There's Linux Inside

Have you ever uncovered Linux hidden in a place you didn't expect or have you implemented it covertly? Here are some interesting stories from readers.

This submission comes from Andy in Vermont, USA:

"The gift-registry kiosks in Burlington Coat Factory stores are all driven by Linux. It's pretty hard to notice unless you're watching while the store manager turns them on. But if you look carefully at the cursors, you'll see that they have the Linux shapes."

This submission comes from an anonymous Linux enthusiast in Australia:

"It is a story of 2 ATMs in a shopping area on the Whitsunday Coast in Queensland, Australia. In the middle of making a withdrawal the power went off in the building with my card in the machine. Hanging around for 30 minutes or more hoping to get my card back I was at the machine when the power returned. The screen came back to life and a single sentence appeared: "This is a Linux programme".

The "Linux Programme" continued to load and the machine was again in business. The other machine bore a message that it was out of order until a technician could attend to it."

This submission comes from Kevin, who is serving in the U.S. military in Afghanistan:

"Not sure if you have heard this one before, but I have been using Linux in my Army helicopter. Both the U.S. and Australian military helicopters here in Afghanistan have the Blue Force Tracker system, a moving-map-with-icons communication and tracking system.

The heart of the system is a microrouter which coordinates all the networking and radio signals. It is self-booting and runs embedded Linux on a PC-card memory module. That is all the information I can pass on for
this equipment."

This submission comes from Chris in Ontario, Canada:

"Not too sure if anyone has sent this into you yet, but the 'MegaTouch' games that you see in bars (at least here in Ontario) are all running on Linux. I'm a bartender in Oakville, ON, and I've watched the service guy upgrade the machine, so I knew it was just standard PC parts inside. But last week the machine froze up so I had to "reboot" it, and there it was the familiar boot screen."

This tip comes from Eric in California:

"While surfing the Internet at a Barnes & Noble Wi-Fi hot spot, I got bored and started browsing their network. I noticed they had a machine running in their "wayport" work group, which was a Samba server running Debian. I couldn't access the machine to see what all it was doing, but it looked like it hosted their printing, among several other things I'm sure. I found it interesting nonetheless!"

Have you uncovered Linux in a hidden place? Leave a comment below.



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There's Linux Inside

Maenard's picture

I find stories about Linux OS on the business since Philippines is really a Microsoft country (most government agencies wouldn't even support the local Linux distro developed by another gov. agency).

Anyway, my story was about my trip to Spain via KLM. I was on my way to the plane's restroom when I passed by the corner where they have the media server. I saw the boot up screen - definitely Linux! One of my peers saw it too (also a Linux buff), and we just found ourselves totally impressed.

Later I found out that there's a media vendor that offers such products to airlines providing video to the airline passengers.

Embedded Linux

Anonymous's picture

At work we have a Netgear WG302 Access Point that came with a copy of the GPL and after setting it up i found that the system has a ssh service. This is an excellent AP for commercial use supporting 10 SSID's and a cafe wifi setting hiding clients from each other. We also have an Axis 206 network camera that has a ftp server and it shows a unix file structure however i did not see an GPL notice or reference to Linux kernel or version number. Although the documentation gives directions in both Windows and Unix/Linux/Mac command line. I also installed a Smoothwall router making that 3 embedded Linux devices

The entertainment system on

Anonymous's picture

The entertainment system on Delta airlines goes through a linux boot when it starts up.

I worked at Mauritius

Prashant's picture

I worked at Mauritius broadcasting corporation where all the techies are windows gurus.. and guess what on the newly purchased SONY Production Broadcast Equipment, when the LCD lit up.. there was lilo.. and finaly booted a kernel 2.2 linux.
More over.. the one of the main live studios, automation module called Oxtel has got RedHat6.1 on it.

Well, linux is almost everywhere.. some people find it difficult to admit it. :)

Texas Lottery Kiosk

Mike Bailey's picture

I watched a Texas Lottery kiosk boot one time and saw it ran on MontaVista. I think the application was java based, but it has been a while and I have slept since then, but the OS was certainly MontaVista.

Switzerland railway stations

Marc's picture

I noticed once I saw one reboot, that the touchscreen ticket machines in the railway stations of Switzerland run Linux. Having quite an extended railway network for our small country, with lots of stations, each station having at least one ticket machine, this is a lot of linux boxes :-)

Papa John's Pizza in San Antonio, TX

Joey in San Antonio, TX's picture

The ordering screens used by the staff, including all the ordering, make-line displays, driver dispatch, inventory and cash management, payroll, etc. are terminal thin-client displays served by a single mid-tower-sized Fedora (Core 5 or 6, I think) box in the manager's office. At least 20 stores use the same set-up. You'd never know without seeing the boot-up process or the login screen.

Lexmark printers

LuisManson's picture

Some Lexmark printers use opensource, i gound mdsn, gtk and glib sources inside the CDs.... on a folder named open source, also, i was curious about SNMP, a query of some of them returns:
Lexmark X... version NC2.NPS.N211 kernel 2.6.10 All-N-1

this has to be GNU/Linux, or at least the kernel, i can not extract the firmware ffrom the site to see, they are inside PJL jobs...

i have seen this on C935, T644, X644, X850 and X854...

