So I've heard a lot about this Linux phenomenon. What is it anyways?

Linux is the world’s most rapidly growing operating system. Its growth is occurring in homes and offices in the U.S. and around the world. Linux runs on many different kinds of computers, but most people use it on the IBM-compatible PCs we are all familiar with. These are PCs one can buy at your local computer and electronics stores from companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Gateway, IBM, Dell and others. In many ways Linux is similar to other popular operating systems such as Microsoft Windows and MacOS X.

How big is the market for Linux?
There are two areas to consider here. The first is the people who use Linux on a desktop computer for everyday work at their home and offices. This is the focus for TUX. The second is for corporations that use Linux as a server platform in corporate settings. Regarding desktop Linux, the best estimates put the number of Linux users at around 11-15 million, or about 5% of the market. This number is expected to rise to nearly 28 million by 2006, at which point Linux will have a larger installed base than MacOS and a marketshare of around 7%. Currently, sales of paid Linux packages are outpacing those of MacOS, as well. In addition, sales figures for Linux tend to chronically undercount the actual number of users due to the fact that Linux is readily available in many situations free-of-charge. Meanwhile, the corporate sphere is where Linux has been making the most headlines due to its meteoric growth there. Not only are 30% of all corporate servers now running Linux today, but unit sales of servers have been growing nearly 50% per year. A similar growth rate is forecast for the next 5 years.

Who makes Linux?
Although Linux’s functionality is similar to that of other operating systems, it is not produced by a single company. Instead, the development is organized by a decentralized but highly organized group of individuals throughout the world who contribute according to their expertise. Some people are volunteers, others are paid by large and small companies who want to support Linux. The leader of this vast effort is Linux’s founder, Linus Torvalds. Torvalds started Linux in 1991 when he was a university student in Finland. From the beginning he sought to make Linux a community effort, and to this day it remains so.

Can something from a bunch of volunteers be any good?
Yes, many people make lots of money with Linux, and the market is booming. Here is how it works. Linus Torvalds and his associates essentially make the core, or kernel, of Linux freely available and at no charge. Then other companies take the Linux kernel and adapt it to their needs or offer services related to Linux. Here are some examples:

  • Linux software: Some companies create what is called a Linux distribution. They essentially put Linux onto a CD-ROM or DVD, then add manuals, an attractive interface, administration tools and other elements and sell the whole package at a profit.
  • Linux hardware: Companies sell computers—such as desktops, laptops and servers with Linux already installed. Others sell peripherals that run on Linux computers, such as scanners, printers, monitors, routers, etc.
  • Services: Companies servicing corporate customers sell maintenance contracts for their Linux-related software and hardware.
  • Books, manuals, and training

That sounds great, but does anybody make any money?
Yes. In fact, many argue that Linux’s model is a better way to make an operating system vs. one company running the show. Linux’s is so strong for two reasons. First, because so many talented people are working on Linux, it is a better way to make an operating system. Second, Linux is what’s called open source, whereby the source code (i.e. the guts of the program) are made available to anyone. This aspect allows the vast cooperation mentioned above to occur. Furthermore, open source allows people to customize Linux according to their needs in a legal way. Interestingly these customizations are shared with others, which results in a sort of compounded development out in the field (and not just at the head office) that doesn’t occur with other operating systems.

The way Linux is produced is interesting. Does it have a large grassroots following?
Yes it does. Because Linux is produced by volunteers and so many people work on it, there is a lot of genuine enthusiasm for Linux and a sense of community. This enthusiasm is expressed in many ways. For example, Linux supporters tend to work hard to spread ideas about Linux, as well as to offer support to new users. Furthermore, many people create programs that run on Linux and share them with others at no cost. On the corporate side, a spirit of cooperation is infused in companies that have any relation to Linux. Because they are aware of the advantages they receive from volunteers, they are quick to share their own innovations with the goal of supporting others and improving Linux for the benefit of everyone.

The most popular operating systems do have some annoyances, but they work for most people. Why should anyone switch?
In many ways, Linux is better than other operating systems because its underlying technology is more robust. With Linux, issues such as spyware, viruses and system crashes are almost non-existent. Furthermore, Linux lets users have significantly more control over their system, which is a big advantage for many people.

