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Note: Many topics at this site are reduced versions of the text in "The Encyclopedia of Networking and Telecommunications." Search results will not be as extensive as a search of the book's CD-ROM.

Linux is a UNIX-like 32-bit operating system that runs on a variety of platforms, including Intel, SPARC, PowerPC, and DEC Alpha processors, as well as multiprocessing systems. The operating system is essentially free and you can download it from the Web. You can buy fully supported commercial versions from Red Hat, Caldera Systems, and other companies.

Linux is a "user-developed" product, meaning that many of its components and drivers have been developed by users around the world who ran the operating system for their own use. The original operating system was developed by Linus Torvalds as a college project. It is now well supported and gaining ground as a respectable operating system despite its homegrown roots. The operating system is used by many Web site developers and is now available as an embedded system, either as a small software kernel or burned into a chip.

Anyone planning to use Linux for production use should first make sure that the applications they need to use run on the operating system, and that appropriate drivers are available to support hardware and software. You can check the Web site listed on the related entries page for more information. Here are some basic Linux facts:

  • Linux distribution is governed by the GNU Public License, which states that distributors can charge for the operating system so long as the source code is included.

  • Linux is a full 32-bit cross-platform operating system. A 64-bit kernel that supports SMP (symmetrical multiprocessing) is also available for advanced processors such as the Compaq/DEC Alpha and the Sun UltraSparc.

  • The operating system supports TCP/IP networking and Internet protocols, as well as Java. It is well suited for use as an Internet server and an Internet firewall.

  • Linux conforms to standards for UNIX-like operating systems. It combines features of UNIX System Five and Berkeley System Distribution (BSD). See "UNIX" for a further description of features available in Linux.

  • Programs intended for the SCO and SVR4 UNIX systems will run unaltered. Literally thousands of programs are ready to run for Linux. With Java support, that number grows even bigger.

  • Documentation is provided as HOWTO files, which are written by users and developers and are freely available at some of the Web sites listed on the related entries page.

On the Web, Linux is one of the most well-documented and talked-about products around. You can visit many different sites for more information about the latest releases of Linux and programs written for Linux. Linux International (LI) is a nonprofit association that promotes the growth of Linux. The LI Web site has historical information, Linux resources, links, mailing lists, documentation, FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions), and other information.

Distributors such as Red Hat, Caldera, Walnut Creek, and WorkGroup Solutions bundle the basic Linux kernel with additional utilities and product support. Some of the versions are quite sophisticated and include cross-platform utilities that interoperate with other operating systems. Here is a list of Linux distributors:

Caldera Systems

Corel Corp.

Debian (based on Linux kernel)

MandrakeSoft, Inc., Linux Mandrake

Red Hat, Inc.

The Slackware Linux Project

SuSE, Inc.

WorkGroup Solutions, Inc.

Neoware's NeoLinux is an embedded Linux distribution that is specifically designed for network appliances. The embedded operating system is based on Official Red Hat Linux and is meant for use in cash registers, firewalls, routers, interactive Web kiosks, thin clients, security devices, and wireless appliances. Refer to

Copyright (c) 2001 Tom Sheldon and Big Sur Multimedia.
All rights reserved under Pan American and International copyright conventions.