“Alone, we can do so little; together we can do so much” – Helen Keller.
For a long time, like most people, I used Windows, the most popular operating system in the world. My interest in Linux started when I started programming, and even then the inertia made switching difficult. The prohibitive cost of Mac computers, the traditional alternative to Windows, hasn’t helped.
Over time, I found myself increasingly disappointed with my Windows experience. I wanted a computer I had more control over, a computer that offered more than just utility. The more I researched, the more obvious it became that Linux was my best option. I loved that it was free and open-source, a cause I admired passionately, which meant there would be little buyer’s remorse if it didn’t work. It was also light and, depending on the configuration, would have been perfect on my old machine. Its modular nature also stood out, and I could choose from several distros for a relatively secure and personalized experience.
I was cautious, dipping my toe with a live Linux Mint USB stick.
After a few uses, I’ve set up a dual boot of Windows and Linux Mint.
I was intimidated at first. Any problem I had seemed puzzling until I spent time on forums, where I found articulate solutions that worked. There was no tech support or salesperson to call. There was almost always a solution provided by someone in the community. It became clear to me that Linux was a lot more forgiving than you might think. It has since become my default daily driver.
What stood out was the community.
It’s one of the unique features of Linux and probably the best thing I love about it. Other operating systems have active communities, but they are mostly centralized around a particular company or product. Linux is different and has been a community operating system since its inception.
Initially, it was developed and released by the Linux project as a kernel. Around the same time, an open source project called GNU was started. It was a cross-platform operating system with a set of libraries, utilities, and documentation. The two projects merged under a common vision of a free, accessible and open-source operating system. The collaboration would create the GNU/LINUX operating system, which was open source and received contributions from developers around the world.
This was the start of the Linux ecosystem, which has now become one of the most popular communities in the world. It is a volunteer-based community with a collective identity of people who use, develop and distribute Linux and share the goal of creating a better operating system. Developers create a stable, secure and user-friendly operating system; distributors ensure that the best possible version of Linux is available, while users, through their use of Linux, provide feedback that is taken into account in future developments. There are also thousands of companies around the world that use Linux as the backbone of their systems.
The Linux community is very diverse, which is partly reflected in the wide range of GNU/LINUX related software. There are different distributions, philosophies and ways of using Linux within the community. This diversity is also reflected in the diversity of its members. It is an international collaboration of computer programmers, geeks, engineers, artists, businesses and enthusiasts from all over the world. This diversity is advantageous because there is a wide variety of ideas and solutions and an increased pool of potential contributors.
Although Linux is a community as a whole, there are many smaller communities within it. They are found in open forums dedicated to their differentiating criteria. Some forums are distribution-specific; some focus on tools, while others are educational to help users get to grips with an aspect of Linux they might be interested in. Forums are created voluntarily and powered by the community.
Being a community operating system creates a challenge for Linux. This slows the development of the system due to consensus issues and varying ideas within the community.
Slow updates or abandoned projects hamper those who depend on them. On the other hand, a community faction can revive abandoned projects or start new ones in the event of a consensus problem.
Generally, there are clearly defined and agreed upon sets of development practices with comprehensive guides for any willing developer within the community. This, for example, is a guide to the Linux kernel development process, while the Linux Mint Developer’s Guide applies specifically to the Linux Mint distribution.
Essentially, anyone can participate in and influence the direction of Linux development as long as they adhere to defined practices. This streamlines the development process and allows cohesion in a community where there are thousands of contributors and millions of lines of code.
Without the community, Linux would not be what it is today. It’s a community project that inspired the free and open source movement and created what is arguably the best open source operating system in the world.
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