This sounds wonderful, but isn’t Linux mainly for hardcore computer users?
No, that’s not true anymore. At one time, Linux was really just for companies, but over the past several years, many people have been working very hard to make Linux user-friendly. Linux is developing at a very rapid pace, and it has all of the same things you would expect from a modern operating system, such as an attractive graphical user interface, excellent office suite, Internet browser, chat clients, email programs, graphics programs— you name it. Furthermore, now there is TUX, the First and Only Magazine for New Linux Users, which will help new users to make sense of Linux.

Carlie Fairchild - Fri, 2004-11-26 10:32.

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I would only add to the other

I would only add to the other comments that if you think MS isn't worth bashing at the cost of learning a new OS like Linux, consider how you'd feel if your precious Winblows XP crashes, because some weasel at a spyware company like Gator.com thinks it's fun to take over your Internet Explorer browser. Even after spending hundreds of your dollars to protect your computer from spyware, viruses and other crap floating around in cyberspace, your computer is rendered useless because (all together now) almost all spyware and viruses are written to exploit ONLY WINDOWS! Trust me, it's worth learning Linux (and yes, Suse is by far the easist and most user friendly of the distros for desktops) and getting all the benefits offered by Linux. Best of all, you can load most distros on your computer's hard drive with Windows still in the other partition, just in case you can't for any reason drop Windows completely.

Phil R. (not verified) - Tue, 2004-12-07 21:12.

What is all the Fuss about

Well, LINUX SHMINUX. Everyone seems ready to fall all over themselves over this thing. Every time I try to download the "free" os, I get routed to a page that asks for money! When you finaly find ont that is ferr, you get crap that it takes an IT master to setup. I finaly brokedown and bought Redhat, spent over an hour trying to get iinstalled and then the Damn thing won't find my wireless, so after hours looking for the drivers, it now won't identify it even after mounting it. I have NEVER had a problem with MS stuff, and don't tell me that LINUX is bug resistant! Just look at all the bug fixes for your distros! The only thing that LINUX is, is cheap and comes with a bunch of free programs which are worthless if you can't get the os to work properly. And did I mention, NO DOCUMENTATION with the disrto?
If you buy MS, you get a manual with it to at least help you understand the program workings. There is no aparent distro for real novices no matter what the geeks tell you. If you ask me, all this fuss is just MS bashing because you didn't think of it first!

SGMR (not verified) - Tue, 2004-11-30 13:27.

All the fuss.......

Perhaps you missed the point a little.

I for one, only use linux, because I have social/ethical/moral issues with using M$ products.

I've never been asked for money when downloading ANY linux (having tried, mandrake, SuSE, Debian, Knoppix, Redhat, Slackware and ending up with Gentoo). Sure I've made donations and bought "boxed set" discs (mandrake and gentoo), and haven't regretted a minute.

I still don't feel that I know much about linux per se, but the community assistance is wonderful. Plus some distros, provide very very extensive documentation (not always easy to read/follow though). I've had systems with win 95/98/98SE/2000/XP, and apart from some piddling little booklet from the sys manufacturer, I've never had a damn shred of documentation from M$. All the damn money that M$ makes and it can't/won't even provide a basic howto type publication with the OS. Poor old Bill Gates and Co, it must be a total bummer when you get down to your last 100 million or so!

As for Deadrat not finding your wireless, well now that's suprising isn't it - NOT! Redhat aim their distro toward commerce (with reasonable success I understand). Most emerging technologies are provided/developed/improved/etc etc via the community model. Sure it's getting better, and not always available the minute new tech hardware is released, but only because the tech provider companies won't/don't provide drivers etc for the kit, only for window$, who have a very big, nasty financial stick to beat them with! i.e. you want access to our APIs etc etc, then you produce a driver for us/our OS first. As linux takes hold, the tech co excuse/reasoning of minimal market share is being erroded. I understand that linux is now a bigger market than Mac, although fragmented by different distros - though if you take Nvidia for example, their linux support is excellent (and believe it or not, reasonably easy to install/use).

