9 Ways Linux Is Taking Over the World

Dan Price Updated 25-07-2019

Linux doesn’t only run on home computers. You will also find it in far more exciting devices and projects. It’s particularly common where the proprietary nature of Windows and macOS is not suitable.


Let’s take a closer look who uses Linux and consider some of most unusual ways people and companies around the world.

1. Large Hadron Collider

Linux at cern

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator. It’s a 17-mile long circular tube buried 175 meters below the French-Swiss border near Geneva.

It’s common knowledge that the facility has been a resounding success from a scientific perspective. But the LHC is also a computing miracle.

In its first 12 months of operation, the LHC produced more than 50 petabytes of data. The team needed 170 computing centers across 42 countries to analyze it all in a timely manner. It is the largest distributed computing grid in the world.


Linux runs both the LHC itself and the associated data centers. To be more precise, the LHC uses a modified version of Scientific Linux.

2. Air Traffic Control in the United States

In 2006, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) migrated its entire computing operation over to Linux, including all the machines that track planes while they’re on radar.

The organization moved from a proprietary form of Unix to Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

The decision was part of a wider FAA decision to move away from proprietary software and instead focus on apps using Java, web services, open-source software, and Oracle products.


Fast-forward to today, and Linux is responsible for the safety of the 8,000 planes that are in the sky above the US at any given time.

3. Putting Milk on Your Cornflakes

delaval farm machines

DeLaval isn’t a name that many people will recognize, but it’s one of the largest farm equipment manufacturers in the world. The company enjoys annual sales in excess of $1 billion.

One of the company’s most popular products is its automatic cow milking machine. It lets farmers extract milk from their herd using a wireless remote control.


And guess what? Yes, it runs on Linux. The operating system is directly responsible for extracting the milk you put on your cornflakes every morning!

4. Self-Driving Cars

Linux is powering the self-driving car revolution How Close Are We to Self-Driving Cars Being Available? Read More .

Google’s autonomous car computers run Linux, while early prototypes from both GM and Volkswagen also chose the operating system. Indeed, Google’s first successful foray into the market—a self-driving Toyota Prius—ran on Ubuntu.

Since those early days, we’ve seen the creation of Automotive Grade Linux (AGL). It’s a car computer operating system that’s a collaboration between car manufacturers, suppliers, and technology companies in a bid to create a de facto industry standard for automotive applications.


Today, you can find AGL in models from Toyota, Ford, Mazda, Honda, Subaru, and Suzuki.

5. Tsunami Sensors

Ever since the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami killed 280,000 people in South-East Asia, tsunami prediction has become a vital part of public safety for people living in earthquake-prone low-lying areas. (If you’re at risk, technology can help you survive natural disasters 10 Must-Have Gadgets to Protect You Against Natural Disasters Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, blizzards, floods, wildfires, droughts. The earth can be cruel. If you underestimate the strength of natural disasters, you may find your life forever upended in the blink of an eye. Read More ).

One of the leading manufacturers of tsunami sensors is American company Teledyne Technologies.

The company’s sensors—which run on Linux—come complete with their own modem and use acoustics to send the data to each other underwater.

Bottom line? Linux is changing the world and saving lives.

6. North Korea’s State-Run Operating System

north korea operating system

There is a lot we don’t know about North Korea, but we do know that the country has an impressive state-wide computer operating system that’s based on Linux. It’s called Red Star OS.

It’s currently up to version 4.0 (released in January 2019), but 2008’s version 1.0 remains the most popular. An installation CD costs the equivalent of about 25 cents.

The operating system includes Naenara web browser (which is a Firefox fork). OS version 1.0 and 2.0 took their visual inspiration from Windows XP. Version 3.0 and 4.0 look more akin to macOS.

7. Nuclear Submarines

In 2004, Lockheed Martin delivered a new nuclear submarine to the United States government. The vessel’s sonar ran on a Red Hat Linux-based operating system combined with Apple Xserve servers. It was a first for submarine sonar at the time.

Lockheed Martin chose Linux for two important reasons.

Firstly, it allowed the sonar to run in a low heat, low power consumption mode, both of which are essential features on a submarine.

