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What can’t Linux do? Nowadays you hear Linux powering just about any device imaginable — all the way from dime-sized computers via the Raspberry Pi all the way to most of the top 100 supercomputers in the world. We interact with it daily, whether it be on our personal computers, Android devices, Steam boxes (gaming), flight entertainment systems, web servers that power behemoths such as Google, Facebook, and Wikipedia, or more.
But what makes Linux such a great choice that it’s used in all those devices? It’s because it’s open source software, which has various implications.
Working with a secure operating system has become essential, and Linux fills that need well. Because it’s open source, anyone can look at the code and study it to determine whether there are any potential flaws that could pose security risks.
Companies that produce closed-source products usually approach security in two ways: security by obscurity and private security audits. While open source offers great security because many eyes have looked at the code, closed-source hides the flaws that others may find, making them unknown and thereby “more secure”. However, most people can agree that code that actually has fewer flaws in it, whether known or unknown, is the best solution.
Companies with closed-source products may also have other companies look through their code for security issues, but this is still done behind closed doors. Less eyes look at the code this way than via the open source approach.
You Can Make Modifications
Thanks to the GPL and BSD licenses (among others) that most open source projects use, people are free to make their own modifications to open source software. This is a huge piece of open source magic — even with software packages freely available, everyone has different needs and configurations. People can take the code, make changes to it (whether to make it easier to integrate, add additional features, or remove unnecessary ones), and then use it.
The beauty of it all is that everyone can be happy with the software they’re running, as they’re free to make it so that it works exactly how they want it to. As you must have guessed, this all applies to Linux, where people and companies can make modifications to speed it up, support additional features, or test out new mechanisms.
Linux is Accessible
Another great benefit to Linux being open source is that it’s highly accessible. Anyone with an Internet connection (or a friend with an internet connection) can download the kernel and/or a Linux distribution. All of the code can be found online, and it’s completely free. Of course, a lot of open source advocates like to promote the fact that open source software is free as in freedom, but the monetary benefit certain doesn’t hurt either.
Take this Portable OS Anywhere
Because modifications can be made by anyone to open source projects such as Linux, the open source operating system is also extremely portable. There are tons of different processor architectures, and each type of device likely uses a different one. However, Linux is “portable”, meaning that it can run on just about any architecture out there. And if it can’t, it will sooner or later with some modifications. This is a big reason why Linux can be seen running on all sorts of devices.
Linux is a Capable OS
Finally, because they encourage people from around the world to contribute to their projects, open source projects such as Linux are extremely capable thanks to the contributions that so many people have added over time. Many open source software projects are extremely powerful, and as Linux is one such project this is why it’s a commonly used platform for all sorts of applications, from basic desktops to running web servers.
It Only Gets Better
Other operating systems such as Windows and Mac OS X really can’t claim much of what we’ve discussed above. They might be capable, but all five points only apply to Linux. As more people contribute or make modifications to Linux, the better it will become. It will always offer the same great security benefits that it does now. And it will always be freely available.
Plus, you can already get by pretty easily by just using open source software. That’s why Linux is great and why it won’t be going away anytime soon.
Why do you think Linux is great? Why do you think it’s not so great? Let us know in the comments!