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Feature: Linux

Note: Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds.

On August 25, 1991, a Helsinki, Finland university student named Linus Torvalds announced he was writing an experimental Unix-based operating system for fun. He chose to make his source code freely available to anyone who wanted it, and now the rest is history. Many people around the world have helped to improve the Linux operating system, and distributors such as Red Hat, Inc. (NYSE:RHT) and Novell (NASDAQ:NOVL) have packaged the Linux kernel along with other software to make it easier to install and use Linux.

I first learned about the Linux operating system in college in 1995. The Computer Science Department at the University of California, Riverside had a computer lab consisting of a handful of 90 MHz Pentiums running MS-DOS 6 and Windows 3.1. The computers were rebuilt to run Windows 95 and Linux in 1995. I was just about to give FreeBSD a try on my personal home computer, but installed Slackware Linux instead because I wanted to have the same operating systems as the department. This became a good decision when it turned out that many of the classes I would take in the years that followed would require programming in Linux instead.

In the undergraduate operating systems class in 1996, my partner and I chose to document the TTY drivers in Linux 1.3.x as our class project. For several years after the conclusion of the class, we received many requests from people around the world for copies of our documentation, which we wrote in LaTeX. The requests have stopped now, which is a good thing, since the TTY drivers in current Linux kernels are completely different from when we looked at the source code. Just in case someone is still interested in what we wrote, the document and its accompanying xfig figures are still available for download.

In the last few years, Linux has really been in the press. A company called The SCO Group sued IBM in 2003. SCO claimed that it owns the source code for Unix and that IBM had taken some of the source code it licensed from SCO and added it to Linux. It further claimed that Linux would not have become usable by businesses if IBM hadn't made that illegal action. Months later, SCO demanded that Linux users pay approximately $800 per processor or switch to SCO's version of Unix, called OpenServer. Failure to pay would result in a lawsuit. Since then, SCO has sued DaimlerChrysler and AutoZone, while Novell has sued SCO over ownership of Unix and Red Hat has sued SCO to try to have a court declare that Red Hat has not violated SCO's copyrights and trademarks.

As of Fall 2007, the judge in the case has ruled that Novell is the rightful owner of Unix and not SCO. Due to SCO's bankruptcy, further action in the case has been stayed. For more information on the case, see the Wikipedia article.

As of 2016, the newest stable version of the Linux kernel is version 4.4.1. The newest version of the previous stable Linux kernel is 4.3.5. The latest longterm version of the Linux kernel is 4.1.17. See The Linux Kernel Archives for the latest kernel source code and patches.

For the latest news about the Linux operating system as well as the latest versions of software for Linux, visit the following web sites:

A couple of sites that offer free or paid assistance with Linux:

Linux Documentation Project
Question Exchange