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You’ve been told that you can do just about anything with Linux, but how far does that statement really go? Linux might be far from popular on desktop computers, but it shines everywhere else. You’ve probably used Linux today, even if you didn’t realize it.

Without even mentioning Android devices, let’s take a look at 10 interesting devices or systems that run Linux so you can get an idea of how much Linux actually affects your life.

Why Is Linux Everywhere?

Whether you know it or not, Linux can be found everywhere. There are several reasons why this is the case:

  • It is extremely flexible due to its open source nature, so anyone can go through Linux’s code and modify it however they need.
  • It is very portable, meaning that it can be easily used on virtually all CPU architectures.
  • It is very fast, which means that it can be used on cheaper hardware.
  • It is free, which is a good incentive for almost anyone.

Top 500 Supercomputers

linux_runs_supercomputers
Think no one uses Linux? Take a look at the top 500 supercomputers in the world. A whopping 96.4% of them run Linux.

There are several reasons why this is the case. Since all supercomputers are staffed with knowledgeable programmers, they can easily take Linux and make changes as they see fit. Second, because Linux can run on virtually every CPU architecture, there’s no problem with getting it to run on the more specialized hardware that supercomputers use.

Flight Entertainment Systems

linux_runs_flight_entertainment
Flight entertainment systems, the ones that allow you to watch TV shows and movies, surf the web, and play games in the comfort (heh) of your own airplane seat, commonly run Linux. Why? Because Linux is extremely flexible, fast, and it doesn’t cost anything in licensing fees. This way, airlines can create their own setups which include client systems (the ones that go into the seats and talk to the server somewhere in the plane) which include cheap hardware. Not only are they saving money with the cheaper hardware that still gets the job done, but they also save money on licensing. Imagine having to pay for a Windows license for every seat in the airline’s entire fleet!

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Smart Refrigerators and Nest Thermostat

linux_runs_nest
House appliances like a smart refrigerator and or a Nest Thermostat also commonly run Linux. All of these devices use Linux because some sort of operating system must take care of the main applications that run on it, as well as facilitate the use of WiFi and other I/O. Again, Linux is also open and easy to configure which makes it an ideal choice.

Sadly, Linux hasn’t been put on a toaster (yet).

Large Hadron Collider and International Space Station

linux_runs_hadron_collider
Linux powers The Large Hadron Collider, one of the most respected scientific facilities in the world. And the LHC is hardly alone in this regard: the International Space Station replaced Windows with Linux on the computers onboard. When it comes to science, Linux is common.

Smart Rifle


Do you like guns? You can buy yourself a smart rifle which runs what else but Linux. With the smart rifle, you can do all sorts of things, such as setting a target, and having the rifle keep track of the target and automatically fire whenever you’re aiming correctly to hit it. For hunting, that might take the fun out of the sport, but it’s cool technology nonetheless.

Self-Driving Cars

It’s documented that Google uses a modified version of Ubuntu, the most popular Linux distribution Why Windows XP Users Should Switch To Ubuntu 14.04 LTS "Trusty Tahr" Why Windows XP Users Should Switch To Ubuntu 14.04 LTS "Trusty Tahr" If you're still trying to dump Windows XP but haven't found an alternative yet, Ubuntu 14.04 is a great choice. Read More , for its self-driving car project. And the project has a lot of sophisticated work going into it – a sliver of which you can see in the video above. Another impressive project powered by Linux.

Traffic Control Systems

linux_runs_atc
Important public systems such as San Francisco’s traffic control system or the nation’s air traffic control use Linux. Such large infrastructure projects require specialized setups that Linux can fulfill best, once again because it’s flexible and cheap. This is one of the best examples of how Linux can affect your life indirectly.

Robotic Milking System

linux_runs_cow_milking
What’s the weirdest device that runs Linux? How about a robotic system for milking cows? The VMS, short for Voluntary Milking System, allows the cows to be milked when they want to, and it frees up a dairy farmer’s time quite a bit.

