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Linux is a Unix like operating system developed by Linus Torvalds and thousands of open source contributors. We mentioned it Unix-like operating system because there was Unix operating system before Linux came into existence. After that Linus Torvalds came with an idea of creating an open source distribution which is called Linux. And right now Linux is more popular than Unix operating system. But the base of any Linux operating system is Unix because it follows the same architecture of shell and kernel and other applications.
Now Linus Torvalds is the main contributor for this large open source project Linux but there are other contributors as well. Linus Torvalds started off this project but as this is an open source project, so any one can contribute to it. So later on several individuals contributed to this project. As a result there were 11413 different changes by individual contributors. And this was after version 2.6. There were contributors before version 2.6 also. But after version 2.6, the number of individual contributors to this open source project grew rapidly. Below you can see the top ten contributors to the Linux kernel since version 2.6.36.
There have been lots of contributions from companies also. Red Hat is the largest contributor to this project among other companies. Red Hat is one of the most popular Linux operating system distribution company. They have both community version and paid version. Similarly other companies such as Intel, Novel, IBM etc. have also contributed to the Linux kernel.
So Linux is an operating system which is reliable and secure than other operating systems. Also it is completely open source. This basically means that we can take the base of Linux operating system structure and create our own operating system using that. It was launched by Linus Torvalds on 17 th September 1991.
Why Learn Linux?
Linux is everywhere. You take any operating system, it will have some kind of linux system within it. Even in Windows, we have a Command prompt, in MacOS we have a Terminal. Even in other Linux GUI such as CentOS, Red Hat GUI, Ubuntu GUI — in all of these graphical user interfaces, there still is Terminal Emulators. Normally Linux systems might be command line-based OS but nowadays there is GUI-based Linux OS also.
You must be using a smartphone. Any smartphone that is running Android on it has actually Linux running in it. This is because the Android operating system is built using Linux principles. The Android operating system is basically Linux. In fact 85% of all smartphones are based on Linux. This means, there are iPhones, there are Windows OS Phones, there are Android OS phones, they all comes under Linux.
Even your car also uses Linux, especially self-driving cars. Not only self-driving cars, there are cars with in-built interfaces that have multiple operations such as we can basically click on a button and windows iPad will start, so these algorithms or microcontroller systems are again running in Linux. Even self driving cars need Linux to run. Why? This is because Linux is faster, it is secure and reliable than other operating systems. Not only this, even the refrigerators that we use at our home also have Linux running in it. There are so many other possibilities such as microwave ovens and many other devices that might be using Linux.
Supercomputers run on Linux operating system
Let us look at the supercomputers. So you might be thinking that they are on Linux but why not Windows. Let’s look at the graph below.
You can see in the graph above that before 2004, Unix was dominating the supercomputer market. There were some supercomputers running BSD, Mac, and Windows operating systems. But that was till 2003/2004. But right now the top 500 supercomputers in the world are running on Linux operating systems. Almost entire supercomputer market right now is captured by Linux.
So why all supercomputers need Linux?
This is because Linux is lightweight, Linux is fast, Linux is secure and Linux is reliable. So think about it! If supercomputers throughout the world are successfully running on Linux then why not our desktops or PC’s. See, it is not bad practice to use other operating systems. They have their own advantages also.
But coming to the development part, Linux is more preferred by developers. But if we are building an application on a platform such as .NET framework then obviously you will need Windows. However, we can also emulate them on Linux operating systems. We can run a Windows Virtual Machine on Linux. So choosing an operating system is your wish based on your need and your comfort level of using that particular operating system. Let’s now see comparison between Windows and Linux.
Difference between Linux and Windows
Another popular and widely used operating system is Windows. It is used in lots of laptops and PCs. It is the most popular and used operating system. It has a name for it called personal computers because we can easily use it for several activities. For example we can use Windows OS to play lots of games in it. Linux is not so much compatible with games and other activities. But when we come to the IT sector, Linux is always more preferred than Windows. So let’s do a comparison between a Linux and Windows operating system.
