The untold story of linux


Linux has found its way in almost every device we use today from laptops,mobiles and embedded systems to enterprise servers,cloud platforms and even powers the world top super computers.When Linus Torvalds(creator of first version of linux) started working on this project,little did he knew that one day his small tiny kernel will become the basic driver of almost every major device in the world.In today’s article I am going to cover the story of how this silent deity came into existence and how it found its way into almost every device we use daily.

Interesting facts about Linux 

1)The Linux Foundation estimated the value of the Linux kernel to be $1.4 billion (USD).
2)The New York Stock Exchange(world’s largest stock exchange) and even computers doing calculations at Large Hadron Collider runs on Linux.
3)The Sunway TaihuLight,world’s fastest supercomputer as of 2016, runs on modified version of Linux kernel and so does almost all of top 500 supercomputers in the world.
4)Linux reboot system call requires some magic numbers to be passed as arguments. These magic numbers represent dates important to Linus.
Here the hex conversion of the numbers is as follows:
672274793 = 0x28121969 (Birthdate of linus torvalds)
85072278 = 0x05121996
369367448 = 0x16041998
537993216 = 0x20112000 (Birthdate of daughters of linus torvalds)

5)The LFS(Linux from scratch) Project has produced a linux system that runs an Apache web server using as small as 5 MB of disk space.
6) Linux is favorite os of major tech giants like Google,Amazon and Facebook for providing web as well as cloud services.
7)Visual effects of the oscar winning movies Titanic and Avatar were developed in 3D applications on Linux platform.
8)It’s roughly estimated that more than 10000 developers from many different countries and companies have contributed to its development till date making one of the most prominent open-source project of our time.
9)Andrew S Tannenbaum once said “Linux is Obsolete”.Yep the author of one of the most famous book on networking and operating systems once had made this statement.
10)The Linux kernel’s official mascot is a penguin named Tux, abbreviation of tuxedo.This was due to the fact when they were about to select the mascot, Torvalds did mention he was bitten by a little penguin (Eudyptula minor) on a visit to the National Zoo & Aquarium in Canberra, Australia.

History of Linux
In April 1991, Linus Torvalds, at the time a 21-year-old computer science student at the University of Helsinki, Finland started working on some simple ideas for an operating system.
He wrote the program specifically for the hardware he was using and independent of an operating system because he wanted to use the functions of his new PC with an 80386 processor. Development was done on MINIX using the GNU C compiler(Yes folks that’s one of the main reasons why you first learn C/C++ in the initial years of IT course because the core of operating systems is usually written in this languages).
On 25 August 1991, Torvalds posted the on a newsgroup on Usenet about this project and after that many people started contributing to this project.At the time, the GNU Project had created many of the components required for a free operating system, but its own kernel, GNU Hurd, was incomplete and unavailable.
By September 1991, version 0.01 of the Linux kernel was released on the FTP server of the Finnish University and Research Network (FUNET).
Linux and GNU developers worked to integrate GNU components with Linux to make a fully functional and free operating system.
In the year 1993,over 100 developers worked on the Linux kernel. With their assistance the kernel was adapted to the GNU environment, which created a large spectrum of application types for Linux. The oldest currently (as of 2015) existing Linux distribution, Slackware, was released for the first time. Later in the same year, the Debian project was established. Today it is the largest community distribution.
Adoption of Linux in production environments started to take off first in the mid-1990s in the supercomputing community, where organizations such as NASA started to replace their increasingly expensive machines with clusters of inexpensive commodity computers running Linux.
Soon companies like Dell and IBM, followed by Hewlett-Packard, started offering Linux support to escape Microsoft’s monopoly in the desktop operating system market.

Today, Linux systems are used throughout computing, from embedded systems to supercomputers,and have secured a place in server installations manly due to ease of setup using LAMP(Linux,Apache,MySQL,PHP) stack.
Bonus fact:

Apache Web server was one the main apps that spearheaded early adoption of Linux for web site hosting
In mid nineties,if you compared hosting websites using NT and hosting things using Apache Linux, building a server farm with Apache on Linux was much cheaper due to which Apache steadily gained the web server market share and as a result so did Linux.

Linux’s greatest success in the consumer market came in the mobile device market, when Google decided to develop Android using Linux as base kernel which eventually became one of the most dominant operating systems on smartphones and very popular on tablets and, more recently, on wearables.
Gaming on Linux is also on the rise with Valve showing its support for Linux and rolling out its own gaming oriented Linux distribution(SteamOS).
Current Development
Torvalds continues to direct the development of the kernel.
Linux vendors and communities combine and distribute the kernel, GNU components, and non-GNU components, with additional package management software in the form of Linux distributions like Mint,Ubuntu,openSUSE,Arch and the list goes on and on.
Linux uses a monolithic kernel internally i.e. the entire operating system is working in kernel space and is alone in supervisor mode handling process control, networking, access to the peripherals, and file systems.
This was one of the main reasons why Tannenbaum’s predicted that Linux would become outdated within a few years and replaced by GNU Hurd which was a microkernel.

In microkernel, the kernel is broken down into separate processes, known as servers. Some of the servers run in kernel space and some run in user-space. All servers are kept separate and run in different address spaces.

However this main difference between both the kernels decided there future since microkernel based architecture of GNU Hurd became difficult for developers to bring to reality in the time that they had originally envisioned which eventually led to adoption of Linux kernel over it.

Bonus Tip
Everybody who watched the hollywood film Matrix always wanted similar kind of animation on there terminal.With cmatrix your long-awaited childhood dream can be fulfilled.
Install cmatrix by running following command:
apt-get install cmatrix
Then run cmatrix command in your terminal.


Thats it for today’s post in Technoetics.Kindly share your views or topics on which you would like to read an untold story on in the comments sections.Till then enjoy your life as a developer and happy coding…
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About Saurabh Mhatre 70 Articles
Currently working in web and hybrid application development