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Computing & Information Services Newsletter
A Tale Of a Penguin Linux
     
 

The seeds that were thrown to ground of world of computers long ago have yielded the fruits today. The creation of a new operating system, a tale of a nice and cute penguin. The name of this penguin is "Linux".

The story of Linux begins in the late 1960s with the Multics project at General Electric, AT&T Bell Laboratories and MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Incorporating many of the features of Multics research project, in 1969, Ken Thompson of AT&T Bell Laboratories developed the first UNIX operating system. Unix was designed to run on microcomputers and was tailored as a multi-user and multitasking operating system. Dennis Ritchie developed the C programming language and in 1970, the programming code of Unix was rewritten in C. The biggest advantage of C programming language was that it could directly access the hardware architecture with a set of programming commands. In the following years, an independent standard named POSIX (Portable Operating System Interface for Computer Environments) was developed allowing UNIX to run on different computers with little changes or even without having to make changes.

The first version of Unix was distributed free to many universities. However, in 1972 Bell Labs started issuing official versions of Unix and licensing it to users. In 1975, Berkeley (University of California) released its own version of Unix operating system known as BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution). In 1980, Microsoft developed a PC version of Unix called Xenix. In 1982, AT&T released the first commercial version that is called System 3 (this was later followed by System V). In the years that followed, various institutions developed different Unix operating systems that would run on their systems (Novell's UnixWare that runs on NetWare systems; IBM's AIX that runs on work stations, AUX that runs on Macintosh systems, Solaris that runs on Sparc systems etc.). Soon, the demand for a Unix system that runs on PC based operating systems became a current issue.

In 1991, a 21 year old student at University of Helsinki, Linus Torvalds, promoted the idea of a Unix operating system that he can use on his own PC based system. At that time, users were able to make use of different Unix features with a program called Minix, which was developed by Andrew Tanenbaum. Linus created an effective PC version of Unix for Minix and called it Linux. He released the 0.11 Linux version and it was widely distributed on Internet for the other programmers to refine and add to it in the following years. The developers began to share ideas with each other and they have incorporated most of the applications and features now found in standard Unix. The first release of Linux was only able to perform some of the basic functions of Unix operating system on PC based systems; however, at the end of all the refinements and developments, Linux has become an operating system that stands on its own feet and that is able to run on different platforms and perform functions both in Unix and Windows environments.

An operating system can basically be defined as a program that recognizes input and gives a response by sending an output. An operating system is comprised of the kernel, shell, file structure and utilities. Shell acts as an interface between the user and the operating system. It receives commands from the user and sends those commands to the kernel for execution. The file structure organizes the way files are stored on a storage device such as a disk. Files are organized into directories. Each directory may contain any number of subdirectories. The utilities are specialized programs, such as editors, compilers, and communications programs.

Microsoft MS-DOS operating system was designed as a single user and single tasking system. Some of the operating systems of Microsoft (Win3x, Win9x) are DOS based; therefore they have such shortcomings. However, Linux operating system was developed as POSIX compatible, multi user and multi tasking operating system. This is a great advantage since the utilities and graphical interface developed enable users to make use of it either as a personal workstation or as a FTP (file transfer protocol), WWW (web server) E-MAIL (electronic e-mail server) and database server meeting intense demands with its multi tasking feature.

Linux, is currently being developed by many people, organizations and groups in the world and it is distributed free of charge. Many programs that are created with GPL (Gnu Public License) license and that can run on Linux operating system are offered free of charge and with open source code on Internet. Linux is quite powerful on Internet; it is highly compatible with Unix and a very stable and reliable operating system with a user-friendly graphical interface. As a result of all the efforts to improve this system, many companies are now developing their own Linux versions and distributing them over Internet. The most popular Linux versions are RedHat, Slackware, Mandrake, Suse, Debian, Caldera, and TurboLinux.

There are efforts to promote Linux in Turkey as well. "Turkish Linux Users Association" (Türkiye Linux Kullanıcıları Derneği) launched the first 'Linux in Turkish' project named "TURKUAZ". However, this project does not continue anymore. "Gelecek A.Ş" is a company that offers "Gelecek Linux" operating system, which supports Turkish character set and which has a graphical interface.

As a first step, Middle East Technical University Computer Center launched a project of "Introducing Linux to METU users and Opening PC Rooms with Linux Operating Systems". CC installed and made Linux operating system available on 8 PCs (P-IV 1500Mhz 128MB IBM NetVista systems) at Computer Center's PC Room in Physics Department. A favorable feature of these Linux Operating systems is that they are configured to support Turkish, which means that users can use Turkish characters and get printouts by using them. Moreover, users can run many applications with GPL and METU licenses. The PCs with Linux operating systems offer almost an equal standard of most of the features available on Windows operating systems and deliver new and original applications of their own in a more secure, free, unbounded working environment. As other innovative techniques are made public and more people start to demand Linux in time, the number of PCs with Linux Operating Systems will be increased accordingly and hopefully the system will be widely used.

Why use Linux?:

  • Free of charge
  • Hundreds of versions and millions of users
  • Operatable on different platforms and with lower hardware configurations.
  • Reliable and virus-free
  • Operatable at different modes for various needs.
  • Customization according to individual preferences with the help of open source code programs with many alternatives.
  • GEasy installation and system administration with graphical interface
  • Can share the same hard disc with Windows and operate successfully.
  • Supports accessibility to Windows programs and files
  • Technical support and program development by the leading companies (IBM, SUN, Oracle, Netscape...)
  • Powerful compilers and program development tools
Linux Internet Sites

You can access Linux versions from the site ftp://ftp.metu.edu.tr/pub/linux aor you can download it from Internet or you can install it by copying iso-cd images from a CD.

We invite you to get acquainted with this free, reliable, secure and ever-evolving operating system that is very powerful on Internet. If you are curious about what lies beyond the limits, we gladly welcome you to quests in Linux World.

Selçuk Han AYDIN

 
     
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