Linux’s Open Source Model
Linux is a kernel or an operating system built upon an open-source model. So, what’s open-source? Software is considered open source when its source code remains available for free. You can modify and redistribute open source products as per your own requirements. The source code of open-source software is released under certain software license terms. Depending on the license, you can download, change, and publish your version, also known as a fork, back to the open-source software community.
Not only that, but you can design its content or the document also. The open-source model inspires co-creation and open collaboration. The ultimate goal of open-source development is peer production or mass collaboration. Many people join hands towards a shared outcome in such a collaborative process.
In the software industry, the open-source movement was brought forward to overcome the limitations of proprietary software, also called closed-source software. As you might know, proprietary code doesn’t remain entirely available to the public. Such software is non-free. The publisher or the maintainer of the software reserves some rights of licenses to modify, use, share the software, or share the modifications related to the software. Sometimes non-free software includes patent rights. A software patent can be defined as a patent of a portion of the software, such as software code, user interface, algorithm, program libraries, etc. The open-source movement clarified terms, like licensing, consumer issues, domain, etc. Whether it’s the design or blueprint of the product, universal access is possible under the free license of open-source. Open-source garnered popularity with the uprise of the Internet.
Linux as Operating System
Similar to Mac OS, iOS, or Windows, Linux also is an operating system. Did you know one of the most powerful platforms, Android, has been made on Linux?
So, what’s an Operating System? An operating system is the system software that manages and establishes communication among computer hardware peripherals and other software. It manages all the hardware resources attached to your computer, launches and handles computer applications, and provides a user interface. It provides the required input to the processor. And gives the output to a connected hardware display device. The software can’t function without an operating system, often shortened to OS.
As an operating system, Linux can perform almost any task successfully. A collection of software builds an operating system, and each software performs a specific function. Linux is often chosen for web servers, such as Apache, scientific computational tasks, network operations, running databases, endpoint and desktop computing, and running mobile devices based on Android.
Different Use Cases of Linux
Linux can be found in different use cases, such as Server OS, Desktop OS, Headless server OS, Embedded device or appliance OS, Network OS, Cloud OS, and Software development OS. Below are brief descriptions of each one of these.
Linux is often used as a Server OS for file servers, web servers, email servers, database servers, and other shared servers. Linux is most frequently used as for server applications. Linux is designed for high-volume and multithreading applications, security and remote administration which makes it great on the server side.
Linux is used for personal productivity computing when used as a Desktop OS. Linux provides a free and open-source desktop environment for its dedicated users. Desktop OSes are mainly used for commercial purposes.
What about the Desktop Environment? A Desktop Environment or DE is created with many programs in your operating system that share a single graphical user interface. Graphical User Interface or GUI is also sometimes called a graphical shell. The desktop environment was mainly used with personal computers until mobile computing was well recognized in IT. Desktop GUIs let you access and edit files. However, a command-line interface or CLI is used to have complete control over the OS.
A desktop environment can typically consist of windows, icons, folders, desktop widgets, toolbars, etc. Also, you can find flexible features, like drag and drop and others to make it truly look like a “desktop.”
Linux is used in embedded systems because it is free and does not require a license for each device made. Because linux is customizable, secure and high performant its great for embedded systems. Appliances that use Linux as an Embedded OS are automotive entertainment systems, network file system appliances, and household appliances.
Linux is used as a Network OS when used for routers, switches, home networking devices, domain name system servers, etc. For example, Cisco’s Internetwork Operating System uses Linux kernel. Cisco IOS is a widely leveraged network infrastructure software. It operates on various active systems, such as small home office routers, some largest service provider networks’ core systems, etc.
Linux is used as the Cloud OS for implementing cloud technologies. Some major cloud computing service providers rely on Linux for their desktops, cloud servers, and other services.
Software Development OS
Linux is programmer friendly and is the most common platform for software developers to feel at home. Because linux is an open system, developers can understand its workings in total. Linux comes with bash shell which is easy to operate it; a full set of open source editors; source code control using Git; automation using Ansible; and compilers for free in all popular programming languages.
The major components of Linux’s architecture are bootloader, kernel, daemons, init system, system tools, developer tools, system libraries, end-user tools, hardware layer, and Linux shell. In this article, we have explained each of these components briefly. Also, below is a diagrammatic representation of the Linux architecture.
The bootloader is the software that handles the boot process and starts the Linux kernel. It’s usually a splash screen that shows up and ultimately disappears while booting into the OS. The bootloader can manage systems developed to boot more than a single OS.
