Linux and Open Source

users are expected to donate time and money to help defer the costs incurred by dedicated developers and advocates of the software philosophies

Unix was and still is an operating system like Windows, but developed by scientists at the phone company in the 1960’s and 1970’s, by 1980 it was known as Unix. It was a common choice for PDP-11 computers because the science community was suspicious of the fees DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) imposed for two systems they offer, RT11 and RSX. Unix was traded via a network called usenet that relied on dial-up modems and unix computer protocol UUCP.

Linus Torvalds was a college student in some Scandinavia country with a notion to create an open-source version of Unix, and he named his project Linux. When he started, several commercial versions of Unix were available including SCO Unix. Today’s commercial variants of the Unix operating system are Redhat (Fedora) and Novell’s SUSE Linux. Linux is the platform for the APACHE web-server which is the backbone for about 50 percent of web-pages that you visit.

Linux and Unix are also at the core of the Apple Macintosh, the iPhone and the Android operating system. Unix and Linix never caught on as the personal operating system, where the XP version of Windows is still dominant in business, and Vista and Windows 7 complete the near domination of the generic or clone computer operating system for personal use. The only exception to the Windows user was the occasional Linux advocate and Mac users, but now the iPad and the new android tablets will change the landscape. A few years ago, a tablet computer running windows with a touch screen and cellular access could run easily $ 2,000 with high monthly fees and a two year contract. Today the iPad runs around $ 500 with no contract for cellular access.

Apple may well pay a small fee somewhere to someone for it’s use of Unix in the core of the Mac. But then again, maybe not. Most of the ease of use and well packaged features of the Mac are the creation of the scientists of Apple on top of the Unix kernel. I suspect the Android operating system also has a Unix kernel at the center. These innovations are an example of the open source movement to a certain extent.

Open-source is a term used for free software. But the word free does not really mean free, users are expected to donate time and money to help defer the costs incurred by dedicated developers and advocates of the software philosophies. The prevalent paypal donate buttons are not just idle decorations. An example of the ‘free’ notion is the program Malware Bytes. It is the most respected malware removal tool in the open source community, yet they never seem to ask or even beg for money. But we who benefit from it will often submit, through PayPal, ten bucks from time to time.