Linux: Attack of the Killer Penguin

For all its humble beginnings, Linux has sure received a lot of press lately. For those who are not familiar with Linux (pronounced leen'-iks), it is, in short, a competitor to Microsoft Windows.

Based on the Unix platform, Linux is generally credited to Linus Torvalds, who wrote the kernel (brain) of Linux back in 1991 (the now-famous penguin logo came much later). The unique thing about Linux is that it is essentially free, under the GNU license terms. That is, anyone is allowed to use and modify it as long as they give away the result. Today, many developers all over the world maintain and improve Linux, which has greatly aided its stability, security, and speed. However as a result there are many versions of Linux available.

Probably the most common use for Linux to date is for web servers. Combined with the Apache web server (also free under the GNU license), Linux provides excellent performance at a minimal cost. In 2001 IBM even began heavily promoting Linux as a file and application server running on their hardware.

So is Linux ready to take over your office? Probably not yet. One weakness is the lack of applications compared to the millions of Windows software titles. Another is hardware support. However, this is changing rapidly as more companies seem to be throwing their weight behind Linux to counteract Microsoft's dominance.

Linux is more immediately useful as a file server, web server, or other server, instead of Windows 2000. This scenario still lets users run Windows and Windows applications on their workstations. Of course there are tradeoffs, but with Windows 2000 priced at almost $1,000 for 5 users, "free" is a very compelling alternative.

January 2002

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