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Linux: The Alternative Operating System

In computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones there is a piece of software that basically dictates how the device works and determines how it operates when dealing with everyday tasks. This software is called an Operating System (OS). The OS is a program that is located in the kernel and is sandwiched between both the hardware and software layer. It basically allows one to use the many different computer programs out there (and that’s a VERY basic definition!).

The most familiar Operating Systems out there are Microsoft’s Windows and Apple’s OSX. But there’s one that is not so familiar to the everyday computer user. That OS is Linux. Linux was created in 1994 by Linus Torvalds – an underrated individual in the computing world. But what makes Linux really special is that it is an open-source and free OS. Open-source meaning that one can customise the OS in any way that they want. They have full access to the Source Code (hence the term “Open Source). The OS is also free because it doesn’t cost any money to download and use either.

It seems like a win-win deal! And for the tech enthusiasts like me, it is. Linux has a huge number of distributions (also known as distros) such as Mint, Red Hat and Ubuntu. All these distributions have different purposes and each one can be quite different from the other.

For my purposes I use Ubuntu. I first used Ubuntu back in 2013 for one of my prototype projects. That version was 12.04 LTS (Precise Pangolin) (LTS being the Long-Term Support version). I now use its successor – 14.04 LTS (Trusty Tahr), which is superb! Ubuntu is the closest OS to Apple’s OSX in terms of visual similarities, while Linux Mint greatly resembles Microsoft’s Windows. Because of its resemblance to OSX, Ubuntu is a pretty simple OS to use once you get your head around the basic Linux concepts. This includes using the terminal and understanding the file system, which is quite different from a Windows or a Mac computer.

Some of you may be indirectly familiar with Linux, as Android is just one of the many distributions from Linux and being biased, it’s awesome for phones. Certainly better than when I had a Windows Phone (never again!!). I can’t really comment on Apple’s iPhone but I’m unlikely to make that switch!

Ubuntu and other Linux distros also are useful when setting up websites. As the Linux OS is built using servers, one can set up servers for hosting websites. I personally haven’t done this because I’m no expert in server development. But anyway, Linux is renowned for having very robust and maintainable servers for when hosting websites. Many hosting companies use Linux as the OS for hosting many business’s and personal website, including this actual website. Other major developments invented by Linus also include the Git Version Control System (with GitHub being the GUI version). A very common component for today’s programming and website projects. Only coders would be able to tell you how important these tools are.

There are many other advantages and cool features, (beyond the scope of this blog). Linux has recently become more popular. You can even now buy computers and laptops with Ubuntu pre-installed on them instead of Windows. Despite this though, Linux is still very much a hidden gem in the wider computing world at least. But since I’ve used Ubuntu, I truly am a fan of it and thus hardly ever use Windows anymore (sorry Microsoft but you’re pretty much finished! :-P). The Linux world has a lot to thank Linus for (kiitos Linus)! 🙂

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