Linux OS

What operating system do you use? I will not wait for an answer, it is almost sure to be win9x (win95 and win98 yes I know that win2k is also there but well it is not that popular in Nepal and thus is out of the equation). The popularity of windows accounts for the name of Microsoft as the sole provider of operating system software and availability of pirated windows CD (well computers assemblers here in Nepal are happy to load it for you at no extra charges). But arent you sick of all those this program has performed an illegal operation and those cryptic and blue screen fatal errors officially known as BSOD (Blue Screen Of Death), or you want to be adventurous and try something better. Well there are alternatives to windows even if you think them to be none-existent. Well to name a few Solaris, HP-Unix, QNX RTOS (Real Time Operating System) , OS/2, BeOS and of course my personal favorite Linux. Linux is the only operating system today that has the technical capabilities and scalability to challenge windows on Intel platform. Initially Linux was considered to be a networking operating system fit for small ISPs but as Linux has honed itself and is creating waves in the desktop market. Many companies are using Linux for mission critical tasks instead of Windows NT, Novell Netware or other expensive operating systems.    

Linux is a multi-user, multitasking, multiprocessor capable 32 bit operating system ( there is a 64 bit version also but it will not work on existing Intel chips as they do not support 64 bit computing) that can run on most of the processors available today. Since Linux is similar to Unix and its variants it is extremely stable and fault tolerant. Even though it is enriched with so many features it is lean and modular and thus suitable for all need. Yes your old and rusty windows rejected 486 will happily run Linux.

Initial development of Linux was done by Linus Torvalds then a Finnish student {now he works for Transmeta, a company funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, –what a coincidence}. He wanted to develop an operating
system similar to a scaled down version of Unix called Minix for his personal use in his home PC. In the process other programmers online joined in to help and the rest is as they say history. The name Linux is registered by Torvalds
himself and the Linux kernel is distributed under GNU GPL (General Public License).This kernel plus other free GNU software makes a full system which is also called Linux. In this article the word Linux refers to the whole system rather than just the kernel. The use of Linux has been increasing in the recent years as it picks up media attention and captures disgruntled windows users. The chief reason for this boost is the fact that Linux can co-exist with your existing windows, can even read and write your windows partitions and can even run dos and windows programs with software such as Dosemu ,WINE, Vmware etc. Dosemu just need an image file of any dos kernel be it MS-DOG( MS-DOG is the official Unix way of referring to MS-DOS), Free-Dos, Dos C etc. Dosemu does a low level processor emulation of dos bios calls therefore almost all dos programs work under Dosemu. While on the other hand WINE (Wine Is Not an Emulator) is a program that translates windows API into their X-counterpart. Although it is a little tiring to set up WINE initially, once the configurations are over it is all fun. Wine is thought to be a  prospective software and companies such as Corel is investing  in its development. Wine provides an efficient way of porting existing windows applications to Linux. 

Independent benchmarks around the world show that Linux outperforms even Windows NT on most hardware platforms. Linux also runs on Sparc, Alpha and other hardware platforms while Windows9x is inauspiciously married to Intel and its clones. Seeing the potential strength of Linux various IT heavyweights such as IBM, Sun Microsystems, Netscape, Corel, Compaq and others are rushing to adopt Linux. Even Intel has considered Linux to be among the operating system that will be testing the coming up 64 bit chip from Intel called Itanium giving a serious blow to wintel (windows on Intel)alliance. Although Linux is free various distributors such as Red Hat,Mandrake, Caldera and others are selling it at nominal price along with service. Companies are even selling Linux pre-installed machines.
Seeing the marked trends it seems that Linux is here to stay. A few years ago people shied away form Linux because it had no GUI (Graphical User Interface) but now since X-windows has been developed people are having less excuses for not trying Linux. The GUI scenario has been led by GNOME (GNU Network Object Model Environment) and KDE (K
Desktop Environment). Even in the text mode there are various shells such as bash, csh, tcsh and others. In Linux you have a choice in all aspects and you are never forced.

Complexity is also another attraction of Linux.  Well this statement maybe surprising but it is the truth. Linux gives you nearly total control of your hardware and software environment unlike in windows where you are taken away form your own hardware in the name of user-friendliness and hopelessly ruled by the software. The fact that it is free and that its code is open to the public is another attraction. Well for this we must be grateful to the participants of the Open Source Software movement.

However you will have to sacrifice a little to use Linux. Prepare a grave for your modem if it is host-controlled or other kinds of win modem. Winmodems are not full fledged modems but devices that will work as modems after the use of specific software and this software as a general rule is only available for windows. Some other devices will also act naughty and will refuse to work but the device support of Linux is improving. If you have such kind of problems you can always hit the web and mostly it will have something to offer. Linux has already challenged Microsoft and its way of developing software in David vs. Goliath fashion it is unlikely that it will steal the show pretty soon. Competition is tough and Microsoft is already on the battleground and plans to fight this battle as well with the same ferocity and tact that it has fought with competitors in the past. Given the amount of resource Micro$oft (the dollar
sign is optional and is used to reflect your view) has anything can happen in the future. In the real world non-technical things such as market reach, user-base, marketing techniques and lots of other things are responsible for success. Yes I accept that Linux may not win all windows users but it has already established itself as an alternative for those who want to challenge the default.

Keshab P. Ghimire
Budhanilkantha School

One thought on “Linux OS”

  1. well, the history to linux is pretty well interpreted, but i think there is a need to revise your document as for now, i have been using lunix 64 bit for months in my laptop and so, its useless for you to say that 64 bit architecture microprocessors aren’t available to be purchased in Nepalese market today. (see second paragraph of your document.)

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