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Originally written in 1994, this is posted unchanged and still relevant!

Article written for, and committed to by several various magazines including the "X Advisor", SOFTWARE Magazine and others. Also bears similarity to a Guest editorial recently done for the "Linux Journal"

So where did Linux come from, and what is Linux good for?

Unfortunately space does not allow me to do the subject justice, but this article should still be very beneficial to any computer professional who reads it. There is more information along these lines available on WGS' WWW site

First a little history:

Unix offers what NT and OS/2 have been promising for years, but may not deliver in a truly usable form for some time yet. There are almost twice as many Unix systems installed as Netware and NT put together (Source: IDC) and growing faster.

Unix has not been popular on PCs because only recently have PCs truly been powerful enough to support an Operating System with the power of Unix. NT actually requires more horsepower than Unix does, while doing less. The year of Unix has finally come. The year of the LAN came and went. But which year was it? The future is not DOS versus Unix, or Windows versus Unix, but rather DOS+MS-Windows+Unix. Unix makes a great server for MS-Windows machines. At the official introduction of NT, Bill Gates said that "NT WILL be a better Unix than Unix"... To do this, NT must conform to the same international standards as Unix does, and in the process.... become just another proprietary version of Unix. Don't wait for Microsoft....learn Unix now.

Don't take my word for it, take a look in the computer help wanted section of your local newspaper. Employers are requiring familiarity with the following: Unix, AIX, HP/UX, OSF/1, SCO, Solaris, SunOS, DG/UX, Novell UnixWare, C, C++, TCP/IP, NFS, and X-Windows, among other Unix-related acronyms. In my local newspapers (Denver), most ads ask for one or more of these things.

Unix's acceptance problem is mostly because every vendor of Unix has given it their own name and a few minor changes. Unix vendors proceeded to advertise their variant as different and better rather than promoting a unified front. Among the 100 or so versions of Unix, there are only three major versions. Even these major versions are so alike from a user perspective that moving from one to the other is rather trivial. About six major names sell over 95% of the Unix that is installed, and only a few commands and the hidden internals really differ. In actuality, about 95% of company business is transacted using Unix systems. This is the case in virtually any mid size to large company you walk into. So why does Microsoft get 95% of the PR? IDC stated not very long ago that there are still more seats (people) using Unix connected terminals than PCs. Yes, there are less Unix machines than Microsoft based PCs, but most pull many, many users. The Internet was built using Unix, and is over 80% Unix systems.

Unix runs admirably on machines that choke when presented with Windows NT or OS/2. Several PC Unix do fine on a 386 with 4MB of RAM, and 120MB of Hard disk; Graphical PC Unix versions require a 486 and 340MB Hard Disk.

There is a fabulous way for you to try Unix. Linux is a complete Unix clone, created entirely on the Internet. It is freely distributable, and copyable. Linux runs on any 386 or greater PC that MS-Windows will run on. Linux has all the advanced features you'd expect from Unix including what you need for an Internet connection, Development tools, and X-Windows. Linux will even co-exist with MS-Windows, DOS, OS/2, or NT on the same machine, or in the same network.

You can get Linux inexpensively from many sources. Pricing varies from free for the downloading to as much as $100 for CD-ROM. I think Unix & Linux MAY yet blow away NT. Linux is definitely the choice of many thousands of technical people who have tried it, prefer democracy, and don't care to live in (how they see it) a Microsoft dictated world. It is estimated that Linux already sells as many copies every month as all other Unix variants put together. There are definately more Units of Linux installed than there are NT. Linux already runs on more ISP and Web server systems than NT does.

I feel that Linux will prove over the next five years to be among operating systems, as the PC revolution was to hardware, the one common standard that everyone has access to. Major players such as DEC are already investing money in this notion with a DEC Alpha porting project, as are Apple to PowerPC, SGI to MIPS, and others as well. This brings Linux to more platforms than any other Operating System. There are also projects underway for Motorola, SPARC, HP/Precision, and other chip architectures.

