GNU/Linux -- Like No Other Hotrod, Ever

Posted by grouch on Aug 4, 2006 7:00 AM EDT
LXer; By Terry Vessels
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Tux with cboy's rat-on-a-shoestring LXer Feature: 04-Aug-2006

GNU/Linux -- Like No Other Hotrod, Ever

While others appear to be going backwards, Linux just keeps racing ahead.

'Linux supports more devices, "out of the box", than any other operating system ever has.'

"Yes, that's right, we support more things than anyone else. And more than anyone else ever has in the past. Linux has a very long list of things that we have supported before anyone else ever did."
-- Greg Kroah-Hartman, OLS 2006 Keynote

Tux with cboy's Rat-on-a-shoestring

Tux is pictured with Cboy's "rat on a shoestring", a hotrod built from scratch and launched with:

"This is the beginning of an experimental rod build. The idea emerged out of a couple of threads on H.R. Com about how we used to build rods in the old days on an absolute minimum budget using what we had laying around or finding a low buck donor vehicle. My goal in this project will be to build a safe, fun, vehicle with an interesting look and a minimal investment. I've set a budget of $3,000 - not including tools or expendables (welding rod, grinding wheels etc.)."

This photo was used with cboy's permission.

Just as sharing source code goes back at least to Grace Hopper, hotrodders, too, have a long history of sharing technical information.

The Starting Line

To gain a bit of perspective on the miraculous acceleration of Linux, the kernel, and GNU/Linux, the operating system, note that Microsoft began in 1975 and drags in billions of dollars a year to support development. GNU started in 1984, as Richard Stallman was allowed to use MIT facilities to start work on a free operating system. GNU was supported in the beginning by the sale of magnetic tapes containing Emacs. The X Window System "was created in the mid-1980s at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology."

Linux, the kernel, began in 1991 with a newsgroup posting by a "college kid", Linus Torvalds. It was the last major piece needed to make a complete, free operating system.

The world's biggest software company (monetarily) had a 16 year head start and has been passed in less than 15. Linux supports more devices and "supports more different processors than any other operating system ever has". That's acceleration.

Engine and controls

The Linux kernel is one amazing, evolving, hotrod beast of an operating system engine! The kernel hackers are swarming over it constantly, looking for ways to trim excess weight, add new device support, optimize the way things are done and clean out bugs. These folks want things done right and they are willing to scrap whole sections of code and rebuild it from scratch to get there. They are truly the hotrodders of the software world.

The GNU General Public License attached to the Linux kernel guarantees every kernel developer that his or her work will not be locked within some closed package and used against them. Anyone may distribute a forked version of Linux, but on the open, fair terms of the GPL. You just can't take the super engine they've built, weld it shut with some oppressive EULA, and go racing against them. You play fair or you simply get left behind.

Tools, Frame and Body

Now an engine without something to move is not much of a general purpose machine. Sure, Linux supports devices all around us, every day, but people love computers that let them tinker and come up with new things to do. They want a commodity box, for the price and replaceability, but they want the ability to completely personalize how it acts. GNU provides the world's finest software tools to go with the world's finest engine. (Even if you don't want to raise the hood, you certainly don't want your mechanic using junky tools). Put GNU and Linux together and you have the best operating system foundation, built by the best engineers and technicians in the world, for the world. Drop a sexy body on it, and you have yourself a hotrod!

Kit or Complete

Once you have a framework with engine and tools, what kind of system can you build with it? The license the developers have chosen provides a very friendly answer -- any kind you please, as long as you don't try to keep the next person from being able to do the same. This is why there are so many distributions of GNU/Linux. People are allowed to build it any way they please, so they do. You may build it up from nuts and bolts and pieces and parts or pay to get one which resembles the ubiquitous legacy system, or get one anywhere in between. You just can't get that kind of variety from Microsoft or any other operating system supplier. You can even try out various LiveCDs, without affecting your current system, to figure out which is right for you. If one doesn't quite feel right, test-drive another. They're ready to just

start and go

Just because you don't think you can build your own, doesn't mean you are left out of the fun. There are companies selling computers with GNU/Linux pre-installed and ready to go. No matter what level of completion you choose, you're still free to alter the software as you see fit, until it exactly fits you.

jimf's tux hotrod


You are free

to customize far beyond the look of the background or the placement of icons, whether you choose to build from scratch or adapt a distribution to fit your tastes. You can make your hotrod operating system look like no one else's in the world, and yet remain compatible with open standards.

