Linux is more than a family of operating systems that has limited popularity in the consumer market. It’s a lot more than that, actually. Did you know this very Web page is likely hosted on a machine that is running off Linux? Your television, phone, and even your car may be running a version of Linux. Here are five ways Linux impacts our daily lives.
Linux Influences Other Operating Systems
Did you know that many of the features we take for granted on Windows and OS X originated in the open source community? Desktop spaces, 3D desktop virtualization, and other little features we enjoy every day found their start on Linux. This isn’t to say that all or even most features seen on OS X or Windows are stolen from Linux distros. It just means that some of the ground work and innovation for these features came from the open source community and were later picked up, enhanced, and made available on the larger commercial operating systems.
This influence goes both ways. Many popular features of Mac OS X and Windows have found their way into various Linux distros. In some cases, advances and improvements on these features made by the open source community have generated enough demand among users to be added to the larger operating systems in later releases.
The Majority of the Web Runs on Linux
Linux (and Unix) platforms are currently powering the majority of the Web today. Because if the flexibility of operating systems such as Debian, Cent OS, and Gentoo, Linux has served as the backbone of the majority of the sites you browse on a daily basis. Network administrators love Linux because it can be customized to a network’s specific needs, and is capable of running single and multiple tasks without a lot of background processes clogging up the system. At one point, the ratio of Linux servers to Windows and OS X servers was 4:1. Recent studies have shown that Linux is currently backing between 60-70% of the world’s Web servers.
Most App-Enabled Televisions and Appliances Run on Linux
If you own a modern television with app support, you’ll probably find a EULA in the back of the owner’s manual. This is due, in part, because many manufacturers including Visio and Sony have turned to Linux as the operating system of choice when creating their television user interface. You may not see familiar UI tools such as a dock or standard desktop on these machines, but the various menus and apps you use are actually made possible by a small and specific Linux distro custom-made for the television.
In addition, many use-specific appliances are also powered by a Linux core. Some refrigerators with built-in computers, DVR systems including TiVo, and more can attribute their functionality to a Linux derivative.
Android and ChromeOS Are Based on Linux
The Android operating system powering so many phones and tablets around the world is actually derived from a Linux kernel. While yes, Android is a branch unto itself, it wouldn’t exist as it does today if it weren’t for the work being put in to Linux by the open source community up to that point. Linux is also the primary foundation on which ChromeOS — Google’s flagship open source operating system — is built. In addition, many computer manufacturers have started to develop their own custom Linux distros which are included either in the back end or as a primary operating system for netbooks, tablets, and other computer hardware.
Linux Fuels the World’s Most Powerful Supercomputers
Linux, and various derivatives thereof, currently serve as a primary operating system for over 90% of the world’s 500 most powerful supercomputers. This is according to the Top500 project, a project dedicated to accurately listing and describing top 500 supercomputers based on various subjects and categories. With this in mind, these supercomputers are presently being put to work making crucial calculations in the name of science, education, mathematics, and other important applications for our day-to-day lives.
This isn’t to say that Linux is the best or most popular choice in all computing categories. Consumers still appreciate the commercial gloss and usability that comes with a financially supported and better-organized operating system such as Windows and Mac OS X. There are, however, applications in which Linux has and continues to come out ahead of the competition for its flexibility and stability.