So why another new operating system when there are already so many others? Is Linux just another Unix? Aren't there already too many? Of course there are, and that is why we need one with the power to replace the others. From many perspectives that is Linux. Linux is about four years old in name (When Linus Torvalds released his kernel under the GNU license onto the Internet), but is much older in fact and concept. Long before Linus Torvalds was involved, a generation ago, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) created the GNU License.

It worked like this. Unix originally was delivered with source code to schools, and those that could afford a license. Unix is extremely modular, just like a child's LEGO(tm) toy, you can take out one color block and replace it with another. Over the years, as various vendors of Unix delivered buggy or feature poor Unix components, techies were caught between users that "just wanted it to work" and vendors who could not/would not repair/enhance various things. The result was that a techie would re-write that component (LEGO block) and then deliver under the GNU license with source code to the Free Software Foundation, who also had projects of their own going. These components would then be available to anyone else that needed them. Over a generation, virtually every part of Unix was reproduced in bug free, and feature enhanced components. All that was missing was a kernel and some administrative tools. Everyone had been sharing these components on the Internet, and millions of people used GNU software and utilities. When Linus Torvalds released his kernel to the net it was like setting a match to dry leaves, creating an entirely new and completely open operating system overnight. Administrative tools were added, and the result? LINUX. Linux carries forward the spirit of Unix better than UNIX itself. Why? Because since vendors and X-Open have taken over the UNIX trademark and dictate specifications, the open user and developer base that created Unix has now created Linux in it's place, and carried on.....

There are now millions of Linux users in all walks of life and all areas of computing. Linux can be considered "Unix: The Next Generation" for both this reason, and the fact that it was developed in the braintrust of the Internet, which itself was primarily created on Unix systems. Bill Gates at Microsoft says "NT will be a better Unix than UNIX." You can find out just how good that is NOW. Ray Noorda of Novell is funding a major Linux project. The news is full of it. You owe it to yourself to try Linux. Buy my distribution, buy someone else's, or if you have easy and cheap Internet access, pull it. But don't put it off, try it NOW.

What it is good for? Here is a short list of typical commercial uses for Linux: Personal Internet access workstation, WorldWide Web Server, Usenet News Server, Email server or router, Network gateway, Network Bridge, PC LAN Server, Personal Unix or C or other language programming workstation, Commercial Development Platform. X-Windows Client or Server, Internet Firewall, Learning Unix, Set up a small Internet provider site, and more. Additionally Linux is an inexpensive multi-user system which a VAR can sell, and be able to support well because full source code is available. It is possible to get support for Linux from the authors themselves on the Linux Internet News groups. The many benefits and uses of Linux are truly mind boggling.

So is Linux "Snake Oil?" No, much better, it's for REAL!

Free Software? What about commercial support? Not to worry, a number of companies including mine offer this very thing, and will take responsibility as if we were the authors. That is one reason why commercial users will want to buy it on CD!

Author's Biography (by employees of Linux Mall, 1996 updated in 1998):

Mark Bolzern appears often as a guest editorialist in various magazines, and as an in-demand public speaker. He also serves in the following capacities.

Mark is President of WGS (WorkGroup Solutions, Inc) WGS manufactures and distributes Linux Pro, one of the top Linux titles, provides commercial support for Linux, and distributes FlagShip, an advanced application development system for most common Unix Systems, as well as other related products.

Mark is CEO of Linux Mall. Linux Mall serves those interested in Linux with information on hundreds of Linux related products, so people can see just how significant Linux really is, and what is available. Linux Mall serves users of Linux by providing one convenient place to buy any and all available Linux Products at a good price. Linux Mall serves publishers of Linux products by putting them in front of a larger buying audience than any other company does, and actually transacting the sales. Linux Mall serves dealers and consultants who wish to sell or support Linux by connecting them with customers and products. Linux Mall serves Linux User's groups with a comprehensive program of services and products to help them acheive their goals.

