2.0 Getting started with Linux

Linux is a free open source computer operating system initially developed for Intel x86-based computers (x86 is a type of computer architecture that is based on CISC – Complex Instruction Set Computing). Linus Torvalds in 1991 started a project to write his own operating system kernel. He extended his project to construct an entire operating system with his kernel at the center. This soon became popular as the Linux kernel.

Linux is licensed using the General Public License (GPL) by GNU (a project of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) which promotes freely available software) which made it possible to build a worldwide community of developers. By combining the kernel with other system components, numerous other developers created several complete operating systems called Linux Distributions.

Choosing the right Linux Distribution is critical to the project. Therefore, it is important to understand the fundamental differences in several available Linux Distributions. All Linux Distributions can be categorized into two big categories – Commercial and Free. Oracle, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), Suse Linux Enterprise Server are commercial Linux Distributions whereas CentOS, openSuse and Ubuntu are free Linux Distributions.

CentOS is a popular free alternative to RHEL. Ubuntu and Fedora are popular in the educational realm. Scientific Linux is favored by the scientific research community for its compatibility with scientific and mathematical software packages. Each distribution has their own set of applications, package management, configuration utilities etc., that are built around the kernel which is the core of the operating system. The current Linux kernel as well as the past Linux kernels can be found at the website: www.kernel.org.


1.1 About the Linux Foundation

Credit: Linux Foundation

Before you start learning about Linux, it is important to learn about the key organization responsible for its tremendous growth in the computing industry – The Linux Foundation. It is highly recommended that you visit their website and learn about what they do. Here is the summary:

The Linux Foundation is a nonprofit organization that sponsors the work of Linux creator Linus Torvalds. It was founded in 2000 and its mission is to promote, protect, and advance Linux. The Linux Foundation is supported by leading technology companies and thousands of individual members from around the world and marshalls the resources of its members and the open source development community to ensure that Linux remains free and technically advanced.

TheLinux Foundation is active on many fronts. In addition to its basic missions of protecting, promoting and advancing Linux, the Foundation:

    • Produces technical events throughout the world
    • Runs the two most popular certifications in Linux – Certified System Administrator and Certified Engineer and also provides training for them. The
    • Hosts major collaborative projects and industry initiatives (Click here to view a video).
    • Manages kernel.org where the official versions of the Linux kernel are released.
    • Runs the popular website linux.com.