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What is Linux?

In this post, we’ll talk about what Linux is and why it’s something you, your team, and your business should be (and probably already are) using.

Jun 08, 2023 • 4 Minute Read

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In this post, we’ll talk about what Linux is, the history of Linux, and why it’s something you, your team, and your business should be (and probably already are) using. Read on!

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What is Linux?

Linux is a free and open-source operating system that was created in 1991. Today, it's the largest open-source software project in the world.

The history of Linux

Linux began as a project by Linus Torvalds, a Finnish computer science student. He wanted to create a free operating system as a hobby (as mentioned in this original email) as he wanted to make a Unix like operating system for the new 386 processors at the time. 

From what Linus has said, he never expected its use to grow. Back in 1991, he could have never imagined that years later Linux would end up being the most used open-source operating system in the world.

When Linux first arrived, there was a steep learning curve, and it was mostly a hobby for enthusiastic engineers and computer science students who could contribute by developing code. It quickly became a platform for one of the largest communities for open-source contributors. 

As open source was pretty new at the time, it was exciting to download the OS, test the features, write new features, and then share those with the open-source community to be tested and then rolled into the new product. 

This meant that anyone could contribute to the product, which was basically a free UNIX like distribution. Linus started his work with a few files written in C. 

From its humble beginnings, Linux evolved quickly to be a full operating system that directly manages a computer’s hardware and resources.

Linux today

Today, Linux is the most used open-source operating system in the world, and it powers most of what you see on the internet.

Currently, the Linux kernel contains about 23.3 million lines of source code, not including comments.

It started out as just a kernel, meaning you could boot up a machine and do a few things on it from the command line. 

Back then, Linux had about 100 developers working on it, all donating their time to build it. Today, over 15,000 people contribute to the Linux kernel.

Linux is still very small in the desktop world, at around 2% market share, but 96.3% of the world’s top 1 million servers run on Linux. 

How is Linux used?

  • 90% of all cloud infrastructure and about 85% of all smartphones are based on Linux.
  • Also, about 25% of professional developers use Linux as their primary operating system. 
  • Linux now runs most of the technology we see and use today, including some unexpected things.
  • In addition to public and private servers, Linux runs in NASA, space robots, gaming consoles, and the Large Hadron Collider — the world’s largest and highest energy particle collider. It also runs Roku and smart TVs as well as many other entertainment and smart devices.

Without Linux, we wouldn’t have technology interwoven into the world we know today. The Linux Operating system will continue to serve as an outlet for innovation for years to come. It embodies what it means to democratize technology skills as a free open source solution available to everyone. 

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What are the benefits of using Linux on desktop?

Linux isn't only used on file servers in a data center. It’s also used for desktop computing. 

One major benefit of using Linux on desktop is the cost. It can be pricey purchase new computers and new versions of Windows. But you can use Linux Desktop on old hardware and realize serious cost savings. When you pair a Linux desktop with free and open-sourced software such as OpenOffice and use it for documents or spreadsheets, you can realize substantial savings. 

Also, since many applications are accessed via a web browser today, the underlying operating system becomes less important. There is no longer as much need to have the latest and greatest operating systems on the newest computers.  

Learn more about Linux

Want to know more about Linux and what you can use it for? Pick up the fundamentals with some of our Linux courses (including some that are available as part of our selection of free monthly training). Or browse our full selection of Linux training.