Mark currently serves as a director of Linux International Linux International is a non-profit organization dedicated to furthering development and recognition of Linux. For a time early in it's development Mark provided promotion for LI, started the Linux Pavilion at Comdex and Uniforum shows, did speaking and press tours promoting Linux and Linux International. Being short of time, Bob Young then proposed and Mark supported Jon "Maddog" Hall be inducted as Executive Director of LI. Subsequntly when the Linux Trademark was challenged, being the first attacked, Mark went to it's defense by hiring an attorney, and subsequently turned the attorney and the defense case over to LI, which after settling, gave the trademark to Linus Torvalds whom we considered to be the rightful owner.

Mark recruited students of Smoky Hill High School to help him found CLUE, the Colorado Linux Users and Enthusiasts group.

Mark holds a Bachelors Degree in Electrical Engineering, and is the President and Founder of WGS' owner, General Computer Services, Inc. (GCS founded in 1981) which is a Consulting, Systems Integrator, UNIX Development, and CA-Clipper Development house. GCS has been retained by many major corporations for Mark's advice and industry predictions. GCS developed two modules of popular "The Champion Accounting Software", and has published other recognized literary and software works. Mark is a qualified Systems Administrator on Novell, Microsoft, and on several versions of UNIX. Mark is called upon by computer dealers in the Denver area to solve computer, networking, and Unix problems that stump them.

Mark was involved as a student with AlohaNet at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks node, (Subsequent to it's Hawaii only debut) where early data communications packet protocols were pioneered, Ethernet was subsequently developed from these protocols (CSMA/CD) by Parc Place Labs (where the Xerox Star which Apple and subsequently Microsoft plagarized, was also built). Subsequently Mark worked peripherally with ArpaNet which eventually became known as the Internet. Mark also helped to help set up the first statewide Electronic Mail system with the University of Alaska to allow users on Terminals, Apples, and later PCs from all over the state to communicate with each other. In the process UACNCAP, and subsequently "PC Communicator" was written by Mark, and then PC Talk came out and did better. Mark sold the first 50 IBM PC systems into the state of Alaska, worked for Motorola, IBM, and then managed ComputerLand, before founding GCS.

In 1982 through 1987, Mark founded and worked with the IBM PC and Compatible computer user's group, in Anchorage which went on to become the largest PC user groups in the world for a short time before Boston Computer Society eclipsed it. This group at one time boasted over 1000 paid members. This was done because at its release, Mark anticipated the success of the IBM PC. This group is now known as the Alaska Computer Society (ACS). During this period Mark also hosted the popular "Computer Talk" radio show, on KENI radio, doing presentations of interesting topics on, and then answering computer questions of any type "ad hock" on the air. We beleive that this was the first personal computer oriented radio show on a commercial radio station.

GCS under Mark's direction set up in 1978 a substantial Internet provider system in Anchorage, Alaska called UTYME. It was a Unix based system, because at the time Mark predicted widespread success for the Unix OS and the Internet. UTYME and also a major GCS contract with the State of Alaska Court Systems failed when AT&T delivered for the systems a bad microprocessor sporting a problem similar to but worse than the recent and highly publicized Intel Pentium bug. It was two years before Mark found out why these expensive systems kept locking up, having polluted backups and filesystems. AT&T admitted having known of the problem over two years before Mark's company bought the system. Mark discovered an AT&T internal document to that effect well over a year later. A lawsuit and a near business failure occured due to the non-functioning systems, and the State of Alaska's displeasure. GCS in the early 90s unhappily settled its suit against AT&T out of court due to Mark's desire to get on with his life and go back to doing constructive things again.

Since 1973 Mark has been predicting the twists and turns in the computer industry in terms of circumstances, and also what products would fly or fail. His accuracy as testified by customers over the years has been phenomenal. Successful predictions included the success of the Apple II, failure of the Apple III and LISA, limited success of the Mac, failure of the Xerox 820, and IBM Displaywriter, the revolution of the IBM PC and compatibles, the failure of the PS/2, and the PC-JR, success of AST and Compaq, and Novell, failure of Orchid PC-Net, AST-net, Corona & Corvus, success of dBase, downfall of Dbase IV, success of Lotus 123, and Notes, downfall of Visicalc, success of Ethernet over Arcnet & Token ring, and many many others, all within days of their initial release, or the release of the successor product who would take away the market from the current king. There were many more examples but you get the point. Sometimes the prediction was that the product would succeed if marketing, support & development happened in a certain manner, or fail if not. There were also mistakes, but far less than would be anticipated in predictions of this type.

