GNU/Linux, inspired by UNIX, has become one of the most widely adopted servers operating systems. It was first released on September 17, 1991, by Linus Torvalds.

Adopters of Linux include tech giants like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Amazon, and the list goes on and on. The adoption rate of Linux in the Desktop market cannot be calculated accurately, because, unlike proprietary software, the sources from where people get their copies are myriad and are various.  Learning and exploring things in Linux is quite fascinating and exciting.

In this post, we will discuss some interesting facts about Linux, that are less known to most of its users.

“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”. 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, the server administrator, Ari Lemmke, didn’t like the name Freax, hence he suggested the name Linux and gave a directory on the FTP server. The directory on the FTP server was called “Linux”.

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

” Linux” is only the kernel and is not the full system that you use

Linux is just a part of the entire system. It is 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.

By the early ‘90s, 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 the Linux kernel in 1992.

More than 90% of current Linux source code is written by other developers 

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. It is roughly estimated that more than 10000 developers and companies from different countries all around the world have contributed to its development 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.

 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 the kernel. The top list of contributors includes Red Hat, Intel, etc.

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

More than 90 %  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% adoption in 1998 and in the last 15 years it grew up to more than 90%, which is actually really phenomenal.

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

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. Most people know him by a very famous book he wrote: “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….”

 Linux Kernel development during the early days was done on Minix operating System

The initial Linux kernel development during the early days was 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 a microkernel is the fact that a monolithic kernel is one single large process that manages everything. A 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 others in the userspace. Each has its 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.

Linux was initially compiled using the GNU C compiler

Richard Stallman started GNU, and the GNU C compiler was the result of his work. Without the 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.

 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 the 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 Linux LiveCD. 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.

 The killer app that made more people 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 webserver. 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 the Apache webserver.

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.

 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. It is not currently available for the general public.

 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. Tux was designed using the first version of GIMP (a photo editing tool available in GNU/Linux) by a programmer named Larry Ewing.

The initial Linux Kernel Releases were not GPL, and it had restrictions 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 the 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 a GPL license was version 0.99.

Additional thoughts: 

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.

Steve Jobs once offered 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.

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.

Open Source and Free Software, both are different

The word “free” is really ambiguous. 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 it’s 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 campaigns from Stallman was the freedom of software users. However, not all the members of free software agreed with the main goals of the movement.

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, but “free software” is an entirely different philosophy regarding the “freedom” of users. “Open Source” is much more concerned about the practical business use of software developed by the community, rather than the “freedom” part, which the free software movement and GNU started.

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