The Different Flavors of Linux

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The Different Flavors of Linux
CIS 155: Operating Systems
6/7/2012

Depending on your personal preference and need, there are a variety of operating systems available to users today. Whether it’s MAC OS, UNIX, Windows, etc they each have their own aspects and appeal that draw users in. The spotlight however, for the duration of this paper will be placed on a derivative of the UNIX family of operating system, Linux. The topics covered will include the history to include a handful of versions (distributions).

Beginning with the history of Linux, in 1984, Richard Stallman, a programmer that was working for the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, left his position with a vision of software that was free to use, distribute and modify and created Gnu’s not Unix (GNU). In 1991, a hacker by the name of Linus Benedict Torvalds who was a Computer Science student at the University of Helsinki decided to branch out on his own. Originally utilizing a “Minix” operating system, Linus, frustrated with ignored requests to the creator to modify the platform was inspired by the GNU project and decided to create his own kernel but after completion had no programs to run on it. The operating system then came to life through correspondence via the internet between GNU in Massachusetts and Linus in Finland. The first version of Linux 0.01 came in September of 1991 and was only usable to people with a strong programming background. The programmers that were able to utilize Linux began offering their help in the means of suggestions and modified code to improve the system to work with various drivers and components causing the version numbers to shoot up. Later on Linux was licensed under the “GNU General Public License” to ensure the source code would remain free to utilize. This interest also sparked some negative comments from Minix creator Andrew Tanenbaum who stated that the Linux operating system was “obsolete” however, the Linux following continued to grow.

With the following Linux had gathered along with its stability and versatility, vendors such as Red Hat began looking at building software and distributions to make the operating system more familiar to a broader variety of users. This then lead to the development of graphical user interfaces (GUI’s) such as the X-Windows system, KDE and GNOME. Also, during this time the Los Alamos National Laboratory began utilizing Linux in a clustered environment to run 68 PC’s as a supercomputer which only cost one tenth the amount of a comparable system and was ranked the 315th most powerful supercomputer in the world at the time. Since then 4 of the top 5 supercomputers are running a Linux OS.

Moving into available distributions, there are many different options to choose from again based on personal preference. The reason for the variety in versions is due to the core values of Linux which make it free to distribute and use, in turn allowing organizations and people to modify it in a manner that meets their requirements. The covered distributions will be the most popular workstation and server Linux distributions.

Before selecting which version you wish to use however, the first step will be to determine what you need out of your operating system and how you wish to use it. This decision also includes how you wish to access your Linux operating system. The four methods available for use are dual boot, fresh install, live cd and virtual. The dual boot method is useful for users who require pieces of both Linux and another operating system such as windows. During the startup process of their system the user will be able to select which operating system to boot to and then have access to that platform. This method however, is becoming less popular due to the rise in virtualization. For a user who wishes to operate a Linux virtual machine within their existing operating system, this would be the method to use. Another...
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