Price Waterhouse retained Mark to write their corporate opinion on the direction of operating system technology, to be published in the highly regarded annual "Technology Forecast." Pak Mail Corporate's controller recently called and said that they had reviewed all predictions and recommendations Mark had made during the eight years they had retained GCS. Some they followed, some they didn't. "We invariably regretted it later when we didn't, Mark had been right on EVERY TIME."

Mark feels that Linux is the same revolution for OS standards that the PC was for hardware standards. He also feels that there will soon be only two major operating systems, Proprietary MS-NT, and Open Linux/Unix. Both will span the range from desktop to the largest of servers, and run on many chip architectures.

Enough about Mark, he told us to quit, he is getting embarrassed.


Linux receives it's highest award yet!

WGS Linux Pro 3.0 was selected as a Finalist in the "Best of Comdex 95" by Softbank (the company that owns the Comdex shows) and BYTE Magazine.

Although Linux Pro did not take the overall win position, this award is very significant. It is the first award of this magnitude ever to be won by any Linux. Linux Pro was one of only 30 products to get this status out of over 2200 exhibitors displaying tens of thousands of products.

WGS' excellent support policies, and "Stable Linux" approach were the major reasons for this award.

In WGS opinion this is a win for the entire Linux community, not just WGS. WGS wants to thank everyone involved with Linux for a great product to work with. Without a product, development and support policies would mean nothing.

In keeping with the above, and the fact that Linux is still largely an underground revolution from the point of view of the greater computer industry...... the following was conceived by Bjoern Roth & Mark Bolzern during a lighthearted moment..

Q. Why do Linux users get up in the morning?
A. Because they see the light!



Linux, The revolution continues.

If you do not know about Linux, you need to read this!

If you do know about Linux, this will fill in some of the gaps for you, and I hope that you will read it.

What The industry Press is saying:

Unix Review ; Award: "Outstanding Product".

Unix Review ; "Linux Roars on!", "Join the trend of commercial support for Linux"

BYTE ; "A truly robust Unix clone" with "All the features of commercial versions"

BYTE, Sept 1995; WGS Linux Pro 3.0, "Finalist, Best of Comdex Fall/95"

InfoWorld; "Reportedly the best Unix around for Intel Processors. Just ask any of the several hundred thousand Linux users.", "We are amazed to find how many features and components are included."

Dr. Dobbs Journal; "Linux, a widely popular 32 bit protected mode, preemptive multitasking operating system that runs on 386 PCs" and "Linux supports an unlimited number of concurrent users, each application runs in it's own protected address space, greatly reducing the chance of system crashes brought on by ill-behaved applications"

PC-Week; "Linux is a complete Posix-compatible operating system with the X-Window System, good development tools, and complete TCP/IP networking. We've been pounding on it for almost a year, and it is invaluable as the platform for our internal World-Wide Web, FTP, and X-Window host server" April 18, 1994; "Linux is a useful beast", "Poised to make a commercial splash", Dec 26, 1994; said Linux has "Freely available source code, high stability, and growing commercial support."

Data Based Advisor Magazine; "A fabulous way for you to further educate yourself on Unix", and "Very well supported on the Internet"

Bill Gates of Microsoft says that "Windows NT will be" (note future tense) "a better Unix than Unix." Why wait, This is what Linux already is!

Ray Noorda of Novell says "Most major organizations plan on rightsizing their mission-critical applications to UNIX within the next three to four years." He is also funding a major Linux project.

DataBased Advisor; "FlagShip stands out as the only system able to port database applications written in a high level database language to different operating environments without major sacrifices"

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