No hotrod is complete without a few accessories and sound. Of course, if you bought or downloaded a distribution, you probably already have everything you're likely to need, either installed or available at a click or command. (Distributors put in a lot of work to make it easy. They wouldn't complain if you bought a box or manual or helped out).

Whatever computing needs you have, from toys to supercomputers, or anything in between [*], you can very likely satisfy those needs with GNU/Linux. While you've been reading, people all over the world have been evolving the system, making it suit their needs better. (Even if those needs are

a bit different). The GNU/Linux hotrod is

picking up speed and

hauling Asia. It's time for slowpokes to get out of the way.

jimf's tux hotrod

Move over, road hog

Please, if you're still running that raggedy old eXtra Polluting thing, belching poison all over the Internet

while being blamed by the manufacturer for the manufacturer's ineptitude,

charged by the manufacturer for things it should have had
but didn't,

forced by the manufacturer to take things you shouldn't,

spied on and bullied, and

nursing it along from one patch job to the next,

hoping it won't destroy too much of your stuff when it blows up because of the

unpatched vulnerabilities,

just park it. If it was a car, you would have junked it long ago.

You can have the world's finest for next to nothing and a world of people to help you to tailor it to fit just you. It's secure, stable and second to none. See some really clean, beautiful vistas instead of dirty, damaging ones. Try riding in a custom vehicle that does what you tell it to do. Try LInux.

[* Thanks, jimf, for sharing the screenshot and those original Tux hotrod drawings. GIMP is good enough to let me drop Larry Ewing's Tux behind Cboy's Rat, but it can't turn me into an artist. Thanks also for your editorial 'patch'.

BTW, I did save the image where you had your Tux aiming a torch at Cboy's carb. It's a good reminder that, like any really good tool, Linux won't stop you from using the tool in a dangerous way.]
fire and gasoline

Links used:

  1. going backwards
  2. racing ahead
  3. OLS 2006 Keynote

  4. Tux
  5. Cboy's "rat on a shoestring"
  6. cboy's permission
  7. Grace Hopper

  8. have a long history
  9. Microsoft began in 1975
  10. drags in billions of dollars
  11. GNU started in 1984

  12. X Window System
  13. Linux, the kernel, began in 1991
  14. has been passed
  15. "supports more different processors than any other operating system ever has"

  16. hackers
  17. constantly
  18. rebuild it
  19. hotrodders

  20. General Public License attached to the Linux kernel
  21. EULA
  22. get left behind
  23. devices

  24. GNU
  25. software tools
  26. sexy body
  27. distributions

  28. build it up from nuts and bolts and pieces and parts
  29. start and go
  30. companies selling computers with GNU/Linux pre-installed
  31. free

  32. look
  33. accessories
  34. sound
  35. distribution

  36. toys
  37. supercomputers
  38. anything
  39. between

  40. a bit different
  41. picking up speed
  42. hauling Asia
  43. slowpokes to get out of the way

  44. raggedy old eXtra Polluting thing
  45. poison all over the Internet
  46. blamed by the manufacturer
  47. charged by the manufacturer for things it should have had

  48. forced by the manufacturer to take things
  49. spied on and bullied
  50. one patch job to the next
  51. destroy too much of your stuff

  52. unpatched vulnerabilities
  53. people to help you
  54. beautiful
  55. dirty, damaging

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Subject Topic Starter Replies Views Last Post
Hardware Problems Led Me To GNU/Linux dcparris 4 2,464 Aug 7, 2006 5:35 AM
And Windows supports more devices, period. sbergman27 90 3,444 Aug 6, 2006 1:23 PM

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