The only real way of comparing, would be using people who have never had any IT exposure, then start some with M$ systems and some with Linux systems - I doubt whether you'd see any difference.

Perhaps your criticism is just based on lack of familiarity with linux systems (a windows based chip on your shoulder maybe ???).

If you're used to one, then there's always gonna be a learning curve when you try the other!

Good luck with the Deadrat for the future (if you stick with it and don't "wimp out").

Fatbloke (not verified) - Sun, 2005-04-03 09:23.

What "manual" comes with Wind

What "manual" comes with Windows? where?

An - ymous (not verified) - Tue, 2004-12-21 01:53.

I too was frustrated

until l discovered Simply Mepis! ... now i'm hooked :-)

Wayne Whalen

Wayne Whalen (not verified) - M - , 2004-12-06 16:00.

I understand your frustration

I understand your frustration and I half agree with what you say. I don't know you or your computer experience, but it sounds like you may be more like me, with years of knowledge with Microsoft OS and very little of Linux. In this sense, it's a bit unfair to directly compare ease of use between the two or any other OS. I would think using any new OS, whether Mac OS, *nix, or whatever, would require a learning curve. I do agree Linux is tougher to learn, though, than say Mac OS.

Having said that, there are tools that make Linux more accessible. For administering Linux machines, I've found Webmin at http://webmin.com/ to be invaluable. Webmin gives you a web interface to remotely configure and maintain a Linux box even if the Linux box does not have a GUI (like Gnome or KDE) installed. I still consider myself a Linux newbie, but with Webmin, I am able to administer the few Linux servers we have at work without having to learn all the command lines that would be involved in it.

Looking to Linux more as a desktop OS and not a server? I've been watching XPDE at http://www.xpde.com/ closely and it looks very promising. It is supposed to give Linux a GUI that is extremely close to Windows XP. Visit the web site to see how close they've gotten. What is attractive to me is not the look of XP, but the Windows utilities and tools that I'm accustomed to that they will incorporate into XPDE.

As far as not finding any free distribution, you can try Debian at http://www.debian.org/. Be forewarned that it's not the easist distro but I was able to install it fairly easily (never tried with wireless though) and it was free.

rim (not verified) - Fri, 2004-12-03 13:57.

I got docs with SuSE Linux

I've been using SuSE Linux for a long time, and it keeps getting better and better...and slicker. Typically the package I buy comes with 3-4 different manuals and 2 DVDs full of stuff. On the latest install of SuSE 9.2, I dropped in the DVD and 20 minutes later everything is updated and I'm ready to roll. Sure, you pay for it, but the same package from MS would cost about 25x more. I think Redhat is oriented more towards companies. I've heard Mandrake and Linspire are very user-friendly, too.

Finally, some things take a little longer to come along in Linux since the hardware manufacturers aren't even thinking about Linux compatibility, and the Linux fanatics have to come along after the fact to make things work right. That is definitely a drawback.

Jimbo (not verified) - Tue, 2004-11-30 14:21.

alright

I use both windows and linux. The point is that linux is extremly diffacult to use. I started both at around the same time, and its sad to say but M$ just makes life so much simpler...

Fore ex.:
I recently started a shoutcast server.

M$:
winamp installed in a few seconds.
shout cast dsp plugin installed into winamp with a click
server installed witha double click
and short cut made in five seconds.

Linux:
xmmc .. its already there... yay!
Dsp... even if your lucky to find one. installing it requires you to get a new education.
same with server.. and then you have to command line start it, becasue it wont work witha short cut.

M$ is simple point and click, less hassle.

Linux not only takes much more effort to install the stuff... but more effort to run it.

It is true that linux is more powerful in my opinion (and would likely be even better if some good games worked on it hehe)... but M$ is easier.

Tehfirefox (not verified) - Sat, 2005-09-17 19:25.

Free and well documented

For one of the best free Linux distributions try Ubuntu. It is Debian based but much easier to install and comes on a single CD. You'll find numerous How To's and links to free documentation at www.ubuntuforums.org/.

Zev - eer (not verified) - Sun, 2004-12-05 13:39.