Amazing Facts About Linux You Didn't Know

Sarath Pillai's picture
Amazing Linux Facts

GNU/Linux, inspired from UNIX, has become the most widely adopted server operating systems out there. Adopters of Linux includes tech giants like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Amazon, and the list goes on and on.. The adoption rate of Linux in Desktop market cannot be calculated accurately, because, unlike proprietary software, the sources from where people get their copies are myriad and are various (hence getting a true estimate is really difficult).  Learning and exploring things in Linux is quite fascinating and exciting. Thanks to the hard work of millions of developers, who contributed to the development of Linux, and have made it reach the place where it is today.

 

In this post, I will be discussing some of the amazing facts, about Linux, that are lessor known to most of its users.

 

1. “LINUX”, is a directory  name on FUNET’s FTP server (ftp://ftp.funet.fi/)

Yes, you heard it right!. Linux Torvalds wanted to name his kernel "Freax". Well the name is a combination of words "freak" and "free", and then the final X to represent its similarity with the Unix operating system.

When the initial code was uploaded to an FTP server (ftp://ftp.funet.fi/), the server administrator (Ari Lemmke) didn't like the name Freax, and he suggested the name Linux and gave a directory on the ftp server. The directory on the ftp server was called "linux". You can access this very directory here: ftp://ftp.funet.fi/pub/linux/

 

And if you want the first initial kernel package that was made available to the public, visit this link: ftp://ftp.funet.fi/pub/linux/kernel/Historic/

 

2."Linux" is only the kernel, and is not the full system that you use

Well Linux is just a part of the entire system. Its the program that allocates resources that other programs need during their operation. So, the system that is used is normally a combination of GNU system and Linux.  Since 1984, GNU had been working to make a full operating system of its own, that was going to be a free Unix like operating system.

In fact by the early 90's a full GNU operating system was ready, aside from the kernel. A full operating system requires, compilers, text editors, X windows systems.

The GNU project even had a kernel of its own called "GNU Hurd", but was not yet completely ready. That main gap was filled by Linux kernel (from Torvalds) in 1992.

Refer the below link for more details on the GNU/Linux System from "Richard Stallman" (The man behind the free software movement.)

Read: Richard Stallman on Linux and GNU

 

3. More than 90% of current Linux source code is written by other developers (and not Linus Torvalds himself)

The Linux project was adopted by so many programmers and the project grew very rapidly after 1996. The initial release from Torvalds was 10,000 lines of code and now it has reached many millions in total number. 

Its roughly estimated that more than 10000 developers from many different countries and companies have contributed to its development till date. And are rapidly increasing in number. More and more features are being added on a regular basis. And most of this coding is from the contributors.

 

  4. Even Microsoft Contributes to Linux Kernel Development!

Yes the company whose main philosophy rests on proprietary software development, also contributes to Linux. It even went ahead of Canonical once, in the number of lines of code contributed to kernel. The top list of contributors includes Red Hat, Intel, etc.

Do not think that Microsoft is contributing to kernel development for improving the kernel. Its for better support of Hyper-V hypervisor on Linux :)

 

5. Most of the Super Computer's use Linux. And the numbers are growing on a yearly basis

Read: Operating System's on Super Computers

More than 90 percent of the world's fastest computer's use's Linux. Linux has become a choice for high performance computing. It was only 1 to 2 percent adoption in 1998 and in the last 15 years it grew up to more than 90 percent, which is really phenomenal.

Community resources, ease of management, open source and freedom of use, security, compatibility etc, have contributed to level of adoption in high performance computing.

 

6. An operating System called Minix inspired Linus Torvalds for making Linux

Minix is very much similar to Unix. It was created by Andrew S. Tanenbaum, Am sure you might have heard this name before during your college days. Most of the people know him by a very famous book he wrote on Operating System. The name of the book is Operating Systems: Design and Implementation

The very famous initial email from Linus Torvalds (during the release of the very first Linux kernel to the world) started with "Hello everybody out there using minix...."

 

7. Linux Kernel development during the early days were done on Minix operating System

The initial Linux kernel development during the early days were pretty much done on Minix operating system. Although Linux was very much inspired by Minix functionalities as well as design principles, Linux differs from Minix in a very major and fundamental way.

The main difference is the fact that "Linux uses a monolithic kernel, whereas Minix uses a microkernel". The main difference between a monolithic kernel and microkernel is the fact that monolithic kernel is one single large process that manages every thing. A one single large address space taking care of each and everything. However a microkernel works by breaking down things into different components and different processes. Some of these components will run in kernel space while other's in the user space. Each has their own address spaces. The main problem in getting a microkernel built is the messages that are passed between these different processes in the kernel. As these components exchanges messages between each other, it becomes buggy and quite difficult to debug (I remember Richard Stallman quoting once, that this was the reason the GNU Hurd microkernel was getting delayed during 1991.)