Secondly, the end of the reliance on embedded systems allowed the crew to adapt to various formats of data and encryption while at sea.

8. San Francisco’s Traffic Control System

In 2011, the city of San Francisco decided it was time to update its traffic control systems. Given that the city is the 30th most congested in the world, it’s vital that its traffic management systems are reliable. Waze and in-car GPS apps 8 Best Free Offline GPS Navigation Apps for Android Need directions on your phone but don't have an internet connection? These offline GPS apps for Android will help you navigate. Read More just won’t cut it.

The city authorities decided that Linux would power the system. It was built around a Freescale PowerQUICC II Pro processor and was designed to meet the national Advanced Transportation Controller (ATC) standards.

Sounds great, but San Francisco now faces 25 percent more congestion than it did when the system was implemented. Still, we’ll put that down to the west coast drivers rather than a failing of the operating system.

9. The International Space Station

One of the most interesting projects that uses Linux is the International Space Station (ISS). When the ISS was first launched in 1998, its onboard laptops ran on Windows 95. Over time, NASA upgraded them to Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows 7.

But in 2013, the Manager of Space Operations Computing (SpOC) for NASA, Keith Chuvala, admitted the entire array of more than 100 machines would be migrated to Linux. His comments didn’t make comfortable reading for Microsoft:

“We migrated key functions from Windows to Linux because we needed an operating system that was stable and reliable—one that would give us in-house control. So if we needed to patch, adjust, or adapt, we could.”

Debian was the Linux distro that the NASA team eventually settled on using.

Linux Across the World

So, let’s have a quick recap about the Linux world we’re now living in:

  1. Large Hadron Collider
  2. Air traffic control
  3. Farm equipment
  4. Self-driving cars
  5. Tsunami warning systems
  6. North Korean computers
  7. Nuclear submarines
  8. Traffic control systems
  9. International Space Station

Clearly, Linux is everywhere. And in this article, we’ve not even touched on “fun” everyday uses such as smart TVs, Roku sticks, Nest thermostats, Kindle e-readers, and all the rest.

And even though we’ve only listed nine unusual uses of Linux in the world, the wide variety of the examples will hopefully give you an appreciation for how widespread the operating system is.

If you’d like to learn more, read about why Linux’s actual market share is much higher than you probably realize The True Market Shares of Windows vs. Linux Compared The most-used operating system in the world is obviously Windows... or is it? Evidence may actually point to Linux as the world's largest OS! Read More .

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  1. JonZone
    December 22, 2019 at 8:57 am

    Wake up Dan Price in er'... Mexico, in your expat UK the Royal Navy are still using Windows XP in Nukey subs, and the same in the USA Nukey subs.
    They pay Microsoft to continue servicing them.
    The same goes for hundreds of government businesses in Australia.
    Learn how many UK subs are over 20 years old still using the same original nuclear power since they were launched.
    I have a nephew in the UK, a senior RN submariner, facts over-ride fictional articles !!

  2. etim
    August 10, 2019 at 1:48 am

    HaHaHa! "4. Self-Driving Cars"
    Come to think of it, I REALLY don't want Windows running my self-driving cars.

    • JonZone
      December 22, 2019 at 9:00 am

      Which planet are you on that does the impossible.
      Millennials like you and your ilk certainly need educating, starting with the Alphabet.

  3. Kelsey
    April 9, 2018 at 6:57 pm

    Nice post! Would have been great to include how Linux is integrating into the data center; first with servers, then with apps, and now through the actual network operating system.

  4. David
    April 9, 2018 at 2:45 pm

    You neglected to mention the ISS, which used Linux to replace Microsoft Windows XP.

