Hello again! If
you've been missing the letter, let me assure you that I've
missed writing it. Unfortunately, the demands of being a full
time college student (electrical engineering) and working (30
hours a week) just about fill up all of my time. The good news?
I graduate in May, 2002, so in just a few short months, I'll be
able to devote some time every week to keeping the column
In the meantime,
exciting things are always happening in the world of Linux. More
than ever, the operating system is becoming a powerful force in
the server world, with some inroads into the desktop market.
Mainstream companies like IBM, Hewlett Packard and Dell are
shipping powerful servers with sophisticated applications
designed for Linux.
The NOSPIN Group
uses Linux exclusively on its servers and one of the
unanticipated benefits is that we were immune to attacks from
the latest round of viruses that permeated the Internet over the
course of the past few months. Of course, our Cisco router
wasn't so lucky, but fortunately even that's been fixed.
I use Linux
exclusively on my notebook computer for the simple reason that I
can get much better performance on its lowly AMD K6-2 380MHz
process than I can with any version of Windows. Also, many of
the applications that I depend upon for school and work have
been ported to Linux, including Maple (computer algebra system)
and MATLAB (signals and matrix analysis). I also use StarOffice
5.2 as my primary word processor since it is almost completely
compatible with Microsoft Office.
September 17 was
the 10th anniversary of the very first publicly
available Linux kernel, and it made me stop and think about just
how I became involved with the operating system. No, I don't go
back ten years with Linux, but it's been a while.
When I lived in San
Diego, California, I hosted a popular computer bulletin board
system at a time when an 80386 33MHz computer with 8MB of RAM
was about the most powerful system you could hope to own. I had
a good friend who was the system administrator of some Navy
computers, systems that just happened to be connected to the
Internet. When he offered me free Internet email, I jumped at
There was just one
problem. His systems ran this odd operating system called
Coherent UNIX. Now, I couldn't really afford to go out and buy a
copy of UNIX, but he clued me in to this "free" clone
of UNIX called Linux. I think that at the time, single speed
CD-ROM drives were just becoming available. So I bought a copy
of Walnut Creek's Slackware Linux and went to work on a 386SX-16
system with 4MB of RAM. I managed to find enough hardware that
would actually work with Linux, created a LAN using thinnet BNC
cables and hooked things together. Amazingly, it worked and for
about a year, you could actually dial up my computer BBS and
send and receive email for free. Without being disturbed by ads
Times have changed!
In the space of about 7 or 8 years, the Internet is ubiquitous,
computers are household appliances and everyone has an email
address. The old times were fun, but I don't miss them at all.
Today, instead of a computer BBS with a few phone lines that
could accommodate just four simultaneous connections, The NOSPIN
Group has a system that is distributed across the entire United
States and can support virtually any number of users in by a
variety of methods. And, for the most part, that support comes
from computers running Linux. To be fair, the noteable exception
is the VAX system at St John's University that supports our
mailing lists. It runs the VMS operating system.
So, happy birthday,
Linux. Ten years and getting better all the time isn't half bad
in the computer world.