 

8. Linux was initially compiled using GNU C compiler

Richard Stallman started GNU, and GNU C compiler (the free c compiler) was the the result of his work. Without GNU C compiler it would have been very difficult.

If you see the Linux History mailing list, you will get to know that Linux was initially compiled using GNU C compiler version 1.40 on Minix operating system.

 

9. Yggdrasil Linux and MCC Interim were two of the initial Linux Distributions

MCC interim was a distribution that was launched during the very early 1992. The initial releases were only command line. They were released in few floppy disks, and was the first one that can be installed directly on a hard disk. 

Yggdrasil Linux was the first distribution company that created a Linux Live CD. It was released towards the end of 1992 and lasted till 1995. The initial releases had Linux kernel versions from 0.98. Later versions had GUI and various GNU utilities as well (even the Emacs text editor). 
 
 
10. The killer app that made more people to adopt Linux was Apache Web Server

If you track the adoption curve of Linux, you will see that many of the early companies used Linux for Apache web server. 1993 when the Apache project started, was the time Linux was nearing version 1 with many thousand users. 

This was the same time during which websites became a business tool. So the main force that encouraged people to adopt Linux in the early days was Apache web server. 

Because back in those days if you compare hosting websites using NT and hosting things using Apache Linux, building a server farm with Apache on Linux was cheaper. And Apache steadily gained the web server market share. 

 

11. There are more than 10 Linux based Mobile operating System's

Yes that's correct. Normally people think Android is the only operating system that's based on Linux. However there are more than 10 mobile operating system's based on Linux. 

OpenZaurus, Firefox OS, Sailfish OS, Ubuntu Touch, Ubuntu Mobile, Mobline etc are a few apart from Android.

 

12.Google has its own Linux Distribution for its internal Employees. Its called Goobuntu

Goobuntu is based on the normal Ubuntu versions, but is used by internal employees of Google. Its not currently available for general public. 

 

13. Tux (The Linux Penguin Logo) was suggested by Torvalds himself

Tux is actually not a logo for Linux, but is a mascot. It was submitted during a logo competition for Linux(but the image never won the logo competition). Tux was designed using the first version of GIMP (a photo editing tool available in GNU/Linux) by a programmer named Larry Ewing.  

 

14. The initial Linux Kernel Releases were not GPL (General Public License), and it had restriction on commercial use

Nobody really uses a kernel. People run programs. As the kernel by itself is useless without programs with it to run, Torvalds had to use many free soft wares made by GNU and stallman himself with his initial Linux release. Things like shell, compilers, text editors, etc are few tools to mention. 

The initial kernel release had the GNU bash shell with it. 
However after a few initial releases, later in 1992, Torvalds himself suggested releasing the kernel under GNU General Public License. The first kernel version with GPL license was version 0.99. 
 
 
15. Andrew S Tanenbaum once said "Linux is Obsolete"
Andrew S Tanenbaum, the creator of Minix, once said that Linux is Obsolete. You can find the entire article and their discussion over here: http://www.oreilly.com/openbook/opensources/book/appa.html
 
The primary point raised by Tanenbaum was that Linux was based on a monolithic kernel, which was an old design model. Tanenbaum even believed that Hurd will once replace Linux. 
 
16. Steve Jobs once offered (in 2000) a job to Linus Torvalds at Apple
Around the year 2000, Linus was offered a job at apple by Steve jobs. The job was to work for Unix (guess for MacOS), but Linus rejected the offer.
 
17. There was a "Windows Refund Day" back in 1999
That's correct, on February 15th, 1999, many Linux users assembled and demanded a refund amount from Microsoft, for their unused copy of windows. This was because the Windows Licence agreement had a clause, where an end user can deny the agreement and return Windows back. Read the details here: http://marc.merlins.org/linux/refundday/
 
18. Open Source and Free Software, both are different

The word "free" is really ambigius. People consider it and take that as free of cost. But the term "free" in free software does not stand for cost, but it stands for freedom. The freedom to use, modify, redistribute the software. So its nothing related to price but is related to freedom.

Millions of people around the world use free software on a day to day basis. The main motive behind GNU and campains from Stallman was freedom of software users. However not all the members of free software agreed with the main goals of the movement(which caused a large number of users and developers to split and campain another name called as "Open Source").

Some of them coined the term "Open Source" as a marketing strategy, so that it feels appealing to big corporations and business people. So basically these two different names  point to the same type of software(they both follow the same development method), but "free software" is entirely a different philosophy regarding the "freedom" of users. "Open Source" is much more concerned about the practicall business use of software developed by the community, rather than the "freedom" part, which free software movement and GNU started.  So in short all free softwares qualify as open source softwares, but not all open source softwares qualify as free softwares, this is simply because some of the open source software licences are restrictive in nature. To get more details on this Read: https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/   

 

Don't forget to watch the below Documentry films. They are really interesting and you will get to know some early stories from it. cheers!.

 

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