5 Surprising Ways Linux Is Changing the World

Philip Bates 20-01-2017

Ask most people in the street, and they won’t have even heard of Linux, let alone know what it is What's This "Linux" Thing and Why Should I Try It? Read More . Nonetheless, they’ll have used something that runs on the open source operating system Is Linux Confusing? Here Are The Key Terms You Need To Know These days, Ubuntu and other modern Linux distributions usually install without a hitch (and without requiring any knowledge), but as you move forward using them, you will inevitably come across all sorts of terminology that... Read More .


From the most popular websites to the future of science and space travel, Linux is furthering the development of our world, and our understanding of the universe.

Major Websites

If you’re reading this, you’ve very likely visited a site run by Linux server distributions.

Ever wondered about something and looked on the internet to learn either the basics or in-depth details? You’ve likely gone through Google and found yourself on Wikipedia The Origins of Wikipedia: How It Came To Be [Geek History Lesson] Read More . Both run on variations of Linux.

Books on Wikipedia
Image Credit: Jeramey Jannene via Flickr

It’s often sneered at, but the vast majority of us frequent Wikipedia 7 Ways To Learn Something New Every Day With Wikipedia Wikipedia is packed full of content. At the time of writing there are over 4 million articles contained within the English language version, with more being added all the time. All of these pages are... Read More . While the pages might not be extensive in all cases, they do offer a good foundation, explaining what you need to know as deftly as possible. You might see it as something used largely by students, and there’s nothing wrong with that: Wikipedia’s mission — “to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content… and disseminate it effectively and globally” — is a great cause, effective whether you’re in education or whether college is far behind you.


Wikipedia adopted the Ubuntu OS in 2008 and deals with billions of visitors each month.

Many of its most popular pages came as a result of Google Doodles 3 Cool Ways to Check Out an Archive of Google's Doodles Read More , also powered by Linux. Google’s version, however, is a heavily-customised Ubuntu, referred to as “Goobuntu.” It runs on approximately 100,000 servers (although the exact number is confidential) and on internal computers by staff.

Versions of Linux further power Linux Is Everywhere: 10 Things You Didn't Know Were Penguin-Powered If you think the world rests on Windows, think again. Linux plays a crucial role in keeping our world going. Read More the likes of Amazon, Twitter and Facebook, and WordPress.

Linux helps educate millions merely by supporting a large number of sites on what used to be called the information superhighway!


Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi is a small single-board computer used to teach youngsters the basics of computing and programming The Basics Of Computer Programming 101 - Variables And DataTypes Having introduced and talked a little about Object Oriented Programming before and where its namesake comes from, I thought it's time we go through the absolute basics of programming in a non-language specific way. This... Read More .

Developed in the UK, its sole purpose is to educate, which is why schools, colleges, and universities lapped it up. One costs between $5 and $35. The palm-sized motherboard is cheap because it comes with no cases or cables, but it’ll plug into a TV and you’ll need to add various other components to get started What You Need to Know About Getting Started with Raspberry Pi The Raspberry Pi computer is the latest in a line of compact, multi-function devices, shipped as a barebones package so that end users can use the hardware for virtually any computing project that comes to... Read More . It’ll do basically what a desktop PC can: search the internet, create documents, and play games. But its reason for being is to teach people coding Coding in the Fun — 7 Creative Ways to Teach Programming with Toys With so many benefits of learning to code, why wouldn't you want to start your child's learning early? Check out seven toys that make it fun. Read More .

Solarbotics Raspberry Pi
Image Credits: Solarbotics via Flickr.

And it runs on Linux!


It’s because Linux is open-source Why is Linux So Great? Because It's Open Source! But what makes Linux such a great choice that it's used in all those devices? It's because it's open source, which as you're about to see, has various implications. Read More , so its infrastructure is very flexible. The Raspberry Pi Foundation, the charity which distributes them, offers downloads of Raspbian as basic — that’s a flavor of Debian Linux — but it’ll otherwise run further Linux variations, including Ubuntu.