NJ Transit + Linux

dnv's picture

Ok,this happened last week on friday evening.I got off the Path Train in Newark which was coming from WTC.I had to catch a NJ Transit Train bound to Princeton Jct.Couple of the train timetable display monitors was showing the familiar Kernel version along with some logging on the display.I didnt have much time to observe it in detail as I had to rush.But,it seemed like someone had tinkered with the Linux OS running behind and did something nasty inadvertently.

Linux Runs state-of-the-art Oil well drilling

Parameshwara Bhat's picture

I work on an oil-rig and recently was surprised to know that National Oilwell Varco's Automatic Drilling System actually runs on Linux.I had heard about the software freezing during operation leading to shutdowns etc.,It turned out that what froze was the user front-end running on Windows in Internet Explorer.But the actual process runs on a SBC in Java code running on embedded Linux.Even when the front end is frozen,the back end Java running on Linux is up and taking care of the operation tools.

Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge diagnosis tools run Linux

Francisco Costa's picture

I work for a Chrysler, Jeep and Dogde dealer, and I've found out that the StarScan tool, a portable computer without keyboard , just a touchscreen, specially made to diagnose car problems, runs on Linux.


Anonymous's picture

I recently took a flight on a larger boeing jet. (honestly, can't remember which model plane it was) On the dvd screens they had the option for the user to select what they wanted to watch, and every seat had its own monitor. When the screens turned on, there was tux!

Linux inside

oldchas's picture

This year I bought a Pentax K10d slr digital camera. While getting to know the camera I browsed to the Pentax website to look for information and available options. A firm ware update was being offered so I downloaded the file and unzipped it. It was a .bin file. Not .exe, .bin. I am assuming this is an indication they are using Linux or unix as the basis for the firmware.


Rax's picture

I was testing a car at the Automobile Association in South Africa recently and noticed that the desktops run a version of Gnome. It appears the do all their office applications through a browser.

my sony tv came with a copy

Anonymous's picture

my sony tv came with a copy of the gpl2

Linux in two places

Chris Lees's picture

I found the GPL notice in the menus of some Panasonic TVs - the TH50, TH42, and TX32. They use embedded Linux.

I also found Linux running on an internet terminal. I noticed that the theme looked familiar (themeless GTK) and I looked in the "print" dialog, where it was set to "lpr".

Hidden Linux

FredR's picture

Both my HD DVD players -- HD-DVD Toshiba and my Blue-Ray Samsung -- and my 46" LCD Sony Bravia TV came with copies of the GPL printed inside the owner's manuals, because they all run Linux.

-- FLR or flrichar is a superfan of Linux Journal, and goofs around in the LJ IRC Channel

Multitech routers also use

FredR's picture

Multitech routers also use Linux. A third party had placed a bunch of these routers at a few of our customer's sites, and I noticed how familiar the interface output, logging (syslog) and the ipsec VPN (free swan) looked.

Of course, it's not a far-fetched idea to think a router could run Linux!

-- FLR or flrichar is a superfan of Linux Journal, and goofs around in the LJ IRC Channel

In the music department at

x borders employee's picture

In the music department at borders book stores when you scan the barcode on a cd. The music is streamed from a redhat server.

Actually, that's a "Red Dot"

Anonymous's picture

Actually, that's a "Red Dot" server, not "Red Hat". But I believe they are indeed a Linux variant.

Linux hidden in MediaGate

Danny Regan's picture

Several of my friends and myself use MediaGate's on our networks to display movies, Pictures and Music on the TV - It was a nice surprise to see Samba for networking option and other Linux telltales.

With Linux being used and embedded in more and more household appliances - it is easier to see what might be ahead for users in the coming years.

Linux at Lowes

Nathan G's picture

I live in southern california and have seen the KDE desktop on the machines at Lowes, so this leads me to believe that they're running linux.

I worked at Lowe's for

Anonymous's picture

I worked at Lowe's for awhile and they do run Linux. It is their own version of it I guess since when it boots it says Lowes Linux. I never say a KDE desktop though since all the computer boot right into their Genesis program which is in console.

Linux on all DSL routers

eHacker's picture

I recently got a broadband connection from an ISP in Delhi. The router is from a reputed company. I was tinkering with its configuration options. I enabled the "detailed log" option. After a while, when I saw at the log it was all with what the output of the dmesg command shows. It had a Linux 2.4 kernel running on it.

Also a did an ftp to the router and after accepting my login it showed the familiar busybox shell :) ...

Linux in Shanghai

Kitaj's picture

In Shanghai there are LCD screens on every bus and metro driving around the city. The screens are there to display a special news/commercials TV channel entertaining the passengers and earning extra money for transportation company. On few occasions I saw the TV system on a bus or metro restarting and it was a lovely sight: Linux boot sequence.

Linux in ISP devices

someone's picture

BSNL gave me a huawei DSL modem which runs 2.4 kernel with busybox.