Home Classroom Linux Basics Linux Basics Part 1

Linux Basics Part 1

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Linux: The Revolution OS

On 25 August 1991, a Finnish student named Linus Torvalds posted a message in an Internet newsgroup about a hobby software project he was doing. He had no idea how wrong he was regarding the content of that message. Linus’s particular message started with a disclaimer and went on confirming about the hobby nature of his project.

“I’m doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won’t be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones…

…and it probably never will support anything other than AT-harddisks, as that’s all I have :-[i]

Then 22 year old Linus, honestly believed that his project would be a fun project and just that. He was considering the name Freax for his OperatingSystem (OS). However the person responsible for allocating storage for Linus’sfiles didn’t like the name and created the space under the name Linux [ii]. Today, roughly 18 years later, we all know and call that piece of software as Linux. Linus was utterly wrong about his predictions about his own OS.

Image1:Linus Toriyalds  

Image 2: A Typical Modern Linux Desktop
Image 3: Tux – The Linux Mascot

Today Linux powers computers ranging from our common desktop and laptop PCs to the tiniest embedded computers to the fastest of Super Computers. In fact as of this writing, the worlds fastest Super Computer, named Roadrunner runs Linux. This article you are reading, is being written on a laptop computer running Linux. It is a common knowledge that Linux is the OS which runs on the most diverse collection of platforms including mobile phones, cameras, netbooks, gaming consoles, telecommunication devices, networking equipment, set-top boxes, web servers, et.

 

The Other OS, the free one

In short terms Linux has grown into one of the most widely used operating systems ever, and that is even without having a company controlling it. Linux is in fact an operating systems developed by people for people. It is one of the best examples can be given for Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). Which means, unlike most of the operating systems you might have used or heard, Linux gives you the full freedom with the software. This freedom includes the freedom to use, modify and redistribute, all which are 100% legal.

As you might already know, most of the software you download or copy freely from friends or buy cheaply from Unity Plaza are pirated copies and are illegal. However using, modifying, copying and redistributing FOSS such as Linux is perfectly legal. While Linux (or sometimes called as GNU/Linux) provides an alternative to proprietary operating systems, many other FOSS applications provides alternatives to different types of other proprietary software. Chances are you have already heard or experienced them. For example Firefox, Konqueror (web browsers), Evolution, Thunderbird (e mail), MPlayer, VLC, Amarok (media playback), Pidgin (IM), OpenOffice.org (office productivity) are some applications which are FOSS and available under Linux. More information regarding what FOSS is and their background shall be discussed in detail elsewhere in Digit.

 

Image 4: A Linux system with an E17 Desktop Environment
Image 5: A Linux system with a KDE Desktop Environment
Game Plan

After reading this far of this article, you might be wondering what to expect from this Linux series. Here is what we are going to do.

Linux itself is a powerful, secure and stable alternative to common desktop operating systems. There are thousands and thousands of users who use Linux as their desktop (day-to-day) OS, and the number is always growing. Starting from today in Digit, we shall initially focus on how to get you intimate with Linux basics, and allow you move around and get things done with a Linux system with comfort. Finally we hope to make you efficient with the art of mixing Graphical User Interface (GUI) and Command Line Interface (CLI)

The Linux basics series shall continue as tutorials. It would be much beneficial if you can practice what appears on Digit issues. The best way and the only way to properly learn Linux is to try it. So it is highly encouraged to try the examples and explore on your own. Let us now try to setup the work environment for the Linux sessions.

 

Image 6: A Linux system with a GNOME Desktop Environment
Image 7: MPlayer media player playing a video
 

A quick way to try Linux is to boot (start) your computer with a Live Disk. A live CD/DVD is a disk which can be used to boot a computer into a working environment. The hard disk is left untouched while you work within that live environment. When you are done, you can remove the disk from the drive and reboot (restart) the computer. However it should be noted that the changes you make to the live system are not persistent (i.e. the changes are lost when you reboot), thus it will give you a nice sandbox to play.

I recommend Fedora, Mint or Ubuntu live disks as they can be used for installations too. You can download the ISO images from the respective web sites and burn them. If you have speed, bandwidth or Internet connectivity problems, you can always borrow a disk from a friend and make a copy. It’s perfectly legal and even encouraged. If you still can access Internet, you can order a free Ubuntu CD from Ubuntu Shipit service. It is totally free and send a CD to your home. You will need a Launchpad account (free registration) for the ordering process.

If you wish to install Linux systems for long term use, you can find online guides for Fedora 9 / 10, Ubuntu 8.04 / 8.10 installations. If your Linux distribution version is different, try to follow the above links for general guidelines. For your convenience, please avoid installing outdated versions (Eg: Fedora version before 9, Ubuntu version before 8.04, Mint version before 5, All older Red Hat version like 8, 9).

 

In March

That is it for the introductory. I hope that you will have already looked into Linux systems and probably looking for more by the time Digit March issue comes out. I hope to discuss a bit of Linux history, why there are different version of Linux systems (Eg: Fedora, Ubuntu, Mint, SuSE, Debian, Gentoo, etc.), then log you into the system using GUI/CLI and try a few Linux commands.

[1] http://groups.google.co.uk/group/comp.os.minix/browse_thread/thread/76536d1fb451ac60/b813d52cbc5a044b

[2] Torvalds, Linus and David Diamond, Just for Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary, 2001, ISBN 0-06-662072-4

[3] http://www.top500.org/system/9707

 

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Gaveen is a Linux System Administrator with several years of industry experience and is a strong FOSS promoter. He is pending graduation from University of Wolverhampton and also holds a certification from Red Hat. He also conducts Linux trainings with Red Hat training partners. Being highly enthusiastic about computing, he supports a keen interest in Ruby programming too. When not distracted by his wide range of interests including reading, music, cricket, etc.,he regularly blogs at Gaveen's Blog

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