Linux from the Beginning

A preview and summary of the March 7 episode of Phil Hughes' weekly radio program featured on Wall Street Newshour.
What's the Catch?

By now, you should be saying, "what's the catch?" After all, while MS-Windows may have come with your system, you could spend thousands of dollars to purchase all the equivalent applications that are included with Linux.

Well, the catch is that Linux, out of the box, will not run MS-Windows applications. This is because these applications require a different environment--they must able to request services from the operating system in a different way.

If you have existing applications that don't have a Linux equivalent, there are workarounds. First, Linux comes with a package called WINE, which will run some older MS-Windows applications. There are also commercial packages that allow you to run these applications on top of Linux. Two examples are Wabi and VMware.

Where Did Linux Come From?

About nine years ago, Linus Torvalds, then a college student at the University of Helsinki, decided to write his own operating system. He bought a 386-based laptop, and armed with the general idea of how UNIX, the OS initially developed at AT&T's Bell Laboratories in 1970, worked, he sat out to make a better UNIX. Or, at least a free UNIX.

As Linus was working on the development, he made snapshots of his work available on the Internet. Other people from around the world started contributing to his work. In fact, thousands and probably tens of thousands of people contributed ideas, code and testing support. There was even a collection taken up to make the last payments on Linus' laptop.

Today, Linus works for Transmeta in Silicon Valley, but continues to be the organizer of further Linux development. By organizer, I mean he coordinates what goes into new Linux kernels.

Where is Linux Most Popular?

Linux grew up on the Internet, and Linux developers are located all over the world. That meant Linux had to shine as a system of the Internet if development were to continue. It does.

Because of its excellent connectivity, great price point (free) and reliability, Linux quickly became the server of choice for individuals and companies around the world. Linux systems with the Apache web server (included with Linux) are likely to be the most popular OS/web server combination on the Internet today. Linux has also proven itself as an enterprise-class file and print server.

The Commercialization of Linux

While taking the program code available on the Internet and building a personal Linux system meets the needs of some, many consumers will need a package they can purchase that includes support. So, while Linux is still free if you want to do the work yourself, there is a market for complete packages, customization and support.

The first commercial Linux distribution appeared in 1993. Today, major Linux distribution vendors include Caldera, Corel, Red Hat, SuSE, TurboLinux and Walnut Creek CD-ROM (Slackware distribution) with many others out there as well.

Distributions vary as to what software is included, how the software is installed and what documentation and support is included. See our distributions web page for more information.

Linux and the Stock Market

Finally, what does all this have to do with a program named "Wall Street News Hour"? Two things. First, it is pretty likely that if you are into business, you have a computer. Knowing that Linux is an alternative to the operating system you are running is good for anyone.

More specifically, however, Linux has gone from computer geeks writing software to a place of investment opportunities. Companies such as Andover.net, Cobalt Networks, Corel Corporation, Red Hat and VA Linux Systems have all had IPOs. Other vendors, including Caldera Systems and Linuxcare, made their S-1 filings and have IPO dates in March. Still more are on the horizon. Other companies which have publicly traded, such as Hewlett-Packard and IBM, have recently moved into the Linux arena.

A good place to see the status of Linux stocks is http://www.lwn.net/stocks/.

At the time of this writing, the web page for "The Wall Street News Hour", http://www.wallstreetnewshour.com, is still under development. When available, it will show a complete list of the stations that carry the program. I look forward to having you as a listener on the program.

______________________

Phil Hughes

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