While many of us were taught the ins-and-outs of Excel, Word, and effectively searching the internet at school, youngsters’ computing knowledge has naturally progressed to such an extent that there’s a solid argument for teaching programming Cursive Writing Is Obsolete; Schools Should Teach Programming Instead [Opinion] Cursive writing is an anachronism. Spending any classroom time on it is a waste because as a day-to-day skill, it is not at all practical in the modern, connected world. Read More to all.

If an educational institution isn’t embracing the Raspberry Pi, though, it’s a good idea to buy one for any students in your household. As we’ve explained, it’s the LEGO of the computing world 5 Reasons to Give Your Kids a Raspberry Pi If you don't own a Raspberry Pi and you have children of a suitable age, you need to seriously think about bringing one home. It could transform your child's life – here's why. Read More , allowing kids some hands-on time with a key component of their futures.

Teachings in International Schools

While the Raspberry Pi ships worldwide, schools and colleges are advocating Linux across the globe.


You’ll find the OS in educational systems in countries as diverse as Pakistan (the government created the Technology Resource Mobilization Unit in 2002, with the aim of promoting the benefits of open-source software); many states across India; and the Philippines, where many users bought into Ubuntu due to its typically low installation costs, thanks to sidestepping Windows’ licenses and service fees.

In fact, limited costs proved a major factor in Linux’s adoption in initiatives such as One Laptop Per Child One Laptop Per Child Project, 7 Years Later [INFOGRAPHIC] People such as I in the western developed world tend to take the Internet for granted, but we often forget that there are a lot of people in the developing world who don't have access... Read More . Its mission is to supply a small machine, the OLPC XO-1, running Linux to educational institutions in developing countries. They’re capable of functioning in extreme weather, including humidity, and heat and sunlight exposure.

Cheap laptop running Linux
Image Credits: Travis Goodspeed via Flickr

Similarly, Macedonia’s A Computer For Every Child project distributed 5,000 PCs running Ubuntu in 2005 to public schools, and a further 180,000 thin client computers two years later.

In 2007, Russian schools began running Linux as a cheaper alternative to Windows, and this use of the malleable OS could spread to all state-owned devices; indeed, Russia’s so-called “internet Czar”, German Klemenko described the move as “inevitable”.

It’s interesting to compare how Linux is being used to open the minds of the next generation, and how a heavily-modified Fedora OS is used in North Korea This is What Technology In North Korea Looks Like In North Korea’s isolation, they’ve developed their own Internet. Their own technology industry. Even their own tablet computers. Here’s what digital life in the DPRK looks like. Read More . The country’s intranet infamously blocks access to a large portion of the main internet, but Florian Grunow, of security firm, ERNW, says there’s likely another reason for the encryption methods How Does Encryption Work, and Is It Really Safe? Read More deployed:

This is a full blown operation system where they control most of the code… They may want to be independent of other operating systems because they fear back doors.

Linux is helping educate millions of children worldwide. But to see how it’s changing humanity, we need only stargaze 5 Best Websites For Space and Astronomy Fans Read More

International Space Station

A few hours either side of sunset and sunrise, when the skies are gloomy, look up. You stand a chance of seeing the International Space Station (ISS), streaking across the globe at around 17,500 miles an hour. Here’s a live stream of it:

And everything on the ISS runs on various Linux distributions.

The systems were migrated from Windows to Linux Is Linux Finally Good Enough to Replace Windows? Recent figures show that Linux desktop usage has reached 2%, it's highest yet. Does this mean Linux has reached a point where it can replace Windows and Mac OS X for the average user? Read More back in 2013. United Space Alliance’s Keith Chuvala explained:

[W]e 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.

While laptops used to run on Windows XP, some Linux systems were also migrated to different distributions — from the Scientific Linux, for instance, to Debian 6. Being open-source, it makes customisation for separate experiments easier, and also proves more capable to withstand cyberattacks Is Linux Really as Secure as You Think It Is? Linux is often touted as the most secure operating system you can get your hands onto, but is this really the case? Let's take a look at different aspects of Linux computer security. Read More . Most notably, a Russian cosmonaut’s laptop was infected with the W32.Gammima.AG worm, which swiftly spread to other ISS computers in 2008.