Conclusion

As you can see, Linux is simply everywhere. If you don’t come in contact directly on a daily basis, it certainly affects your daily life in an indirect manner. There are many more places in the world (and beyond) that use Linux, but these are what we think are the most interesting examples. Linux will only continue to spread, which is good because Windows XP-powered ATMs have got to go Windows XP Running Your ATM Or Ticket Machine? Time To Buy Online! Windows XP Running Your ATM Or Ticket Machine? Time To Buy Online! Windows XP support ended in April 2014; Microsoft will no longer release bug fixes. If you've upgraded your PC then everything should be fine – but what about your bank? Have they upgraded? Read More .

Interested in trying out Linux now? Check out our listing of the best Linux distributions out there!

What’s your favorite example of Linux in the wild? Is there anywhere Linux cannot go? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credits: Argonne National Laboratory, paulmmay, Green Energy Futures, neilhinchley, NATS Press Office, DSLinux Project, haglundc

  1. poop
    April 25, 2016 at 2:13 am

    Linux uses Linux! LOL! My battery charger!

  2. Grcoeeg
    June 4, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    Interesting article Danny, thanks.

  3. Donald
    June 3, 2014 at 7:00 am

    South Africas favorite satalite tv (DSTV) is also using Linux http://www.dstv.com/

  4. Wantoo
    June 3, 2014 at 2:28 am

    Great article. Thanks Danny!

  5. Adam
    June 3, 2014 at 12:05 am

    Danny, stop using "## things you didn't know..." in your titles. I knew more than half of those points, so your title is both ignorant and arrogant.

    • Matt
      June 5, 2014 at 10:16 pm

      Before you run off at the mouth, Adam, perhaps you should consider the fact that you were probably not part of the article's target audience. Not everyone who reads the article is part of the target audience.

    • Adam
      June 5, 2014 at 10:57 pm

      Matt, all he has to do is title the post "10 Things You May Not Know Were Penguin-Powered". Then his title would make no presumptions, and would be correct for EVERYONE.

  6. John W
    June 2, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    Just for the record, can we all please remember that Linux is a kernel - as is FreeBSD. Both are standing on the shoulders of the giant that is GNU. Long, long before "Linux" distributions started impacting on the Windows empire, people at MIT were working on free "open-source" software to combat UNIX commercial dominance.

    Good as he is, Linus did not write a global operating system - Just a major contribution to it! GNU has its own kernal, but Linux was much better. Then on top of GNU / Linux we get the "distributions" from millions of man hours of work. If you had to buy a GNU / Linux distribution it would cost about 1500 dollars per license!

    As an aside, it's also worth remembering that, despite the millions of words written in the "tech" press about Apple. iOS X has a microscopic contribution to real world computing. Without its beautiful hardware, iOS would disappear very quickly.

  7. Ziaur Rahman
    June 2, 2014 at 8:49 am

    Windows XP powering ATMs But Linux Powering the World.

  8. idriss
    May 31, 2014 at 9:38 am

    + laptops, smart phones, servers, embedded, PCs, panels, routers, "open data for open minds"

  9. Howard Blair
    May 30, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    You missed some *really* obvious ones: Sony's Playstations (1-4) all run a Linux core; most routers run some variant of Linux; cable set-top boxes, DVRs (including TiVo boxes), and Smart TVs; a majority of web servers, including Red Hat Linux, Fedora, and CentOS servers; Raspbian (Debian Linux compiled for the Raspberry Pi); Linux provides the core of the Android, Maemo, and Tizen smartphone operating systems; and more.

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linux_range_of_use

    • Danny S
      May 31, 2014 at 6:47 pm

      Actually, no, I didn't miss those because I left them out on purpose. This list wasn't just about everything that can run Linux, but more precisely the ones that might surprise you. I definitely could have added those, but then it wouldn't have been as interesting (to me at least).

