14 Oct 2012

Linux: Read this first

  • Written by 
Linux - Tux the Penguin Linux - Tux the Penguin lewing@isc.tamu.edu and The GIMP if someone asks.


With Lightworks for Linux in development, Phil Rhodes answers the tricky questions about Linux that everyone assumes you knew the answers to anyway.

I write this article with a degree of trepidation, because if anything is universally accepted about Linux, it's that almost nothing about it is universally accepted, and no matter what I say, someone will argue with me. We'll start by defining what we're talking about which, with any luck, shouldn't be too controversial.

In the very strictest sense, Linux is a kernel, the core part of an operating system that is responsible for  fundamental tasks such as the management of memory, low-level control of peripherals such as hard disks and USB ports, and the sharing of processing time between programs that allows modern computers to appear to do several things at once.

It's all about the Kernel

Given this purpose, it's clear that the behaviour and performance of the kernel is critical to the sort of modern computing experience that most people are used to. Even so, the kernel is only part of the story – the parts of an operating system with which we're most familiar, the windows, icons, menus and pointers, are quite separate. Some cellphones for instance, also use a Linux kernel, and the experience of using any of them is wildly different to that provided by what most people call Linux on a desktop computer – so different that we don't even call it Linux, we call it Android.

In any computer system, the most basic, fundamental levels of usable software include things like the software compiler, a text editor, and associated tools, with which other things can be created.  In most Linux installations, these things are generally provided by, or at least closely based on the work of, the GNU project. Founded in the early 80s, GNU was intended to create a free equivalent to the then-popular Unix. By 1991, when Linus Torvalds released the first version of the Linux kernel, GNU still lacked one of its own, and the two have since been closely associated. GNU is the reason so many Linux commands begin with a G.

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Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes is a Cinematographer, Technologist, Writer and above all Communicator. Never afraid to speak his mind, and always worth listening to, he's a frequent contributor to RedShark.

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