While Linux is currently not the best desktop OS out there, it is
moving at tremendous speed.
The GNOME and KDE projects started from nothing a few years ago,
to full featured desktops with hundreds of applications now. Their
easy to use and cool looking graphical libraries make them a
natural graphical interface for the user. Nearly every domain of
desktop computing has applications available for Linux. From office
products, to personal information programs, you will most likely
find what you are looking for in the thousands of available
graphical and text based applications on the web.
While RedHat Linux comes with over 600 packages, Debian comes
with even more, and sites like http://freshmeat.net and http://metalab.unc.edu have thousands
of programs which can be compiled on a Linux system. While a few
companies still refuse to support Linux, like Apple with the
Quicktime player, I'm sure that this will change very quickly, with
the growing popularity of Linux.
...In the business
Linux makes even more sense in the enterprise. Ten years ago, only
the biggest companies had Unix mainframes or Novell NDS servers.
Right now, every company, even small ones, are going wired. To
manage a pool of workstations, central administration is required.
The administrator has two choices: Buy a Windows NT server at
around $800, and a commercial Unix for around $2000, plus powerful
machines to run them on; or get Samba to play the role of the NT
server, NFS and NIS to serve Unix workstations, running on a simple
system on Linux, which is free, and get the same results at a much
lower cost while often having more stability than the original
The hint that the Linux model works in commercial rings is
obvious when you look at the commercial Unix systems and at
Microsoft. Five years ago, nearly no one knew what Linux was all
about. Now, the media talks about it all the time. In the same time
frame, Solaris went from a several thousand dollars system, to free
for non-commercial use, Microsoft went from ignoring Linux, to
laughing at it last year, to forming a Linux attack group a few
Even other domains of computing are affected by the open source
and freeware models surrounding Linux. In the last 2 years, Corel
ported Word Perfect 8 to Linux and is offering it for free for
non-commercial use, Sun opened up parts of the Java language, Apple
opened up parts of its latest server OS, MacOS X, and Netscape
released Communicator as free software in the Mozilla
...On the Internet server
Networking and Linux go together. Linux lives on the Internet, is
distributed on the Internet, is developed on the Internet, and has
nearly every feature you would want to use on a network. Linux
distributions come with an SMTP mail server, a POP3 mail server,
Apache, the most popular web server, a DNS server, and a whole lot
of other servers that can be used on the Internet.
Linux comes with very customizable server programs, can be
configured from any telnet capable terminal, and can turn any old
486 PC into a powerful web server. You can't beat that kind of wide
...In the data center
With last year's release of Extreme Linux, using tools from the
Beowulf project, anyone can turn several computers into a super
computer cluster. Many organizations are now building Linux
cluster, for research purposes and for number crunching.
Be it the Goddard Space Flight Center, or the US government
laboratories, everyone feels the power of clustered Linux boxes.
With the improved SMP support in the Linux kernel 2.2 and the
clustering abilities of Linux, any data center can be built on much
smaller budgets than what was required a few years ago. The years
of mainframes are long gone, and distributed computing is a
reality, brought to the world in large part to open source projects
and the Linux OS.
Looking at the future
Last year, the media began to discover Linux. This year, nearly
every computing magazine talked about Linux at least once.
Several organizations are predicting giant growth rates for
Linux. From 7M users in 1997, to 12M in 1998, to about 15M to 25M
in 1999, Linux simply gets more popular each year.
The next step for Linux is the desktop. The job is half done,
with powerful desktop environments, and hundreds of programs
available right now. Now the main concern should be in the user
interface, the ease of use, and the documentation. We also need to
look at the newest technologies, including handhelds, wireless
networks and cross platform languages like Java.
1998 was a good year for Linux. 1999 is looking good, and I
think the next years will be even better.
In a nutshell
Linux, being a Unix system, has the stability and reliability
that Unix is known to have acquired over the years.
Linux comes with nearly every program you need to build an
Internet server, an Intranet server, or a desktop system, thanks to
the hundreds of built in applications.
Linux is open, allowing anyone to change how any part of the
system works, and most Linux applications are very
Linux can turn any older PC system into a server, because it
does not suffer from having to load a heavy graphical interface to
act as a server.
Linux can be configured in nearly every way using graphical
interfaces, thanks to LinuxConf, COAS and others.
Linux is freeware and can be downloaded from the Internet, or
bought for $1.99 from several online vendors.
Lambert writes: "I am a software developer, system
administrator and part-time writer. I am currently studying in
Computer Science and creating Linux software. For the last 5 years
I have been busy designing information web sites and promoting
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