A New Project or a GNU Project?
Everyone knows that the Linux operating system was created from scratch about four years ago, right? Actually, while the Linux project is itself only four years old, it is important to remember that large parts of the Linux system on your desk are far older.
Linux is not an entire operating system—it is an operating system kernel. Any Unix or Unix-like operating system kernel requires a large suite of utility programs to complete the entire operating system. The Unix kernel has historically been distributed with many text manipulation tools, a C language compiler, programming libraries, and on-line documentation for all (or almost all) of the utilities and libraries. All of this together comprises the operating system.
Years before Linux was started, programmers who were fed up with bugs and limitations in the standard versions of Unix utilities started to write their own versions and contribute them to the Free Software Foundation's “GNU” project. Slowly, over the years, programmers noticed bugs and limitations in nearly all Unix utilities and wrote replacements for them, freeing the users from having to rely on software vendors to be consistently perfect.
These replacements were ported to most “flavors” of Unix that were available—but they all still required a commercial kernel, and the users were still dependent on their Unix software vendors to fix bugs and remove limitations in the kernel. The Free Software Foundation (known as the FSF) started work on a replacement kernel (now called “The Hurd”), but work was slow, original efforts met with legal challenges, and although the legal questions have long been settled, The Hurd has still not been publicly released.
In the spring of 1991, Linus Torvalds, a college student in Finland, started writing a 32-bit terminal emulator for his 386. He wrote it in a combination of assembly language and C, and in order to learn more about the 386 chip, made the emulator completely independent of DOS or any other operating system. Over the next few months, he learned enough to turn his terminal emulator into the beginnings of a Unix-like kernel.
To compile his code, Linus used the FSF's gcc C compiler and assembler. As a shell, he used the FSF's bash (“bourne again shell”). For the make program, he used the FSF's GNU make. In short, he and the team that quickly assembled around him used nearly all of the FSF's GNU programs to complement the Linux kernel and assemble a complete operating system.
These pre-tested and refined utilities turned a Unix-like kernel into a Unix-like operating system overnight. Many users who are not very familiar with the Free Software Foundation's suite of utilities are under the impression that the entire Linux operating system has been developed completely from scratch in the last four years. In reality, Linux leveraged (to use a current buzzword) a huge amount of tested, quality code to turn a kernel into an operating system, virtually overnight—the GNU project has enabled the Linux operating system to take the world by storm. Most of what's really new is the name and the kernel—much of the rest is GNU.
This does not belittle the kernel. It is large and complex, and there are few people who have the combination of qualities required to write—and especially maintain—one. It merely points out that Linux is in reality not a four-year-old newcomer, but a respectable, mature option for Unix users.
This new, powerful combination of the FSF's GNU utilities and the Linux kernel has in turn contributed to the quality of the GNU utilities. Because Linux users rely exclusively on the GNU utilities, when they find a bug in a GNU utility, they cannot simply fall back and use the version of the utility that came with the system. This means that more people are working on fixing those bugs that still exist in the GNU utilities, making them even more stable than they used to be. Those bug fixes (and enhancements) are usually given back to the FSF, as is appropriate.
Not all of the utilities that Linux uses come from the GNU project. The University of California at Berkeley had a long-running project which produced the Berkeley Software Distribution of Unix, known simply as BSD. Since much of the Unix networking software was developed by and for Bed's distribution of Unix, the BSD networking utilities still define the standards, and so many of the Linux networking utilities are time-tested utilities from BSD. As another example: thanks to the work done by MIT and the corporate members of the X Consortium, Linux had a well-tested, respected GUI less than a year after the project started.
Fast/Flexible Linux OS Recovery
On Demand Now
In this live one-hour webinar, learn how to enhance your existing backup strategies for complete disaster recovery preparedness using Storix System Backup Administrator (SBAdmin), a highly flexible full-system recovery solution for UNIX and Linux systems.
Join Linux Journal's Shawn Powers and David Huffman, President/CEO, Storix, Inc.
Free to Linux Journal readers.Register Now!
|Secure Desktops with Qubes: Introduction||May 27, 2016|
|Chris Birchall's Re-Engineering Legacy Software (Manning Publications)||May 26, 2016|
|ServersCheck's Thermal Imaging Camera Sensor||May 25, 2016|
|Petros Koutoupis' RapidDisk||May 24, 2016|
|The Italian Army Switches to LibreOffice||May 23, 2016|
|PeaZip||May 20, 2016|
- Download "Linux Management with Red Hat Satellite: Measuring Business Impact and ROI"
- Chris Birchall's Re-Engineering Legacy Software (Manning Publications)
- The Italian Army Switches to LibreOffice
- Secure Desktops with Qubes: Introduction
- Linux Mint 18
- Petros Koutoupis' RapidDisk
- ServersCheck's Thermal Imaging Camera Sensor
- Oracle vs. Google: Round 2
- The FBI and the Mozilla Foundation Lock Horns over Known Security Hole
Until recently, IBM’s Power Platform was looked upon as being the system that hosted IBM’s flavor of UNIX and proprietary operating system called IBM i. These servers often are found in medium-size businesses running ERP, CRM and financials for on-premise customers. By enabling the Power platform to run the Linux OS, IBM now has positioned Power to be the platform of choice for those already running Linux that are facing scalability issues, especially customers looking at analytics, big data or cloud computing.
￼Running Linux on IBM’s Power hardware offers some obvious benefits, including improved processing speed and memory bandwidth, inherent security, and simpler deployment and management. But if you look beyond the impressive architecture, you’ll also find an open ecosystem that has given rise to a strong, innovative community, as well as an inventory of system and network management applications that really help leverage the benefits offered by running Linux on Power.Get the Guide