Introduction to Linux

Linux is no longer only for hobbyist hackers who dig so deep into computer code that it gets caught under their fingernails like gardening soil. With the success of a growing number of companies like Red Hat that develop and package open source programs, Linux has found its way onto the servers and desktops of major corporations as well as personal computers. It offers one of the most powerful and reliable systems available—and as an open source system, it can be altered to meet the needs of its users.

Although you may already know enough about Linux to understand it's pronounced with a short "i", here's where you can learn more.

Linux: The Basics

What is Linux?

Linux is an operating system that can be downloaded free and "belongs" to an entire community of developers, not one corporate entity. In other words, anyone from professional software developers to hobbyist computer hackers can access and make changes to the Linux kernel—all the information about Linux is open and available to everyone. That's why Linux is known as "open source" or "free software," because there is nothing secret about this system. This freedom also allows companies to sell and distribute Linux on CD-ROM or by other means, although those companies must keep their code open to the public.

With more and more people looking for an alternative to Windows, Linux has recently grown in popularity and is quickly becoming a favorite among major corporations and curious desktop users. Not only does it give users a choice of operating systems, it also proves itself valuable with its power, flexibility, and reliability.

How did Linux get started?

The concept of open source programming has been around for many years—its roots stem from universities that needed to be able to share information as well as allow students and developers to adapt programs to meet their needs. In 1984, Richard Stallman, a researcher at the MIT AI Lab, started a project he called GNU to counter the fast-moving trend toward proprietary, fee-based software. Stallman, who remains an open advocate of open source, believes that making source code available to anyone who wants it is integral to furthering computer science and innovation.

This concept served as the basis of Linux development, the brainchild of Linus Torvalds. When Torvalds began developing Linux in 1991, he was a student at the University of Helsinki and originally targeted Linux at the Intel 386 (although it is now one of the most widely ported operating systems available for PCs). Torvalds wanted to write a new version of UNIX, so he and a group of programmers combined talents and created a core operating system called Linux.

Linux in Business

Why does Linux make a good operating system for a business?

Linux is the fastest-growing server-side operating system today, and it's making inroads on the desktop. Unlike proprietary operating systems, Linux can be installed and upgraded for free. This makes it extremely attractive to those businesses that don't have a high budget but still want an excellent operating system. But cost is not the main factor. Many companies, large and small, prefer Linux simply because of its reliability: Linux can run for months, even years, without having to be rebooted. And because the source code is open, bugs can be fixed quickly and easily without having to wait for proprietary vendors to issue fixes on a schedule that suits them more than their customers. Businesses also value open source software because it allows groups of companies to collaborate on software problems and issues without being concerned about an anti-trust lawsuit. Linux programs can be installed on practically any machine—including older, outdated computers—and offer business owners a degree of flexibility they wouldn't find with other operating systems.

What types of businesses are currently associated with Linux?

Several major corporations, like Burlington Coat Factory, IBM, Netscape, Oracle and Sun have all seen the benefits of Linux. Other companies that use Linux in their day-to-day operations include Sony Electronics Inc., Sallie Mae Inc., Mercedes-Benz and several educational and research institutions around the world.

How do I become certified in Linux?

Red Hat offers training and certification programs for several different skill levels. The Developer Training Courses are hands-on and lab intensive, giving class members practical skills for developing Linux-based software and applications. The Red Hat Certified Engineer program serves as a metric of use to individuals and employers to assess individual preparation for roles involving Red Hat Linux.