What is Linux Operating System – Features, Uses, Pros & Cons

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What is Linux operating system? Linux operating system is one of the most successful one in the enterprise. This is actually a kernel that has an open-source license for its distribution.

This operating system functions in a much similar way as Unix and is very useful due to the specifically designed and engineered kernel.

This kernel takes care of a lot of crucial operations in a computer, both fundamental and advanced. The operating system, with its innovative and useful features, will allow smoother communication amongst all the different hardware components in the CPU.

Linux is the brainchild of Linus Torvalds. He designed this unique operating system when he was just a computer science student.

The idea came to him when he was working on the proprietary software, Unix OS. He thought that the program needed some serious upgrades to make it more functional and useful.

He placed his suggestions and opinions to the designers who, obviously, rejected everything he said or tried to say.

It is then he came up with this bright idea of launching a specialized operating system that will be responsive, adaptable, and receptive to modifications suggested by the end-users. And, the world saw a new operating system called Linux, in 1991.

In the early days, the operating system was not easy to use and, naturally, was not an instant hit amongst the users. This is because the operating system required some additional programs such as:

  • The File Manager,
  • An audio-video software, and
  • Document Editors.

Over the time, Linus discussed the matters with several expert programmers and collaborated with them to do away with the drawbacks of the operating system.

This was the time when several applications for running this operating system began to appear and was officially launched in 1991. It is then that Linux started to get its due attention.

It is these applications that made the creation of Linus the most coveted and favored open source operating system.

Even today, Linux operating system is loved by a large number of users. This is because the upgraded operating system is now more user-friendly than it was initially when it was launched.

After commercializing the operating system, this is now used not only by the computer programmers like before but also by the regular users of a computer. Ideally, it is the open-source facet of this operating system that has made it so robust and popular.

The best part about this operating system is that the kernel allowed different computer programmers to deign custom operating systems of their own.

As a result, the market saw a huge influx of new range of operating systems over time that are considered to be user-friendly.

As a matter of fact, the Linux kernel now is the most popular and widely used to the extent of it becoming the backbone of a large number of other popular operating systems. The list includes:

  • Debian
  • Ubuntu
  • Knoppix
  • Fedora and many more.

All these operating systems offer a wide range of features, functions and opportunities but everything is based on one specific kernel, that of Linux.

However, all modern distributions of Linux are normally a combination of GNU projects designed by Dr. Richard Stallman.

What is Linux Operating System?

Linux Operating System

Linux OS is that which has revolutionized the computer world since its launch in 1991.

This Unix-like open source operating system has given birth to new industries, helped several new programmers to come up with other operating systems designed on its kernel, and empowered the startups.

As for the consumers, they have got new gizmos, gadgets and gateways to use.

Therefore, it can be rightly said that Linux is everywhere in this modern world of computers making it an omnipresent and most powerful tool for daily digital use.

It is the most dominant operating system in different sectors of this digital world including:

  • The cloud,
  • The Internet of Things or IoT, and, obviously
  • The smartphones and other mobile devices.

Not surprisingly, this operating system is also used for several complex jobs such as powering up those high-end super computers and high-speed trains.

It is also used in routers that need to be extremely secure as well as in those space managing robots.

However, it still has to overdo the plethora of its competitors in the desktop world but that does not take away the fact that it has influenced its competitors with its freely available and collaborative nature.

There are some particular networking applications for Linux that may have graphical interfaces but much less in number as compared to those for the desktops and servers. These networking applications include those used for:

Most of the programs that are and may be received from the common line are already included in most of the installations of this operating system.

Therefore, if you use Linux OS you will gain significantly in the operation and functionality of the system just as you need.

Most of these GUI based graphical applications are more familiar as compared to those programs that are run by the CLI.

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This means that now you will not need to use a package manager, which by itself is a program, for that matter. This program will download the necessary and freely available software packages easily from the software libraries.

Though Linux OS is somewhat similar to MINIX, the Linux kernel is starkly different. This is because:

  • MINIX is designed on the microkernel concept and contains minimum number of codes required to run this operating system, and, on the other hand,
  • Linux contains a monolithic kernel which implies that various functions such as different system calls, file systems and virtual memory take place in this single space.

The significant advantage of having such a privileged kernel is that you will not need to upgrade the programs if you want to upgrade your computer to use Linux.

This is because the interface between the user space and the kernel space where the applications of individual users are executed remains fairly stable even if the internal workings of the operating system evolve over time.

All these features and advantages of using Linux has helped it to build a distinct, diverse and a huge community. There are several good reasons for this operating system having a GNU Public License to be so popular. These are:

  • It can be downloaded for free
  • It can be installed easily
  • It is easy to study which is helpful for the administrators
  • It is customizable
  • It has numerous privileges for redistribution and
  • It is available both in the original and modified versions.

Perhaps, the most significant reason for its popularity is that this is an open source operating system and there is no secret for maintaining the kernel held behind closed doors of the corporate lab for this community based and developed project.

