Before answering the question, we ll introduce its creator and the chronological events that occurred in the development of Linux.
Linus Benedict Torvalds was studying at the University of Helsinki in Finland when his interest in computing made him curious about operating systems and how he could improve upon existing operating systems such as UNIX. The development of the Linux kernel (its core ) began , and in October 1991 version 0.02 was released onto the Internet by Linus Torvalds, the author and trademark holder, with the now famous posting:
From: torvalds@klaava.Helsinki.FI (Linus Benedict Torvalds) Newsgroups: comp.os.minix Subject: Free minix-like kernel sources for 386-AT Message-ID: 1991Oct5.054106.4647@klaava.Helsinki.FI Date: 5 Oct 91 05:41:06 GMT Organization: University of Helsinki Do you pine for the nice days of minix-1.1, when men were men and wrote their own device drivers? Are you without a nice project and just dying to cut your teeth on a OS you can try to modify for your needs? Are you finding it frustrating when everything works on minix? No more all-nighters to get a nifty program working? Then this post might be just for you :-) As I mentioned a month(?) ago, I'm working on a free version of a minix-lookalike for AT-386 computers. It has finally reached the stage where it's even usable (though may not be depending on what you want), and I am willing to put out the sources for wider distribution. It is just version 0.02 (+1 (very small) patch already), but I've successfully run bash/gcc/gnu-make/gnu-sed/compress etc under it. Sources for this pet project of mine can be found at nic.funet.fi (220.127.116.11) in the directory /pub/OS/Linux. The directory also contains some README-file and a couple of binaries to work under linux (bash, update and gcc, what more can you ask for :-). Full kernel source is provided, as no minix code has been used. Library sources are only partially free, so that cannot be distributed currently. The system is able to compile "as-is" and has been known to work. Heh. Sources to the binaries (bash and gcc) can be found at the same place in /pub/gnu.
As the posting states, the binaries and source code were released under the open source banner using the GNU General Public License, which ensures that the source code would be free to all. This was a very deliberate act; Linus wanted people to use and test the code, to improve upon it, and extend it as they wished. The extensions and modifications were released onto the Internet. In essence, thousands of people were working across the world on creating the Linux operating system and applications that ran on it ”free for all to use and distribute.
The Linux operating system program, also known as the kernel, performs many of the same functions as UNIX and the many Windows variants, but it is distinguishable by its power, features, and flexibility. It wasn t the first open source application to be released under the open source movement, but its power and accessibility have led Linux to evolve and continue to evolve to this date into an operating system that rivals commercial operating systems such as Microsoft Windows. The result is that Linux has become the standard platform for open source applications, of which many thousands exist, such as those available from SourceForge ( www.sourceforge.net ), KDE ( www.apps.kde.com ), and Gnome ( www.gnome.org ) sites.
Some of the features available to a Linux distribution and its applications that are either included in the distribution or downloadable from the Internet are as follows :
Graphical user interface (GUI): The interface between you, the user, and the applications, including the operating system, is made enormously easier by a point-and-click graphical interface such as those found on Microsoft Windows and the Macintosh. Unlike these two operating systems, you are free to choose which GUI you wish to use, such as KDE or Gnome, and Fedora goes further by providing Bluecurve , a common theme for these environments.
Network support: Linux can be installed as a workstation or as a server and supports a variety of networking applications. It can act as a file server and print server, or connect and use other Network resources, even those that are non-Linux such as Microsoft Windows or UNIX.
Office productivity: A number of office applications are installed by default, such as word processors, spreadsheets, or presentation managers. The OpenOffice suite of applications is one such example and is covered in more detail in Chapter 4.
Internet applications: Linux is released with fast and efficient Internet servers, such as File Transfer Protocol (FTP), Web servers, domain naming servers (DNS), and mail servers.
The reason it is so successful is that, despite being free, it is a fully functional, extremely powerful operating system with all the applications you could ever wish for. If an application does exist, the development tools and languages required to develop an application are also free, that s assuming that such a project is not already underway by one of the virtual development teams across the globe.
So the Linux software is free, and the numerous applications or components that have been developed for it by those around the world are also free. Complexities are introduced when trying to install the operating system, its components , and applications. To address the problem, commercial vendors saw the opportunity to gather the software in a format that could be freely distributed and even developed an installation program that took some of the pain out of installing the software on the various computer configurations that exist, very much as Microsoft Windows does. Some of these vendors include Caldera, Mandrake, Debian, and the topic of this book, Fedora. These are all known as Linux distributions .