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A Continuing Work in Progress: The State of Linux 2006

A Continuing Work in Progress: The State of Linux 2006
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Figure 1: The Penguin has been a symbol for the Linux world for some time now, and it's interested to observe some of its regional variations.

In days gone by, the personification of Linux might have conjured up the image of a hotshot college kid full of half-baked ideas and sharp edges. But that college kid has now graduated into the business world, and unleashed his furious entrepreneurial spirit. Today, Linux has a sharper, more refined edge than before, and has branched out into private, public, enterprise and governmental sectors. Linux also spans all manner of hardware platforms, and serves an incredibly wide variety of purposes.

Today, Linux appears on virtually all forms of computer technology - from laptops to desktops, workstations to servers, and even discretely in the form of portable media players and handheld devices. There's a good chance that, even in what is essentially an all-Windows shop, there's an unassuming Linux device gently nestled in that picture somewhere (perhaps even running in a hidden partition on an otherwise all-Windows PC). It could be a cellular phone, a broadband router, a network attached storage unit, or a hand-held device, just to name a few items that might easily escape casual notice.

Furthermore, the embedded marketplace has become a mushrooming contingent of Linux-centric projects. These range from secure home automation devices to point-of-sale kiosks, ensuring a long and varied life for the prominent open source software (OSS) icon. In addition, industry-wide support to both unify and simplify the Linux platform, from multiple mutually-exclusive global initiatives, gives it the leverage it needs to stake a bigger claim on many of the competing desktop, server, and mobile market spaces.

To label Linux a purely enthusiast or hobbyist operating system is overly facile; such a stance also categorically denies that Linux has any real industry presence. On the contrary, prominent top-tier manufacturers such as Dell, IBM, Sun Microsystems, and Hewlett-Packard all openly support Linux in select product lines, and many lower-tier manufacturers have adopting this platform to establish cost-effective price points in various highly competitive marketplaces. Government support for Linux also comes in a variety of forms. Most notably, this includes the NSA-sponsored Security Enhanced Linux (SELinux) policy extensions adopted into the mainstream by Red Hat starting with Fedora Core 2 (the current version is Fedora Core 5). SELinux extends basic security functionality to the Linux platform, and makes it easier to create a hardened installation. These are only a few examples of where Linux is actively developed by high-visibility organizations, all of which take this platform very seriously.

Stated more forcefully and simply, Linux has plowed its way out of the fringes and into the mainstream.

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