- For a Windows Server, you need to purchase a license. Windows OS is not free and it is not open source. So if you are running windows currently then it should be licensed. If it is not licensed then that means it is a pirated version of the operating system. So for Windows OS you need to purchase the license and therefore the expenditure increases according to the number of users. On the other hand Linux is free. It is an open-source operating system. There are paid operating systems as well in Linux but we can download and install free versions of Linux such as CentOS and Ubuntu on any number of machines that you want.
- Not many customization options are available in Windows. Few windows operating systems are released in few years. Such as right now we have Windows 10 and 11 but may be in couple of year we may have windows 12 or 13. But the fact remains the same, we cannot customize it a lot. But in Linux there are so many different distributions. Even in let’s say Ubuntu, there are so many different versions of Ubuntu. Then there is CentOS, Fedora etc. And so we can choose any Linux distributions and customize it according to our need.
- A Windows operating system is vulnerable to viruses and malware threats. A powerful anti-virus software is needed. So in Windows, if we are trying to download something from the internet without anti-virus software then it is very likely that we may catch up a malware in our system. This is because Windows operating system is quite weak in the security aspect. It does have Windows Defender but it is not equal to full-time dedicated anti-virus software which basically watches all the time for a malware and when detected it tries to delete it. This is why it is not safe to download anything in Windows from internet without an anti-virus software. But Linux is more secure than Windows. And the kernel are built such way that it is not easy for virus to break into it. So for a hacker to create a code which will break the Linux system, it takes a lot of practice. The code should be very efficient to break into Linux system.
- System running Windows operating system needs higher CPU and memory than linux for resource intensive applications and multitasking. This is why you will find several major business critical applications in enterprise hosted on linux machines.
- Due to its user friendly nature, you will find larger selection of software such as games, chat software, multimedia player etc. for windows operating system than linux operating system.
So these are the main differences between Windows and Linux. Before Windows, there was MS-DOS which is a command line interface and then again there is Linux which was again command line interface. But then later on Operating systems got evolved. Windows got its GUI. Right now Linux also has its GUI. So now let’s take a look at the different Linux distributions that we can go for.
There are several Linux distributions. Below you can see some of the most popular linux distributions.
The first one is RedHat. You probably would have heard of Red Hat from many different sources. RedHat is an enterprise-level operating
system that is being used by many big, major companies. RedHat do charge for the support. They provide their own customized and reconfigured operating systems. We cannot change it. It’s not open source. And if anything goes wrong with the operating system then RedHat can provide the support to fix it.
The next one is CentOS operating system. This is the operating system that is completely free. So it is widely used both at enterprise level and for learning purpose. CentOS is similar to RedHat operating system because it is also managed by RedHat. It is the community version of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux. It is just that they do not provide support and have made it completely free. It has all the features of all other Linux distributions. So if you have learnt linux in CentOS then you can easily find many jobs in organizations that are using RedHat operating system.
Then we have Fedora. This is also one of the popular operating system that is used by many companies. And this is also free.
Then we have Suse Linux. Suse is very popular operating system in terms of customization. Many people uses this operating system and they change the code to give their proprietary appliances and their proprietary programs. Big companies like VMware also run Suse appliances in their environment.
Then we have Debian which is very popular at the PC level. There is Ubuntu lnux which is also used widely at the PC level. I also prefer to use Ubuntu linux for my PC. And for any server level work we use CenOS in our toptechnotes.com lab. Similarly there is Kali Linux which is primarily used for penetration testing. And there are many other distributions of Linux.
So you have to go ahead and check for what exact purpose the particular Linux distribution is better and choose the Linux distribution accordingly. But most probably except for the package management commands, the basic linux commands will exactly be the same in all of the Linux distributions. You would not find it difficult to move from one particular Linux distribution to another. So if I am currently working on CentOS, then I can easily adapt to Ubuntu Linux.