    • David M
      August 11, 2019 at 4:23 am

      Item 9

  5. Richard
    April 9, 2018 at 11:12 am

    I'd just like to interject for a moment. What you’re referring to as Linux, is in fact, GNU/Linux, or as I’ve recently taken to calling it, GNU plus Linux. Linux is not an operating system unto itself, but rather another free component of a fully functioning GNU system made useful by the GNU corelibs, shell utilities and vital system components comprising a full OS as defined by POSIX. Many computer users run a modified version of the GNU system every day, without realizing it. Through a peculiar turn of events, the version of GNU which is widely used today is often called “Linux”, and many of its users are not aware that it is basically the GNU system, developed by the GNU Project. There really is a Linux, and these people are using it, but it is just a part of the system they use. Linux is the kernel: the program in the system that allocates the machine’s resources to the other programs that you run. The kernel is an essential part of an operating system, but useless by itself; it can only function in the context of a complete operating system. Linux is normally used in combination with the GNU operating system: the whole system is basically GNU with Linux added, or GNU/Linux. All the so-called “Linux” distributions are really distributions of GNU/Linux.

    • dragonmouth
      April 9, 2018 at 12:11 pm


      Linux has become a generic name just like kleenex, xerox and coke.

    • David
      April 9, 2018 at 2:47 pm

      This is a long-standing thread on many sites, and it has never been clear whether Linux = GNU/Linux.

    • Mike F
      April 12, 2018 at 2:58 pm

      GNU/Linux doesn't exactly roll nicely off the tongue, does it? "Linux" has become the colloquialism for GNU/Linux. Besides, some of these examples aren't limited to GNU implementations of the Linux kernel, so calling it GNU/Linux would not be appropriate in this case.

    • CommandLineHero
      April 12, 2018 at 5:38 pm

      Nice copy and paste of R.Stallman's ideology instead of being original in your opinion. Linux is Gnu/Linux and the terms are so oft interchangeable that Linux is used 100% of the time: it's easier to type and speak. You can call it whatever the heck you want to, but at the end of the day, everyone is free to do as they wish, even if that means contradicting R. Stallman's ideology.

    • David M
      August 11, 2019 at 4:30 am

      Well, that clarifies everything.

  6. jaws222
    April 8, 2018 at 10:06 pm

    Good to know.

    Thank God Windows isn't running the Hadron Collider. We'd all be dead.

    • Ennai
      April 29, 2018 at 1:44 am

      IKR? xD

    • Mike Walsh
      July 27, 2019 at 1:54 pm

      Yeah. You can just imagine it, can't you; the LHC and world-wide staff are in the middle of a critically-important experiment, one which might mean the difference between life & death for millions in some future time-frame.....and Windows chooses that exact moment to install a major update, and re-boot.

      (And before anyone says it, yes, I KNOW enterprise users can choose WHEN to install their updates).....but it's still an uncomfortable thought, isn't it?

    • David M
      August 11, 2019 at 4:28 am

      Not strictly true. If the LHC was designed for Windows, it wouldn't have booted yet.
      Ergo, pre 'Failsafe'

    • JonZone
      December 22, 2019 at 9:02 am

      Stop making noises from your coffin !!

  7. Ted
    April 6, 2018 at 6:49 pm

    What an ignorant article. Aside from the nonsensical comment about North Korea's nuclear weapons, your opening sentence, "Linux doesn't only run on home computers," suggests that you don't have the slightest idea what Linux is used for. You've made no mention of it running servers... Linux is, at its heart, a server OS. It's used on more servers than any other OS, including but not limited to most web servers worldwide - most likely the server serving this website is running on Linux. Please, don't write articles if you are completely and totally uninformed on the subject.

    • Dan Price
      April 6, 2018 at 7:27 pm

      I'll ignore your unnecessary insults, and instead suggest:

      1) Please re-read the intro for an insight into what to expect from the piece:

      "... the most unusual ways people and companies around the world have used Linux."

      2) Read this, also written by me:



      • Shawn
        April 10, 2018 at 4:50 pm

        I don't think he read the article :P

        Great post BTW.

    • David M
      August 11, 2019 at 4:35 am

      Wow Ted, that was a load full.
      Just to keep things a bit clearer (and reflect its real-world applications) I think you'd have been better to have stated that Linux is, at its heart, whatever you need it to be.
      But that would support the article's thrust and therefore made your rant redundant.

  8. Adam
    April 6, 2018 at 5:02 pm

    Ummm, we know with absolute certainty that North Korea has nuclear weapons because it has detonated them many times. They've had the A-bomb for years and are close to a reliable H-bomb, and have already tested several prototypes with varying levels of success.