Home Source code Soul of the movement: 30 years of Linux (part 1)

Soul of the movement: 30 years of Linux (part 1)

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On August 19, 1991, Linus Torvalds humbly conducted his own poll, questioning interest in a Usenet post to the comp.os.minix group at the University of Helsinki:

I am making a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won’t be big and professional like gnu) for 386 (486) AT clones. It has been brewing since April and is starting to prepare. I would love to have some feedback on the things people like / dislike about minix, as my operating system looks a bit like it (same physical layout of the filesystem for convenience and so on).

Just a hobby? In the midst of the “free software movement” and years before the launch of “open source”, a month later, the first Linux kernel occupied 65KB and contained about 10,000 lines of Torvalds code.

The rise of Linux as the cornerstone of computing

Linux flourished and today Linux 5.14 contains over 3.3 million lines of code. The heart of his superpower? It’s versatile. It can be analyzed and customized to fit most strategic and specialized scenarios, from tiny onboard peripherals to powering the world’s top 500 supercomputers. In fact, many of the biggest Internet properties such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, and eBay are Linux-based.

What else? Linux drives edge computing, combining the power of cloud data centers with decentralized nodes for rapid response. Two members of the Linux community recently testified: “Linux is the fundamental lead role in building the critical platforms needed for SDN, NFV and Cloud” and Linux embodies “30 years of silent service for better telecommunications “.

What other long-standing technology can stand up to this?

“Decentralized innovation, built with confidence”

One of the many reasons Linux continues to thrive today is that many key companies in the industry have decided to create a vendor-independent foundation to support the wider development of Linux and the technologies that surround it during its first decade of existence. First launched as the Open Source Development Lab in 2000, it quickly grew into the Linux Foundation, which today is considered “a neutral and trusted hub for developers to code, manage, and update. the scale of open technology projects, ”which helped ensure Linux’s ability to scale. and grow over time, free from undue influence from suppliers.

“Having the Linux Foundation as a long-standing center of the wider open source community has been incredibly helpful in growing Linux from a hobby project to one of the most essential parts of the business. ‘software infrastructure used around the world,’ says Dirk Hohndel of VMware. , vice president, director of open source. “The Linux Foundation does not lead the development of Linux. But the Foundation has facilitated many collaborations between major players in the industry over the years, which has made Linux the indispensable center of this open source revolution.”

And then, well, there was the burgeoning onslaught of Linux kernel developers who came together as a community, as well as thousands of programmers from around the world who too jumped on the Linux bandwagon and started to send their suggestions for improvements to those in charge.

Open Source VMware Engineer and now kernel maintenance manager and developer of ftrace and KernelShark, Steven Rostedt, stumbled upon Linux in 1996 while writing code for a Microsoft product. He hit a bug on their “debugger”. Finding frustration at how horrible the code was, he threw his hands up and shouted, “Can’t they make Unix for Windows?”

That’s when the intern sitting next to him said, “Haven’t you heard of Linux?

“Eureka. I downloaded the operating system and fell in love with it,” says Rostedt. “Linux, really, was great and I’ve been programming and developing on it ever since.”

Rostedt mentioned when he first started using Linux everyone said it was Unix and would become incompatible and die. “Forksonly kill closed source code, it can only improve open source code. ”

UNIX wars and more on Linux Forks

In the 1980s there were several different Unix offerings – AT&T, Microsoft, SCO, Sun Unix, IBM, HP, to name a few, competing in the market. Each entity would take the codebase and expand it, competing to be thenumber one game changer. Customers chose the Unix features they needed most to achieve their goals, but when their needs changed and found Unix problematic, they switched to Windows.

Unix machines were also ten times more expensive than a normal Windows PC, which had no compatibility issues.

Rostedt says: “The flexibility and quality of Unix was even better than that of Windows. But people have switched to Windows because of the cost savings. Linux, being free and running on PCs, offered both the advantages of Windows and the quality of Unix. . “

Rostedt worked at Lockheed Martin in the 90s, where he pushed hard for using Linux:

“I used Linux to run all these tiny little servers and lectured on Linux, but I kept hearing that it would branch off. Under the GPL (the General Public License of Free Software Licenses that grant end users the freedom to run, study, share and modify the software), whatever you distribute, you must give the source code and the rights to anyone to take that source code and do whatever they want with it, as long as it grants the rights to whoever it distributes. Its evolution is based on forks, which is good for Open Source. It determines which features are best for you and can be reintegrated into your program, making it a more powerful product. “

Regarding the longevity of Linux, Rostedt adds: “From the start, Torvalds stuck to one rule: you don’t break user space. This means that if you have an application that is running on one kernel it should run on all kernels after that and this is another reason Linux is so successful. You don’t have to worry about porting your applications to the next kernel version. They might turn out to be buggy and you should update them, but they will still work as before. “

The test of time

Linux has survived for decades, unlike other technologies that have found their way too quickly into the tech graveyard, plagued by a myriad of issues such as underfunding, running on an undefined model, and inability to keep pace with technological advancements and the ever-changing user. Needs.

Today, disruptive technology is being invented and the innovators of tomorrow are turning into something bigger, more efficient. But too often yesterday’s code is as valuable as yesterday’s news.

But, wait a minute.

What other technology over 30 years old do we still rely on and find fundamental to doing our job, like Linux?

Tune in to Part 2 of this blogging series where we’ll continue our conversation with Steven Rostedt and a handful of other open source engineers at VMware to find out exactly what these things could be, and go back for a final word on Linux and Open Source!


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