All debates on proposed updates are available for the public to see through a public email list.

Contributing to and participating in this email list allows anyone to join this community which, literally, goes over and beyond the kernel alone.

The open nature of this operating system encourages a large number of enthusiasts and professionals to get involved actively in finding out newer and better ways to use it. This, in the process, helps the operating system to evolve due to community development.

The ecosystem of Linux operating system is excellent as is its agile network stack and mature APIs.

This helps in optimizing and modernizing the data center with dedicated planes for data forwarding and a separate control feature that helps in dropping networking architecture easily that is software defined. The foundation of SDN is the separation of these planes.

As far as the distribution of Linux operating system is concerned, there is no particular vendor for it because this is essentially an open source operating system.

You can download and install the desktop environment, the kernel and different other apps and utilities yourself.

Linux distribution is ideally done by different companies as well as nonprofit organizations, though you can do it yourself as well.

The commercial distributors may offer optional support service that may be paid if they offer it to you for free or even charge a fee for distribution.

Some of the most common Linux distributions are:

  • Ubuntu
  • Red Hat
  • CentOS
  • Arch Linux
  • Fedora
  • SuSE
  • Debian
  • Oracle Linux and
  • Mandriva.

This list keeps on changing and growing. DistroWatch keeps a track of the changes and also assesses the pros and cons before adding a particular name in the list.

It is all these factors and features of the Linux operating system that has made it so successful in the enterprise level. It is not going anywhere too soon.

Therefore, if you are into network or system administration, this is the operating system that you should get acquainted with and use it.

Features of Linux Operating System

It is the features of this useful operating system and the peripherals that are customizable that helps the enterprises to upgrade their data center and networking infrastructure and performance.

This is these most significant features that is loved by the IT industry as well that makes the best of their skills using Linux to develop new technologies that are linked with DevOps such as:

  • Infrastructure,
  • Containers, and
  • SDN controllers.

Linux is made from different components very much like most of the other operating systems that resemble Unix. These are:

  • The kernel – This forms the basic foundation of the operating system which helps in sending instruction and signals to the CPU, memory and other peripherals.
  • The bootloader – This manages the booting up of the computer and is easily recognized by the splash screen that comes up in your computer.
  • Daemons – These are the services that start on the background services during booting and even when the computer is fully up. This aspect actually activates all of the available network interfaces during system boot time. DNS and time are the most common daemons.
  • The shell – This is the command line of Linux operating system and most of the networking professionals operate in it.
  • Commands – These are the powerful and controlling capabilities for the experts to make the best use of the text-based interface and even include those crucial ones that are required for system administration and networking. This is most commonly called the CLI or Command-Line Interface of the shell.
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Apart from the similarities of Linux and Unix in terms of their components, Linux can work on a diverse range of desktop environments beyond the shell. It works more like the GUIs of Windows and window-based Mac operating system.

However, contrasting these specific operating systems, Linux has all those necessary features that will enable you to set it with any one type desktop environment from a wide and varied range.

These features help the operating system to meet every need and taste of the users, no matter how diverse or complex it is.

The facts of this extensively supportive and most commonly used operating system is as interesting as its journey till date.

  • The original Linux kernel was of only 65 KB and had just a few lines of codes in it. Over time and till date there are 20, 323, 379 lines of code in it.
  • Linux runs on almost everything including servers, space rockets, submarines, smartphones and all of those five hundred fastest supercomputers that are found today.
  • In recent years, this operating system has been developed even further through collaborative approach where the major contributors for its development include some big names like Intel, Google, Huawei, Facebook, Red Hat, Samsung, and Canonical, to name a few.
  • According to the statistical data of openhub.net, this operating system is 95% written in C language and every time a new kernel is launched, it comes with a different codename such as ‘Merciless Moray’ or ‘Fearless Coyote,’ which are the most recent codenames.
  • Linux could have had a different name. Linus initially wanted to name it “FreaX” as a combination of ‘freak,’ ‘free’ and, of course, ‘Unix.’ However, the owner of the server that hosted the early code persuaded him otherwise and named it ‘Linux,’ a combination of his name ‘Linus’ and ‘Unix.’
  • Linus wrote the entire kernel of the first Linux release but only 1% of the latest kernel is written by him.
  • The first Linux was released in 1991, the second version named Linux 1.0 was launched on 14th March, 1994, and Linux 2.0 came to the market in 1996. With constant development and addition of new features, a new version of Linux kernel is released now after every 66 days.
  • Strange as it may sound, more than 13.3% of the latest kernel has a number of blank lines. This is in accordance to the strict style of coding. It also keeps the kernel tidy, ordered and efficient.
  • Linux took time to be popular. The earliest versions of this operating system did not have a license for commercial redistribution and use. It was only in 1992 when Linux 0.12 was released with GPL that made it popular and free for all to use.
  • The most sophisticated Automatic Train Control system of the Bullet Train in Japan uses Linux operating system to manage it, just as the IVI or In-Vehicle-Infotainment technology used in different automobiles of Toyota.
  • You can also run an Ubuntu phone with very little tweaks in the windowed mode as well as in several other networking mechanisms.
  • The Linux operating system is also very popular and widely used in making Hollywood films with stunning visual effects that look real such as in Titanic and Avatar that used this particular operating system for the 3D applications with the help of FOSS software.

