Introduction To Linux: A Beginner's Guide

Peter Kitson

ISBN : 0974433934

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Sample Chapter From Introduction To Linux: A Beginner's Guide
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Chapter 1. What is Linux?


We will start with an overview of how Linux became the operating system it is today. We will discuss past and future development and take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of this system. We will talk about distributions, about Open Source in general and try to explain a little something about GNU.

This chapter answers questions like:

What is Linux? 
Where and how did Linux start? 
Isn\'t Linux that system where everything is done in text mode? 
Does Linux have a future or is it just hype? 
What are the advantages of using Linux? 
What are the disadvantages? 
What kinds of Linux are there and how do I choose the one that fits me? 
What are the Open Source and GNU movements? 

1.1. History

1.1.1. UNIX

In order to understand the popularity of Linux, we need to travel back in time, about 30 years ago...

Imagine computers as big as houses, even stadiums. While the sizes of those computers posed substantial problems, there was one thing that made this even worse: every computer had a different operating system. Software was always customized to serve a specific purpose, and software for one given system didn\'t run on another system. Being able to work with one system didn\'t automatically mean that you could work with another. It was difficult, both for the users and the system administrators.

Computers were extremely expensive then, and sacrifices had to be made even after the original purchase just to get the users to understand how they worked. The total cost per unit of computing power was enormous. Technologically the world was not quite that advanced, so they had to live with the size for another decade. In 1969, a team of developers in the Bell Labs laboratories started working on a solution for the software problem, to address these compatibility issues. They developed a new operating system, which was

1. Simple and elegant.
2. Written in the C programming language instead of in assembly code.
3. Able to recycle code.

The Bell Labs developers named their project \'UNIX.\'

The code recycling features were very important. Until then, all commercially available computer systems were written in a code specifically developed for one system. UNIX on the other hand needed only a small piece of that special code, which is now commonly named the kernel. This kernel is the only piece of code that needs to be adapted for every specific system and forms the base of the UNIX system. The operating system and all other functions were built around this kernel and written in a higher programming language, C.