In this objective, we take a look at what we mean by “Open Source” software and how Linux was born. The evolution of Linux from that fledgeling OS to what it is today. We also delve into the term “Open Source” and discuss what we mean by this.
Open Source Software
Open Source software is available on more platforms than just Linux. Not only that, not all of what is included in a Linux distribution is necessarily Open Source. This document was originally created in LibreOffice which is Open Source software and is available to install onto a collection of different operating systems. The document was created this and edited on a Ubuntu Linux distribution, but it could quite easily be Windows or a MAC OSX system.We can see that using Open Source Software we are often not limited to the one Operating System or Hardware Platform that the software can be installed on. I have used Libre Office on the Raspberry Pi using ARM hardware as well as this system using Inter 64 bit hardware. I have the freedom of choice.
Freedom not just Free
When software is Open Source the source code of the application is available so that users of the software can learn how the program works and contribute to the future development.If you create software with scripts such as BASH scripts or Python then the software is always Open Source and it is not compiled into and executable. The scripts are just simple text files and in this way, you can always view what has been written. When we look at compiled code such as C or Java then, to be Open Source, the source code needs to be supplied along with the executable files. See my lessons on C Programming to gain a better idea of source code.
Of course, not all users will want to or be able to work with the source code. This is very much the realm of software developers. However, for those that can read code, this may be of value. We often talk about free software but free is much more than of no cost ; free is much more about your freedom to use the software how you wish.
The Evolution of Linux
The term Linux itself refers to the core code in the Linux distribution; Linux is the kernel and is Open Source and freely available. Linus Torvalds, a Finnish student developed this initially in 1991 and in 1992 released the code under the GPL License. Often, although incorrectly, Linux is meant as the distribution. If Linux is the kernel the distribution is the collection of software applications and drivers that make Linux usable on your hardware. Command distributions include:
- Red Hat
- SUSE Linux Enterprise Server
- Puppy Linux
You may visit the website of an organisation to download and obtain copy of the Operating System you wish to use. http://distrowatch.com is a great resource of listing available distributions. You will also learn that Linux is used in many devices such as android phones, TiVo boxes and may other household and business appliances. Using a Free OS makes good sense as well as keeping the cost of the product down not having to license an OS from a commercial supplier.
Using the command uname -r will show your kernel version and lsb_release -a will show your Distribution.
When choosing a Linux Distribution for the Enterprise, be it for Servers or Desktops, you have to consider the support that is provided long term; by support, we also include the notion of updates to the OS.
Red Hat: Provide paid support and is often a safe choice for the enterprise.
Ubuntu LTS: Long Term Support versions are released every two years and supported for five years. The current version is 16.04 and that will be supported until 2021. Optional paid support is available from Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu.
CentOS: Is a Red Hat rebuild and provide long term updates and community support. They are currently owned by Red Hat.
Debian: Is a respected Enterprise version with community Support. The Raspberry Pi OS, Raspbian, is based on Debian.