The Linux operating system is the epitome of maturity, diverse applications, security and longevity which are the most important factors that make it the most reliable operating systems that are available today.

It is not only good to use by everyday users but also by the enterprises in any type of computing and commercial network equipment.

As for the popularity and potential of Linux operating system, it can be assessed easily by the fact that in 2000 Steve Jobs once offered a job to Linus Torvalds but he declined because the condition laid was that he would not be able to make any further development to Linux.

Another proof of success of Linux is that Microsoft, its arch rival for a long time, which tried to stop this project several times in the late 1990s and early 2000s, now uses this platform for their server business and even contributes to the development of its kernel.

Finally, Android, one of the second-most successful OS with over two billion active monthly users all over the world, according to Google, runs on the Linux kernel!

What is Linux Used for?

Linux is not at all difficult to use. It is also not highly technical. It is as user-friendly as other operating systems such as Windows.

Offering state of the art security and a whole lot of applications, and all of it for free, this open source operating system is used by developers, servers and regular users of a computer.

Therefore, after 29 years of its existence, the open source and community developed Linux operating system has now made its presence felt and dominance shown in different fields.

This is now extensively used for diverse purposes by different users in different devices such as:

  • Computers
  • Mainframes
  • Servers
  • Mobile gadgets and
  • Embedded devices.
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The best part about this operating system is that it is compatible with almost any available computer platform, whether it is ARM, SPARC, or x86.

Some of the other applications for Linux include:

  • Kubernetes, Google’s container cluster manager
  • OpenStack, the infrastructure of the cloud platform
  • Open Daylight, for Network Functions Virtualization or NFV, SDN adoptions and other Java oriented projects of Linux foundation
  • Docker, another software container program and
  • Open vSwitch or OVS, a virtual multilayer switching stack to use in virtualization settings.

When it comes to the networking sector, it has been comparatively slow in adopting Linux operating system. However, over time when businesses became excessively network oriented, there were a lot of servers and networking domains used.

This demand for newer and better domains encouraged the network developers and engineers to use the Linux operating system more extensively, thanks to the easy access to its native Linux shell.

This helped the engineers to make the best use of the available tools, features, and software that were only available for the servers initially.

These tools and software enabled them to make the necessary changes to the servers and different applications to successfully orchestrate the network services.

The Pros

1. It is free

The most significant aspect of this operating system is also the most significant benefit of using it.

This being an open source OS, it is free to download and used by anyone from common users to high-end programmers.

2. Savings

Using the Linux operating system does not only mean that it will save you hundreds of dollars but will also save you a lot of time as you will be able to modify it with basic programming knowledge easily.

3. Options

You can choose one particular version that will suit your purpose from a large variety of options, in fact millions, of apps and programs, and all of them are available for free.

4. Antivirus

You will also not need to pay for and install an antivirus in your computer once you install the Linux operating system.

This is because Linux itself is an extremely secure and safe operating system to use.

5. Development

This operating system is being developed constantly by the global community of Linux.

With every upgrade made into this system, the security features are enhanced and the system itself becomes more robust.

6. Reliability

Linux is one of the most reliable and stable operating systems available today which makes it the first choice for server companies such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, and more.

7. Performance

Whether it is used by the servers or the space stations, Linux operating system can run for a long time continuously without needing a reboot.

8. Customization

One of the most significant benefits of using the Linux operating system, especially by the programmers, is that they can use its kernel to build a more customized operating system on their own for them.

The Cons

9. Non-compatible software

Sometimes you may find a few software that may not be compatible in a computer that has Linux software installed in it.

Since the choice of a proper software is limited it will take time to find the most suitable one.

10. Unsupported hardware

There may also be some specific hardware in your computer that may not support running the Linux operating system on it in the first place.

Therefore, you should look for a proper hardware support to use the Linux operating system on your computer.

11. Incomplete operating system

Though referred to as Linux operating system, this is far from the truth. It is just a kernel and therefore it is not a complete operating system.

The missing components of a complete operating system such as user interface and system management software are added by the Linux distributions, which are different and incompatible most of the time.

12. Tuning

It is very difficult to tune, configure and personalize this operating system for a common person without any programming knowledge because it involves editing scripts and configuration of files of different texts.

13. Tech support

Though you will have a large number of Linux users in the chat rooms and discussion forums, it may be hard to get any real assistance and tech support for your specific issues.

There is no immediate help and you will have to wait for someone to answer, which, eventually, you may not understand due to your lack of technical knowledge.

Conclusion

With different features, functions and flavors, Linux is one of the most useful operating systems available today. All you have to do is make a need-based selection, download it for free and use it.