org Linux Users Group of Jackson (Mississippi)
Linux is Stable
I have personally seen Linux servers that have been running for over a year without rebooting. The Internet is full of stories where servers have been up from months to years. This “up time” is very important, especially, for web servers, FTP servers and other machines running services that need to be accessed 24/7. Once at work (they allowed this) I had a small form factor desktop PC with Mandrake Linux as the OS. I had removed the keyboard, mouse and monitor. The only cables running to the box were the power and the RJ45. I slipped the box in my lower desk drawer and kept it there for months. I would use PuTty to open a shell account on the box and download music, updates and generally whatever I wanted all without ever looking at the physical box. This stability could not be accomplished without the help and creativeness of a whole community working on an Open Source operating system.
I believe the first time I ever used Linux, it was a distro of Red Hat. I found a copy of it bundled with a PC Gamer magazine back in 1996. It was touted then to be the next operating system for gaming. Now it is 2010 and Linux with all its usefulness is still not the OS for gaming. It may be a good server solution to host games but not to play them. When I first started working with Linux I would spend entire nights editing text files and recompiling kernels just to try to get a good 800×600 resolution screen. I usually ended up with a cursor the size of the whole monitor. It gives me nightmares to think of all the Gunzipping and extracting of tar balls, the agony of whether to put a period in front of a file name because it was an executable or to open it up because it was a directory. The video problems on Linux today are less volatile but they are still very present. Those nice GUIs make it much easier to adjust the video settings but if they ever fail then it is good to be able to fall back on the old command prompt way of life.
Those were my experiences using earlier versions of Red Hat Linux as an everyday client and I must admit I deliberately broke the OS over and over to learn how to fix it. In actuality, Red Hat is probably one of the most popular distributions of Linux out there. This is because of its rock like stability, its excellent support team, support papers, and general support to tackle those problems I was facing on my own.
Corel must have spent a lot of money making their version of Linux “Corel friendly” because it was a fully functional version of the OS customized with Word Perfect and other Corel office applications. Unfortunately, Word Perfect didn’t stick as well in the business world as Microsoft Word did. The one thing I really praised Corel for was that it was the first Linux distro’ that I was able to configure for dial-up networking and surf using a proxy server. It was successful but still no picnic. I had to find and use programs like PPP and edit lock files. It took me days to figure out that all I had to do was put the pound sign (#) in front of the words NO PROXY to allow my browser to accept proxy settings. Ah, but the feeling of elation after getting this to work was outstanding. Especially since I was working the ISP I subscribed to and became their only Linux tech as far as dial up was concerned. Officially, our dial up service was not compatible with Linux but when the occasional call came in they were quickly transferred to me. I say occasional call because even more so than the MAC users, a person bold enough to use Linux everyday was usually stubborn enough to get dialup networking working on their own.
Mandrake was like a candy coated version of Red Hat. It oozed the promise of being user-friendly. If ever there were a flavor of Linux that nearly fulfilled the old promise of being a gaming OS it was Mandrake. In 2001 I was able to get two high-end video games working on Mandrake (Return To Castle Wolfenstein and Unreal Tournament), mainly because the windows versions of these games came with downloadable codes from the game maker that allowed them to be compiled for Linux. It was still no easy task with more “gunzipping” and “tar” commands. Finally though, I had all the geeks in the call center where I worked, gawking at my Linux box running two of the hottest games out. Talk about productivity.
Ubuntu is a flavor of Linux that has found great favor in the eyes of both home users and businesses. It is fast, easy to install and use, yet robust enough for server uses.
For years I was a Linux junkie and tried to get Linux accepted everywhere I went. Now I am more content using Windows. I guess you can say I had traded in my command prompt days for a nice GUI. Then Ubuntu came on the scene. I decided to give it a try and found that it is a nice operating system for personal users. I was not sure how it would work as a business OS until we bought those ten machines and loaded them with Ubuntu. They worked very well despite some driver issues with some off brand PCI wireless cards. All the machines were purchased with the same specifications down to the case. The Wi-Fi cards were all the same too but would only work on about half of the computers even after following the same steps to install and configure them.
As I mentioned earlier, I was a member of a Linux Users group and used Linux myself on my personal computer for years. I saw how fervently the developers, users and technicians talked about Linux, taught classes on Linux, compared “uptimes”, and consoled each other if they had to reboot a server. They were always tinkering with new code or trying things like putting Linux on PDAs and other handheld devices. They were genuinely concerned about the war on Microsoft and the fight for Open Source. They literally cheered when Red Hat became a publically traded company. I agree that open source has its place. Being able to freely use the kernel of a very robust operating system to create new technologies is an awesome idea.