Linux Kernel is the innermost component of the OS. This establishes communication between software and hardware devices. The kernel manages system resources as well. Linux kernel has four duties to do: device management, process management, memory management, and managing system calls.
Linux kernel is responsible for device management. A computer is made of various devices, such as a CPU, sound cards, memory unit, graphics cards, etc. The Linux kernel stores information regarding all these devices. So, if you want to find out which device is made for what function and how you can manipulate that device to get the best results, you can check it all inside the kernel. Also, it’s the Linux kernel that manages communication among hardware devices. The kernel has rules to be followed by each of the devices.
When it comes to process management, the kernel prioritizes the processes before the CPU handles other processes. And kernel assigns a good amount of time to them. Linux kernel also handles ownership and security-related data.
Memory management is another function of the Linux kernel. The kernel keeps a record of the amount of used and unused memory. It makes sure that processes don’t manipulate information of each other through virtual memory addresses. The Linux kernel manages system calls. A Linux programmer writes queries or asks the Linux kernel to do a certain task.
Daemons are the background services, such as sound, scheduling, printing, etc. These background processes begin either during boot or after logging into your computer’s desktop. All most every daemon ends with the letter “d,” such as httpd, sshd, etc.
Init system is a sub-system of Linux. It bootstraps the user space and gets charged with controlling daemons. Systemd is one of the major init systems. It pulled a lot of controversies as well. After the initial booting is passed on from the bootloader, the systemd manages the boot process.
Linux System Libraries
Linux has system libraries that help in working in the Linux kernel. These are the special programs that let you access the features of the kernel. A Linux kernel is triggered to do a task, and applications do this triggering. Applications should know the way of placing a system request.
Every kernel has a unique set of system calls. There is a standard procedures library that establishes communication with the Linux kernel. Any operating system has to support these standards. Then these standards get transferred to the system calls of that respective OS. Glibc or GNU C library is the most common system library for Linux. Other Linux system libraries include libcurl, libc, libcrypt, etc.
Linux has its own utility tools. These are nothing but some simple commands. You can access files, edit or manipulate data in files and directories, change file locations, and do many other things using these commands.
Linux Development Tools
Apart from the above three tools, you have some additional libraries and tools that help update your system. These are the development tools. Development tools for Linux are called Toolchain. Programmers usually create a toolchain. Developers produce a working application with the help of a toolchain.
End-user tools are the special tools that make your system unique. End tools are more required for the user than the operating system itself. Linux end-user tools include office suites, graphic design tools, multimedia players, browsers, etc.
Linux has a hardware layer. This is made of several devices, such as HDD, CPU, printers, RAM, etc.
Linux shell works as an interface between the Linux kernel and the user. The shell takes commands from the user and then runs the Linux kernel’s functions. Based on the different types of OSes, the shell is available in two categories: command-line shells and graphical shells. The command-line shells work for the command-line interface, and the graphical shells facilitate the GUI. The GUI shells are slower than command-line interface shells.
Examples of Linux shells are Bourne Shell or BASH, C Shell or Csh, Korn Shell or Ksh, etc.
How Linux Works
The working of Linux is quite similar to UNIX. Linux supports a good range of hardware devices, such as phones, laptops, supercomputers, tablets, etc.
A Linux-based OS is made with the Linux kernel and applicable software packages. These manage hardware resources. Also, Linux includes core GNU tools. GNU tools manage the kernel resources, configure the security and system performance, do software installation, and much more. These tools being packaged together make the operating system work.
How to Use Linux
You can use Linux either with an interactive user interface or the terminal itself. So, what’s about the Linux terminal? The terminal is the command-line interface. To use the terminal, press CTRL+ALT+T. To explore its functionality, use the application button from your desktop in the bottom left corner.
Various Linux distros have varied user interfaces. However, all the commands behave in the same way for every distribution.
About Linux Distribution
You might have heard the term “distribution” or “distro” earlier in the Linux world. So, what’s a Linux distribution? A Linux distribution is nothing but a version or flavor of Linux. Linux has various flavors for its vast user base. Whether you’re new to Linux or an experienced user, and whether you need Linux for commercial or non-commercial purposes, there’s a distro for everyone. And almost all of the distributions can be freely downloaded, burned onto a USB drive or a disk, and installed finally.