Linux allows control and recording of experiments that help us learn more about a weightless environment. The ISS will determine the future of our lives in space Watch This Space: 10 Must-See Documentaries About the Universe These are the best space documentaries to help you explore the universe from the comfort of your living room. Read More , assessing long-term travel’s effects on things like eyesight, our immune system, and digestion.

The associated Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites-Zero-Robotics (SPHERES-Zero-Robotics) project also inspired school students to take an interest in science and programming. The annual competition gives youngsters the opportunity to work on algorithms to program SPHERE satellites to complete specific challenges.

The ISS might educate us on our own future, but we have to return to Earth in order to discover more about the universe…

Large Hadron Collider

“Run! Hide! The end of Earth is nigh!”

Doomsayers reared their heads when the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) Panoramic Virtual Tour Of CERN Comes To Google Street View If you ever wanted to visit and see the Large Hadron Collider, now you can. Thanks to Google Street View you can take a panoramic virtual tour of the CERN site. Read More unveiled plans for the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a project which some feared would result in a black hole The Theory of Everything: The Web Uncovers the True Love Story Stephen Hawking called the movie "broadly true" – so what exactly did happen in real life? We piece the true story together behind the Oscar-nominated movie with interesting sources from the web. Read More consuming everything and everyone. Novelist, Dan Brown even got involved, theorising that the LHC would lead to anti-matter being used as a weapon.

The first experiments began in 2008 and the world is still here.

The LHC basically emulates the conditions of the universe shortly after the Big Bang. Essentially, the facility, located near Geneva, is the most powerful particle accelerator, wherein two subatomic particle beams travelling at the speed of light collide in an effort to understand some of the unanswered questions about the fabric of existence. What is the nature of dark matter? Could we detect potential further dimensions? Does the Higgs boson, which gives particles mass, exist? Heavy stuff. (See what I did there?)

Large Hadron Collider

And it runs on Scientific Linux. Not only are we learning more about existence through Linux, we’re also trusting it (and thousands of scientists) not to create mini-black holes.

Linux is perfect for this. It’s the operating system on 469 of the world’s 500 fastest supercomputers, meaning technicians can easily create their own distributions Debian vs. Ubuntu vs. Linux Mint: Which Distribution Should You Use? Most Linux users install a Debian-based distro. But which should you choose: Debian, Ubuntu, or Linux Mint? Read More , as well as manage the 15 petabytes of data the LHC generates each year, roughly the power of 40,000 CPUs.

In 2012, CERN announced the discovery of a new particle consistent with the Higgs boson. There we have it: Linux has aided our understanding of fundamental matter interaction, affecting everything.

Linux: A Force for Good

There’s no question: Linux is a key tool in education What Is The Easiest Version Of Linux To Learn? With each day that passes, more and more people are giving Linux a try. It’s free and it can hold its ground against both Windows and Mac, so why not? And maybe you want to... Read More . Nonetheless, there are scores of people who know nothing about it.

Even those well versed in Linux might be surprised to learn all its applications and advocates.

Do you use Linux? Tempted? If so, what’s been stopping you so far? How else is Linux changing the world?

Related topics: Linux Distro, Raspberry Pi, Wikipedia.

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  1. Silverlokk
    January 23, 2017 at 2:09 am

    You're talking of GNU/Linux the full OS. The kernel Linux, OTOH, is at the heart of Android

    • Philip Bates
      January 31, 2017 at 5:14 pm

      Very true. That really reinforces the assertion that everyone's used or uses Linux, many without even realising it!

  2. J
    January 20, 2017 at 6:46 pm

    Just face it, Windows is there to run games. For anything serious you need Linux. Oh, and thanks to Steam, you can ditch Windows for games too.

    • Sam
      January 20, 2017 at 9:38 pm

      That's mainly true, although unfortunately a large number of games are not available on Linux and the drivers can give lower performance.
      Personally, I dual boot with Windows 10 and KDE Neon.

    • Philip Bates
      January 31, 2017 at 5:11 pm

      I agree - Linux is perfect for more complex programs. Still, people stick by Windows because open-source software sounds quite scary - as if the slightest mistake will screw everything up. Most people just want something to go on the Internet and play games.