Wednesday, December 14th, 2005 at 4:24pm

Linux who?

Posted by Jordan Erickson

Being someone who loves technology, I’m always scouring the ‘net for the latest news in the computer/networking/internet/software world. I’m always playing with new technology, to see how it all works. I can trace this desire back to my childhood when I would, say, take apart old answering machines and ask my dad what the rubber belt was that connected two motors together was. When I found out it was to help advance the cassette tape, something would click in my head, and I’d start looking at what else was going on inside the disassembled device.

I started toying with Linux when I was 16. Redhat 5.1, ahh yes. It was ugly, and I had no idea how to use it. Of course, my curiosity would end up teaching me many things about Linux.

Linux is an operating system (actually, it’s a kernel – but that’s another story). An operating system is what lies between your applications (Word, Quickbooks, etc.) and your computer hardware. Microsoft Windows is an operating system. Mac OSX is another. So are some lesser-knowns, like BeOS, OS/2, Netware, and good old DOS.

Where does an operating system fit in? It works like this – your applications talk to your OS and your OS talks to your hardware. It’s very interesting getting down to the raw stuff that transforms your computer from an expensive metal door wedge to something that is as important as a telephone in any modern business.

Linux has gotten some major differences from, say, Windows. First off, Linux is an open source operating system. Open source means that the guys who sit at their computers (which are actually a bunch of volunteers around the world) and type code for the Linux Kernel allow anyone else to see the code as well, modify it, and pretty much do whatever they want with it, as long as they publish their changes as well.

I know, I know… “Why would anyone want to do that kind of work for free?” It’s a good question, and there are a lot of different answers. Some love doing it to help create an alternative to the big bad Microsoft. Others do it because they want to help create something that is important to technology. Some do it because they know they can modify any aspect of the Linux OS to do what they want it to do, such as, say, pop their toaster oven open from accross the room.

There are also some pretty big companies behind Linux now. IBM has pushed literally millions of dollars into Linux development for the high-end business sector. Here’s a page that explains more about IBM’s involvement.

Novell has also contributed a lot to Linux – And Intel, and even government agencies have contributed. Countless other entities too, such as hardware manufacturers for opening up hardware specifications and providing Linux drivers for their products. There’s a big list, and it’s world wide.

Linux is pretty big these days. A lot of companies are starting to lean toward Linux in their IT agendas. Then again, there are so many business people that still haven’t heard of it, or aren’t sure exactly what it really is. Some of you might still not really understand. That’s ok!

Why would you want Linux in your business? Well, there are pros and cons to anything, right? No exception here. Here’s some stuff off the top of my head:

PROs:
– A lot of Linux / open source software is “free” (as in money free)
– Linux and it’s counterparts can do pretty much anything Windows can, with few exceptions
– Linux is known for a much better security record than Windows, as well as a very strong stance on stability
– I’ll go out on a limb here and state my true opinion: There is better/more complete/easier Linux support available for free online than there is by calling a 1-800 number and getting charged $300 per incident at a competitor’s software company.

CONs:
– Not many people know how to use Linux
– Not many techies know how to use Linux
– It’s not cheap to get competent Linux support
– There isn’t 100% compatibility between Windows formats such as (Word .DOC) and other Windows programs

If you’re interested in Linux and have a question, feel free to give me a call or e-mail. I pride myself in being a Linux guy. It’s so much fun, and there are a lot of really cool projects out there that are based on Linux (such as one I’m currently working on, which is a Tivo replacement box for your home entertaintment center, which is based on the open source software MythTV.

Cheers!!

– Jordan

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