Every Linux distribution comes with its very own desktop environment. When it comes to Linux distributions, from the cutting edge user interfaces, such as Elementary OS’s Pantheon and GNOME, to traditional desktop environments, such as openSUSE’s KDE – Linux users get a lot of options to choose from.
Some of the most popular Linux desktop distributions are Ubuntu, Elementary OS, Debian, Solus, etc. And Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), CentOS, Ubuntu Server, and SUSE Enterprise Linux are some of the best Linux server distributions. You might wonder if the server distros are free. Right? Well, CentOcentosS and Ubuntu Server are free distributions, RHEL and SUSE Enterprise Linux have an associated price. But don’t worry because, with the associated price, customer support remains included.
So, before choosing a distribution, you must find out these answers – 1) whether you need the Linux distribution for new or experienced Linux users, 2) whether you need a server distro or a desktop, and 3) whether you want to opt for a modern or a traditional desktop interface.
You can visit this page to get updates about the latest releases in Linux distributions.
Advantages of Linux
So, why should you use Linux? Linux has some advantages over other competing operating systems, like Windows and macOS. Linux is extremely configurable. It’s made on top of a modular design to let users customize their versions of Linux. Linux users can either select their choice of Linux distributions for particular applications or adopt a distribution to incorporate kernel configurations.
For various purposes, Linux can be optimized. One can optimize Linux for computation performance, networking performance, implementing Linux on particular hardware devices, and implementing Linux on systems having limited storage capacity and computing resources.
There are different features of Linux that make it unique among different OSs. You can definitely try Linux if you want a clean operating system free from malware, slowdowns, costly repairs, system crashes, and other troubles. Below are some reasons why Linux could be perfect for you.
Free and Open Source
Linux is a free operating system. And it belongs to the open-source category. In open-source, the source code comes with the compiled version. You can modify it as per your needs and requirements. It gives you the freedom to change code, run the program, and distribute its copies.
However, this isn’t the case for other operating systems. Modifying their compiled source code is tough. That’s why Linux is known to be an OS for the people, by the people.
Supports Security Options
Linux supports different security options to keep your system safe from unwanted vulnerabilities. It keeps your data protected. Linux is the most favorable for developers mainly due to its security feature.
Linux isn’t fully safe. But, each of the applications requires the authorization of the admin user. Until the admin gives the password to access virus can’t be executed. And the Linux operating systems don’t need any antivirus.
There is a Linux development community worldwide constantly dedicated to finding ways of enhancing security. With every upgrade, Linux becomes more robust and secure.
Ideal for Developers
Linux is ideal for developers. It supports most functional programming languages, such as Java, Python, C/C++, Ruby, etc. Also, a wide range of dev applications is supported by Linux. Linux terminal is perfect for coding purposes.
Linux’s package manager helps coders in understanding how to do what. Bash Scripting is another vital functional feature used by programmers, users, programming enthusiasts, and developers. The SSH support also manages the servers efficiently.
Suitable for Server Environments
Linux is a favorable choice for system administrators. Linux has stability, and it’s reliable. Hence server environments are usually based upon Linux freeware. Tech giants like Amazon, Google, and Facebook use Linux in their servers. A Linux server could run without a reboot for years.
Linux is Flexible
Linux is quite flexible. It gives excellent performance in embedded systems and desktop applications. Linux is everywhere, from wristwatches to supercomputers and from computers to refrigerators.
It finds extensive use in PCs, laptops, phones, and tablets. Further, it provides easy customization options.
Perfect for the Beginners
If you’re a beginner, you must try Linux. With some knowledge of programming, anyone can modify it. Linux presents millions of applications, software, and programs to choose from. Linux distributions recommended for beginners are Ubuntu, Elementary OS, Pop!_OS, Peppermint OS, Linux Mint, Linux Lite, etc.
Is Linux for You?
New Linux users often tend to consider Linux a heavily difficult and technical operating system. But the fact is, today, Linux has become a lot more user-friendly and customizable than it was a couple of years ago. You need to have a hands-on to know if Linux is for you.
There are thousands of the best Linux software and operating systems available to choose from. They offer state-of-the-art applications and security features, all of which are free.
This article presents a beginners’ guide to Linux. From this write-up, you learned about Linux’s open-source model, the Major components, how Linux works, how to use Linux, Linux distributions, the advantages of using Linux, and finally, if Linux would be good for you. I have tried to explain each of these in detail so that it helps you understand Linux better.
I hope this article presents an informative guide towards Linux for you.