Linux: 20 Years On

Back, on August 25, 1991 Linus Torvalds posted the following message to a newsgroup on Usenet:

"Hello everybody out there using minix -

I'm doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won't be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones.  This has been brewing since april, and is starting to get ready.  I'd like any feedback on things people like/dislike in minix, as my OS resembles it somewhat (same physical layout of the file-system (due to practical reasons) among other things). 

I've currently ported bash(1.08) and gcc(1.40), and things seem to work. This implies that I'll get something practical within a few months, and I'd like to know what features most people would want.  Any suggestions are welcome, but I won't promise I'll implement them :-)

Linus (torvalds@kruuna.helsinki.fi)

PS.  Yes - it's free of any minix code, and it has a multi-threaded fs. It is NOT protable (uses 386 task switching etc), and it probably never will support anything other than AT-harddisks, as that's all I have :-(."

September 17, 1991 Linus Torvalds uploaded Linux version 0.01 to the FTP server (ftp.funet.fi) of the Helsinki University of Technology (HUT). And Linux was born.

20 years later Linus' Linux lives on; but it did become big, professional, and portable.

There are now thousands of versions of Linux available. A quick look at DistroWatch.com shows there are over 4000 versions of Linux available.

Why so many? Because Linux is Open Source. People take Linux and re-write parts of it to meet their needs. So the next question is obviously which one is best? Look at any Linux forum and you'll see that there is no 'best Linux as it comes down to personal choice of what you want.

For example one of the main Linux distributions, Ubuntu, comes as Kubuntu (Ubuntu with the K Desktop Environment), Xubuntu (Ubuntu with the XFCE desktop environment), Edubuntu (Ubuntu for Education), Mythbuntu (A home theatre version using Myth TV), and Ubuntu Studio (Designed for multimedia editing and creation). So one 'base' distribution is tinkered with, and tweaked, to make derivatives.

The most popular versions of Linux, based on the hit count over at DistroWatch.com, are:

1. Ubuntu
2. Mint
3. Bodhi
4. Arch
5. Fedora

I personally use Ubuntu 11.04, Fedora 15, and OpenSUSE 11.2 - but as previously mentioned everyone has their own personal favorites.

So why choose Linux over Windows or OSX? For many reasons - Firstly the cost. Linux is free, Open Source, software. Download it, burn it to a CD or DVD, and install. Secondly the Linux community. Got a question about Linux then the Linux community is the place to go. From beginner questions to advanced technical issues someone somewhere knows the answer. Thirdly, and most importantly, you don't like something just change it. That is why Linux went from one person to millions worldwide. People from all over the world collaborating, working together, to improve and share even better software.

If you are running Windows Vista, or Windows 7, a lot of the features in both Operating Systems were seen in various distributions of Linux first. But don't take anybody's word that Linux is great; download a 'Live CD' or 'Live DVD' and try Linux without even changing your current Operating System. Or if you have the space on your hard drive dual boot - allowing you to choose between Windows and Linux every time you turn your machine on. But at least give it a go before dismissing it (something done way too often).

And if you have never used Linux before; don't worry. You can forget all the rumors that Linux is for nerds, geeks, or people with a degree in Computer Science. If you can handle Windows you can handle Linux.

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