That is why Linux is the most fully supported operating system, in terms of architectures, in the history of computing. (The open source BSD Unixes do a pretty good job covering platforms, so a tip of the hat there). And the coverage that Linux offers is not just broad, but deep. There are so many different Linux projects, each doing their own part to get it running on different iron - often for personal, not economic, reasons.
If being open source helped establish Linux in academia - where students could play around with the guts of the code as well as learn open systems software concepts derived from the many flavors of Unix - it is the breadth and depth of support that has given Linux a home in the data center. The lower price tag for commercial support compared to proprietary and Unix alternatives didn't hurt the commercialization of Linux either.
From 1994, with the release of the Linux 1.0 kernel, up through now, with the development of Linux 2.6.27 kernel, Linux has grown as an operating system, moving from a desktop toy to a system that can span the largest SMP servers in the world as well as becoming the de facto standard for parallel supercomputing, knocking Unix completely off its throne in less than a decade.
It took a while for Linux to get scalability and performance, but get there it did, and with the commercialized variants of Linux available from Red Hat and Novell, Linux is - and has been for a few years now - an absolutely safe choice. No one is going to get fired for buying Linux in the data center.
Linux Is Nice. But Benedictix is Better
But Linux does have its challenges. Growth for Linux servers has stalled, and this is because the paradigm for computing that is represented by Unix and Linux is unknown to many people, particularly small and medium businesses that adopt Windows reflectively. They go with what they know on their desktops, which is why Windows, not Linux, has dominant revenue share and most of the shipment share for server sales, quarter after quarter. Linux has grown to represent about a fifth of the revenue base, which is quite an accomplishment, but Linux has really only partially filled in the gap as Unix declined and Windows ascended.
In the past decade, Linux adoption was hampered by technical and support issues -it didn't scale and commercial-grade support took a while to bring to market. But in the next decade, the issues facing Linux are more cultural and inertial. It will take a tremendous force - perhaps a global recession or depression - to make companies think about learning Linux and investing in the technology rather than go with what feels like the safe choice of using Windows.
With the bulk of applications in the world certified to run on Windows, and Microsoft having some 800,000 partners, momentum is clearly with Windows. But with Linux on the desktop getting to be more practical with every passing year and with Microsoft contemplating a non-Windows future with its Project Midori operating system, Linux may yet get a shot at the title for operating system heavyweight. One this is for sure: There is no other contender for the title, no matter how much Sun Microsystems believes in OpenSolaris.
One last thing: Linux might have been the obvious name for the operating system, but Benedictix would have been more accurate. ®
Happy Birthday Tux
Linux was at first very poor. That's to be expected. In 17 years it has improved some.
Although we call it Linux in most uses the GNU software does play more of a part and should be recognized, as well as the contributions of UCSD and contributors under their BSD license. The terms Operating System and Operating Environment are fairly nebulous even to this day. Still, we need an easy handle to hold it by, and "Linux" will do.
In the beginning it ran on one system with one processor (Linus's). Now it runs on 85% of the top 500 supercomputers, my wireless router and phones and many platforms in between (and beyond!). Hardware support used to be poor. Now Linux supports more hardware than any other system ever offered, period. This has been true for a long time.
Linux conquered the server room first, as is natural. The server room is a hot environment where professionals are classically educated and use real metrics to determine what works and what does not. Technologies are born and live or die in the server room before most of us ever see them. As the World Wide Web grew the power of Linux became obvious to the denizens of server rooms and it matured just in time to be adopted by many of them. In many cases the tech boom of the late '90s was a Linux boom.
Once upon a time it wasn't useful on laptops, but now it's on half of the top selling laptops on a major vendor, Amazon.com. Major vendors used to shun it, in deference to their major partner Microsoft. Now all major vendors offer it preinstalled, some in varying flavors. For a long time Linux was not pretty. Now it's not hard to convince people that a two year old installation of Linux is actually the "next" version of the dominant desktop OS. Linux is now the Belle of the Ball.
Software installation on Linux could still use some work. It's not as bad as Windows. The add/remove programs feature in Windows doesn't actually Add programs, except in certain rare circumstances. The add programs utilities in most Linux distributions links to repositories of software so deep they had to include an internal search engine. Still, the installers in most Linux distributions should also reference a "local" and "Local Area Network" repositories by default, so that applications could add themselves to these repositories as part of their standard installation process. They'll figure this out soon.
The Linux of today embraces the classical scientific rigor of a bygone era, the splashy interfaces marketing thrives on, and the brutal Darwinian winnowing of our current IT environment. It survives and it looks good doing it by doing what it does well.
Most importantly, the direction of the knife has shifted. The cutting edge isn't on optimum performance processing any more. We've seen the trap that that is finally - "Intel giveth, and Microsoft taketh away." Now the huge growth is thin-is-in low wattage desktops and laptops that somehow have gained 20% of the market share in just a year. Here the low overhead requirements of Linux are well positioned to exploit the growth of emerging markets abroad (the third world) and emerging markets at home (nettops, netbooks and thin clients). I believe this is by design -- many of the new generation of developers live in growth markets where building apps that require the juice sucking high wattage platforms of yesteryear is not targeting their optimum market because they just don't have the watts and building out the watts is just not going to happen. I also believe the major vendor is suffering from inertia and failed to make the turn here. In the challenging economic environment before us the power of "free" will gain considerable leverage for the next decade even at home.
There are major applications still which are preventing people from adopting Linux. Photoshop is a major example. As soon as Adobe realizes that their platform partner will not stop trying to kill them with their Adobe Flash replacement Silverlight, they may begin to see the wisdom in diversifying their platforms. Even if they don't, they're a weak anchor. Game vendors follow other platforms too, but their loyalty is transient anyway. The brutal evolution of games is such that the ones that choose the wrong platform die and the life cycle of a game company is about five years.
Linux is only a tiny fraction of the free software revolution, but it can bear the standard for the millions of developers and thousands of projects that march us toward the future. The use, reuse, and improvement of open projects increases the utility for all. For each little bit you put in, you get a million back. This is progress.
Happy birthday Linux and THANKS!
"Still, the installers in most Linux distributions should also reference a "local" and "Local Area Network" repositories by default, so that applications could add themselves to these repositories as part of their standard installation process."
All the big names, anyway.
Debian you add them either via GUI (if your debian derivative made one) or by hand to a sources.list file. For DVD decryption they tell you because if a USian can read and automatically break the DMCA because they made it too easy to update, the website WILL be closed down by the World Police (Fuck yeah!).
SuSE you can add via the YaST Software Management tool.
Mandrake does the same thing.
Red Hat may. Fedora does.
Usually all have the sources in some text file somewhere. Find it and edit it by hand and any Linux will manage it (one reason why you want the CLI is because all UNIX-likes are the same from the command line, the file names may be changed to protect the "IP").