      Also, I'm not sure about PS 1-3, but the PS4 runs a FreeBSD core, not Linux.

    • Howard B
      June 1, 2014 at 2:17 am

      I'd forgotten Sony changed the PS4 to FreeBSD, but I was surprised to know they used Linux for the PS1-PS3.
      As far as "can run Linux," the PS3 originally could run Yellow Dog Linux as a "Install Other OS" capability that was later dropped, despite Sony's contract with the US Air Force to provide 1,760 PS3s with Linux to run a supercomputing cluster (how much you want to bet replacement PS3s for that computer allowed Linxu to be installed?)

      http://phys.org/news/2010-12-air-playstation-3s-supercomputer.html

      Also surprising was that the Sony Dreamcast ran a version of Windows CE...

  10. platform
    May 30, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    Flight Entertainment Systems know wonder they are always crashing. Also Linux based routers are so unreliable.

    • dragonmouth
      May 30, 2014 at 9:05 pm

      "Linux based routers are so unreliable."
      Are you speaking from personal experience or are you just parroting something you read on the Internet?

      FYI - Linux systems have uptimes measured in years unless they are used by ham-fisted butchers.

    • Kevan
      June 7, 2014 at 9:26 am

      Bit of a sweeping statement that, 'platform'. Of course, it's easy to say anything just to inflame people. Do you have back up documentation of your claims? If it's true then of course there are plenty in the FOSS community who would be willing to put things right in order that those routers are not so unreliable :) Or could it be that you are simply a troll?

    • LinuxGuy
      June 14, 2014 at 10:16 pm

      Quick guess, Platform doesn't know how routers function at all. :)
      +1 troll

    • Steve Spence
      October 5, 2014 at 1:47 pm

      Platform wouldn't know how to configure a real router (not talking linksys or netgear here).

  11. dragonmouth
    May 30, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    "Windows XP-powered ATMs have got to go."
    When will banks switch to Linux to make online banking more secure?

    • Howard B
      May 30, 2014 at 8:45 pm

      Sadly, the Heartbleed bug was a huge black eye on the face of Open Source.
      Embedded Windows systems will disappear when there's a similar problem that affects ATMs and/or POS (Point of Sale) systems that compels big business to switch.

    • dragonmouth
      May 30, 2014 at 8:59 pm

      Why is it that one security problem (Heartbleed) is "a huge black eye" for OSS but continuous and repeated vulnerabilities for 30 years are not a blemish on Windows/Microsft reputation?

      I was not talking about ATMs and embedded systems. I was talking about banks insisting that any online transactions be carried out using Windows. I have to maintain a Windows PC just so I can do online banking because they will not allow me access with my Linux PC.

    • Andre
      May 31, 2014 at 6:54 am

      Dude, you got to switch banks if that's the case. Every major bank I've had (and I've had accounts with, off the top of my head: Bank of America, Wells Fargo, HSBC, Citi, Chase, US Bank, USAA, Union Bank, Washington Mutual, Wachovia... In my quest to find a bank I actually like.) All of them work perfectly fine and let me access all online banking functions from various Linux distros over the years. The only exception to this rule might be if you're using either A) Some obscure Linux distro or B) You're using say US Trust, the high net worth side of Bank of America, just because they don't seem to update anything.

    • pmshah
      June 2, 2014 at 11:21 pm

      How do you think you can transact bank business from your Android smartphones ? In fact they regularly send out a promotion email for me to install their application on my phone!

      I believe switching to Linux in ATMs might be the only answer to preclude the hardware AND Win7 / 8 upgrade route incurring huge expense.

  12. Troy Hedgepeth
    May 30, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    For those of us old enough to still have one, our GPS most likely runs some flavor of Linux.

  13. Matthew H
    May 30, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    "Sadly, Linux hasn’t been put on a toaster (yet)."

    No, but NetBSD has!

    http://www.embeddedarm.com/software/arm-netbsd-toaster.php

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