Linux was originally developed as a free operating system for personal computers based on the Intel x86 architecture, but has since been ported to more computer hardware platforms than any other operating system.
Thanks to its dominance on smartphones, Android, which is built on top of the Linux kernel, has the largest installed base of all general-purpose operating systems. Linux, in its original form, is also the leading operating system on servers and other big iron systems such as mainframe computers and supercomputers, but is used on only around 1.5% of desktop computers. Linux also runs on embedded systems, which are devices whose operating system is typically built into the firmware and is highly tailored to the system; this includes mobile phones, tablet computers, network routers, facility automation controls, televisions, video game consoles and smart watches.
The development of Linux is one of the most prominent examples of free and open-source software collaboration. The underlying source code may be used, modified, and distributed—commercially or non-commercially—by anyone under licenses such as the GNU General Public License. Typically, Linux is packaged in a form known as a Linux distribution, for both desktop and server use. Some popular mainstream Linux distributions include Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Fedora, openSUSE, Arch Linux, and the commercial Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. Linux distributions include the Linux kernel, supporting utilities and libraries and usually a large amount of application software to fulfill the distribution’s intended use.
Distributions oriented toward desktop use typically include X11, a Wayland implementation or Mir as the windowing system, and an accompanying desktop environment such as GNOME or the KDE Software Compilation. Some of such distributions may include a less resource intensive desktop such as LXDE or Xfce, for use on older or less powerful computers. Distributions intended to run on servers may omit all graphical environments from the standard install, and instead include other software to set up and operate a solution stack such as LAMP. Because Linux is freely redistributable, anyone may create a distribution for any intended use.
What is the creator of LINUX doing right now?
Torvalds is now working on the Linux kernel full-time for Open Source Development Lab (OSDL), which is based in Beaverton, Oregon. Founded in 2000 and supported by a global consortium of computer companies, including IBM, OSDL describes its mission as “becoming the recognized center of gravity for Linux and the central body dedicated to accelerating the use of Linux for enterprise computing.”
Only about two percent of the current Linux kernel has actually been written by Torvalds himself, which is quite understandable given its great size and complexity (e.g., the full source code for the current 2.6 kernel is roughly 80MB). However, he makes the final decisions regarding which of the many proposed modifications and additions will be incorporated into it. His criteria for adding code are that it be (1) of high quality and clean, (2) easy to maintain and (3) beneficial to a wide range of users rather than to just a single corporate user or to any other narrow agenda.
Torvalds also owns the Linux trademark and monitors its use (and occasional abuse). The hundreds of other programs that are generally included in distributions together with the kernel (e.g., GCC, bash, the vi text editor, the X Window System and the KDE desktop environment) are developed and maintained by other groups, but there is considerable coordination with Torvalds and other developers of the kernel.
What can we expect in the next few years for LINUX?
Linux is already leading the trend for making homes and autos more intelligent. With improvements in the likes of Nest (which currently uses an embedded Linux), the open source platform is poised to take over your machines. Because 2015 should see a massive rise in smart machines, it goes without saying that Linux will be a huge part of that growth. I firmly believe more homes and businesses will take advantage of such smart controls, and that will lead to more innovations (all of which will be built on Linux).
One of the issues facing Nest, however, is that it was purchased by Google. What does this mean for the thermostat controller? Will Google continue using the Linux platform — or will it opt to scrap that in favor of Android? Of course, a switch would set the Nest platform back a bit.
The upcoming year will see Linux lead the rise in popularity of home automation. Wink, Iris, Q Station, Staples Connect, and more (similar) systems will help to bridge Linux and home users together.
The big question, as always, is one that tends to hang over the heads of the Linux community like a dark cloud. That question is in relation to the desktop. Unfortunately, my predictions here aren’t nearly as positive. I believe that the year 2015 will remain quite stagnant for Linux on the desktop. That complacency will center around Ubuntu.