- Brief Introduction
- Supported Platforms
- Who's using it?
- Why using it?
- Where to get help
Linux is a highly stable, very fast, fully-fledged unix-type operating
system, programmed by a community of thousands of people on the
internet. It is distributed by the terms of the GNU Public
License, which means it is free. It is used by
several million people, organizations and companies
world-wide (see also The Linux
- That's "just" the kernel. A kernel is a piece of software, which
controls the way, in which the hardware and the software
communicate. Easy enough, right? Wrong. This is a rather
complex task. Every OS (Operating System), has a kernel. It is,
however, quite unusual to name the OS after the kernel.
- Operating System
- The kernel by itself is of no use to (nearly) anybody. In order
to be usable, an OS needs some more essential programs. The
program "init" for instance is very important, since
the system won't be able to boot up without it.
- While it is perfectly possible to use a Linux-system without
a GUI (graphical user interface), few want to miss its comfort.
Today, most GUIs are seamlessly integrated with the OS. Still,
the GUI is not part of the OS, but a program by itself. On
Linux, as on almost every Unix, this is the X-Server aka
X Windowing System aka X11.
- To actually use the system for anything else then tinkering
around, you need applications. Those are, for instance,
text processors, web browsers, book keeping software, games,
graphic programs, audio editors, etc., etc.
- Take all of the above together, and you get a distribution.
Linux distributors are independent organisations, who basicly
collect software for Linux and, well, distribute it. More about different
Since a lot of screenshots need a lot of space and a lot of
bandwidth, we put them on a different
- Either 32 or 64 bit, depending on architecture.
- Multitasking: several programs running at once.
- Multiuser: several users working on the same machine at once.
- Multiplatform: runs on many different CPUs.
- Multiprocessing: SMP for up to 16 processors.
- Clustering: Clusters up to an unknown size (520 machines work already).
- Memory protection so a process can't bring the whole system down.
- Load on demand executables: only those parts of a program which are
really needed are being loaded.
- Virtual memory using paging (only parts of processes get swapped
out on disk)
- A unified memory pool for user programs and disk cache, so
that all free memory can be used for caching.
- Dynamically linked shared libraries (DLL's). Static libraries
too, of course.
- For the most part compatible with Unix (POSIX, System V, and BSD)
at the source level. Compliance to Unix98-Standard is expected
soon to come.
- POSIX job control. QNX-style scheduling is possible as well.
- Non-fragmenting filesystem "Extended 2" for filenames of 255 characters
and partitions up to 4 Terabyte. Supports hard- and softlinks.
- Support for about a dozen filesystems, among them VFAT/FAT32,
Windows NT/NTFS, MacOS/HFS, QNX fs, BSD 4.3 ufs, Coda and
- Up to 64 virtual consoles.
- All source code is available, including all of the kernel and
- Fast. Really fast! And probably the fastest 100Mbit-Ethernet TCP/IP code on earth.
- More pc-hardware drivers compared to any other unix; including and not
limited to soundcards, ethernet-cards, ATM-cards, appletalk-devices,
TV-grabbers, joysticks, ISDN-adaptors, multiport-cards etc.
- A lot of network protocols such as TCP/IP v4 and v6, IPX/SPX, TokenRing,
Ethertalk, Appletalk etc.
- Masses of networking features, as masquerading(NAT), tunneling, forwarding,
routing, firewalling and so on.
Intel 80386: Personal computers
with Intel, AMD and Cyrix processors based on the X86-technology.
Intel 8086: There
is a project to port Linux to the 8086. Not quite finished yet.
Power PC 604: Power Macintosh
and compatibles. Note that there are two Linux-versions for the PPC: a
native PPC-version and a Mach microkernel version.
68020: Amiga or Atari ST with an 68020 need a coprocessor (or an
68030). This port works on Sun 3/80 and most Classic Macintoshs as well.
68000: MicroLinux for 68000 processors without MMU. PalmPilot,
Amiga 500, Atari ST and various embedded Systems.
MIPS R3000 Some
Decstations. Maybe Nintendo 64.
Alphastations and clones. This port still has performance problems.
and above. As well as Ultrasparc Processors. This is one of the
fastest and most reliable ports.
Linux needs 4 Megabytes of RAM at the very least, respectively 8
Megabytes if you're using X-Windows. 128 Megabytes are recommended.
It is possible to set up a minimum system on less than 50 Megabytes
of harddisk, but 1 Gigabyte is recommended. Minimum CPU on an x86 PC
is an 80386SX.
A lot of private persons use it for their workstations; particularly students,
system administrators and programmers. Linux is also widely used among companies,
which use it as server for various purposes like mail, www, fileserver,
firewall or as application server. Some companies also use Linux as
network manageable thin client. Linux is particularly popular among internet
providers. Take a look at Swiss companies and Linux.
It's cheaper, faster and more scalable than a lot of the commercial
systems. Overall costs are low, so the price performance ratio is
great. Better hardware support compared to most other unix systems.
Availability of source code. Bugs are fixed really quickly, very often within
hours after detection.
You will get free support through numerous internet-newsgroups,
mailinglists, uncounted www-pages as well as the possibility to send e-mail
directly to the programmers. You may also contact your local Linux
Users Group. If you need commercial support, you can turn in to one of
the various distributors or to a company using and supporting
Linux. Some of these might be found on the Swiss
companies and linux page.
Almost everything that works on any Unix will work on Linux as
well. Including Netscape Navigator/Communicator. The oncoming 86Open
standard will also define a common binary format for virtually all of
the X86-based unices, including SCO, Unixware, Solaris/X86, BSD and
Linux of course.
The whole GNU
software, including Emacs, the Gimp and the various GNU compilers,
are already ported to Linux.
There are several office-type applications available on Linux,
There are several databases as well.
have already been ported to Linux.
When it comes to games, the very newest one fresh from the
shop is unfortunately missing. The situation is getting better, though.
iD Software will port all of their new
games to Linux. A visit at Loki might
be helpful as well. Their list of
ported games has grown quite big.