“Happy Birthday!”

By Scott Hamilton

Senior Expert Emerging Technologies

August 25, 2021, marked an important date for the open source software community, the Linux kernel turned 30. It was on this date in 1991 that Linux Torvalds typed out a small announcement and shared it with the Minix newsgroup. The subject was his “hobby” operating system. Torvalds made this humble announcement and after supporting his hobby for 30 years, still shows the same level of humility. I was reminded of the date while looking through this year’s technology review and felt it a good time to celebrate, even if it is a few months late.

If you don’t know Linux already, you probably should get to know a little more about it. Your RokuTV, your cell phone, your car, your stove, dishwasher, refrigerator and any other “smart” appliance is highly likely to be running with a Linux kernel under the hood. You may know about Android, Apple IOS and Windows, but the really crazy part is Apple IOS and Android are both Linux under the hood. This means there are really only two operating systems for computers in existence today, Windows and Linux.

It gets even better as you start looking deeper into where operating systems are in use. You will find that Microsoft has seen the importance of the Linux kernel and now ships a small Linux operating system for hardware management along with Windows 10. You might just be starting to understand the importance of Linux, but Torvalds still sees it has his hobby and just enjoys seeing people use it. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been made off of his hobby, but Torvalds has made a relatively small amount of money from Linux compared to other people and companies. Torvalds has a net worth of $50 million and draws an annual salary of two million. Whereas his leading operating system competitor, Bill Gates, has a net worth of $138 billion, and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, which runs on Torvalds’ free operating system, is worth $117.4 billion.

I still remember the first time I used Linux. I was working at the NASA IV&V Facility in Fairmont, WV, as a Unix system administrator and our team learned about this amazing, new, free operating system that had the stability and feature set of Unix. At the time we were paying more than $1000 a year to license Solaris, a Unix operating system, for running our missions critical work. We decided to give Linux a try and found it could replace close to 90 percent of our Solaris systems with ease. It took about a year to convince management that a free operating system could be trusted for mission critical applications. It was fairly easy to prove when we were able to show twelve Linux systems mirroring the production Solaris workloads with Linux reporting that the systems had been operating without issues for over 365 days. I have used Linux as my primary operating system on personal computers ever since. In fact my kids did not know what Windows looked like until they saw a friend’s computer, and most of them still don’t like how Windows performs. I, for one, am really thrilled with the work started by Torvalds thirty years ago.

If you would like to try Linux out, the really cool part is that you can head on over to http://www.ubuntu.com and download a copy for yourself. You can use a USB disk to boot Linux on your computer and try it out without installing anything, as Ubuntu offers “live” cd images that let you run Ubuntu without installing it. There are more flavors of Linux than I could name in the entire paper so if you don’t like what you see, take a look at http://www.distrowatch.com and pick something different.

Until next week, stay safe and learn something new.

Scott Hamilton is a Senior Expert in Emerging Technologies at ATOS and can be reached with questions and comments via email to shamilton@techshepherd.org or through his website at http://www.techshepherd.org.