From: [email protected] (Jeff Somers)
Subject: PC WEEK's review of Linux
Date: 26 Apr 1994 21:55:57 GMT
Organization: MARCAM Corporation, Newton, MA. USA
PC WEEK, April 18, 1994. Page 77
Born free, Linux is a useful beast
Once in a while we see a product that reminds us of why we became interested
in computers in the first place. Linux, a free Unix clone that was PC Week
Labs' Product of the Week last week, is one of those products.
Linux 1.0, which was released last month after a 2-year beta test, isn't
all that special when individual attributes are examined. It's just as
complex as any version of Unix; it isn't distributed in an organized
way (in contrast with other free versions such as UnixFreeBSD; and it
uses an old-style monolithic kernel that is tightly bound to the Intel
What's special about the operating system is that it works so well, despite
a widely scattered development and distribution effort. Linux is a
complete, POSIX-compatible Unix clone that includes X Window, complete
TCP/IP-based networking, and development tools for every major programming
The operating system is a good example of what the free flow of information
over an international network and collaboration among computer enthusiasts
can produce. Its chief developer is Linus Torvalds, a college student in
Finland, but hundreds of others from all over the world have contributed.
Linux also owes many of its features to its support of other free software,
such as the entire product line of the Free Software Foundation and XFree86.
The operating system has garnered widespread support. Nearly every major
Unix program distributed by government, research, and academic organizations
includes predefined settings for compiling on Linux, or includes a Linux
binary. After using the Unix clone for about six months, we have yet to
run into Unix source code that couldn't be recompiled easily on Linux
(unless the code was designed for a specific Unix platform like SunOS or
The downside? It's not likely that Lotus Development Corp. will port
Lotus 1-2-3 to Linux, nor is it likely that Microsoft Corp. will port
Word for Windows. And, although there are some reliable Linux
distributors, users are still more responsible for updating components,
porting some software that they need, and seeking out technical support
from peers, than is tolerated with commercial operating systems.
For users who are familiar with Unix (or who want to be), however, and
don't mind getting their hands dirty sometimes, Linux is an excellent
workhorse of an operating system. Also, by virtue of its POSIX
compatibility and System V Release 4-compatible extensions, it's a fine
PC Week Labs uses Linux to run our internal World-Wide Web and FTP server,
as well as an X Windows host to run X Windows applications (using X server
software on Windows). Our main Linux PC is a 33MHz 486 with 32M bytes of
RAM, but we also run it successfully (including X Windows) on a 25MHz 386
with 8M bytes of RAM.
The best Linux distribution we've come across is from a company called
SlackWare. SlackWare's setup program made it simple to install the basic
operating system, utilities, and applications (such as the Free Software
Foundation's Emacs editor).
Configuring X Windows for our hardware is still too difficult, although
users can avoid that pain entirely if they run Linux on a network and use
any number of commercial X Windows servers on Windows, OS/2, or Macintosh
computers (as we do in the Labs).
Linux can be installed on a hard disk with several operating systems, using
a boot manager utility called LILO, although users will need a lot of disk
space for that option (a full installation of SlackWare's Linux takes up
about 150M bytes).
Linux is not public domain: Torvalds, in Finland, retains the copyright.
The license agreement (which is identical to the Free Software Foundation's
General Public License) permits users to resell Linux for whatever the
market will bear, but also requires them to either include the source code
(as most do) or provide the option to obtain it at a nominal cost.
SlackWare's Linux distribution can be downloaded from the Internet from
several sites (including sunsite.unc.edu or tsx-11.mit.edu) and from
several regional bulletin-board services.
Mail order is also an option for those without Internet access. Slackware's
distribution, for example, is available from several distributors, including
Linux Systems Labs, in Clinton Township, Mich., at (800) 432-0556. Prices
range from about $30 to about $100, depending on what else is included.
A few companies sell fully configured Linux PCs and notebooks. These include
Fintronic USA Inc., in Menlo Park, Calif., which is at (415) 325-4908 for
fax ordering. SW Technology, in Richardson, Texas, also sells these systems,
and can be reached at (214) 907-0871.
(Photo Caption) The default X Window manager in Linux 1.0 has a Motif-like,
3-D appearance. The Window manager also allows users to use multiple virtual