Linux at the University

In outer space, on the ground, and in the classroom: some exciting real-world applications developed with Linux by students and researchers at the University of Colorado in Boulder.
Final Thoughts

When designing and building complex systems, which require low-level integration of software and hardware, there are numerous design trade-offs and decisions to be made. Two primary criteria that are always evaluated are: can the system meet the specified performance requirements, and can the system meet imposed budgetary constraints? Based upon past experience, both Linux and its real-time variants meet or exceed the typical performance metrics. The development environment is powerful and easily configurable. Operating system services are ample, and resource abstraction follows the standard, simple, UNIX-like methodology. One design issue that is of fundamental concern to companies within the commercial sector is that of technical support. With the advent of Linux-only technical support companies, along with an increased base of competent Linux programmers, this issue is dwindling in comparison to the numerous advantages of a free, open-source operating system. Budgetary constraints are a non-issue. A world-class group of kernel hackers continue to provide support for cutting-edge technologies and hardware. Students of today, who are the programmers and systems managers of tomorrow, are being taught to harness the enabling power of Linux.


Linux is used for a myriad of research, commercial and educational purposes at the University of Colorado. The systems designed and built are complex and, must be reliable. The payloads BioServe builds are currently scheduled to spend over three years in combined time onboard the International Space Station, and computer control, implemented under the Linux OS, is a mission-critical design specification. From the performance of past payloads, in addition to the complex projects previously described, the author is confident of continued success. Linux is the enabling resource that allows the integration of these projects. Linux has provided meaningful content for several courses taught within our Aerospace and Computer Science departments and is responsible, in part, for the success of our real-world teaching paradigm, which takes theory out of the classroom and allows for practical implementations of advanced projects and research.




Kevin Gifford ( is the lead Automation and Robotics Engineer for BioServe Space Technologies and is a member of the Research Faculty of the Aerospace department at the University of Colorado where he teaches classes in Hardware/Software Integration and mentors Senior Design Projects. Like a lot of Linux enthusiasts who love their job, he needs to diversify his life with activities that have a satisfaction metric other than increased technical competency.



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Engineering and Programming

Student Administration Systems Guy's picture

This is a great article to show students how close the ties are between computer programming and computer engineering. At my University those two fields are split into two different degrees, with little overlap in course work. I think they should be closer brothers.