Originally Published: Sunday, 1 October 2000 Author: Emmett Plant
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Portability Rocks!

Linux is bigger than just an operating system for standard desktop machines that used to run Windows. Linux is all over the hardware spectrum, running on everything from Macintosh hardware and big iron mainframes to small embedded devices. Why? Portability is good for the popularity of an operating system, something that our friends in Redmond never understood.

   Page 1 of 1  

Linux is bigger than just an operating system for standard desktop machines that used to run Windows. Linux is all over the hardware spectrum, running on everything from Macintosh hardware and big iron mainframes to small embedded devices. Why? Portability is good for the popularity of an operating system, something that our friends in Redmond never understood.

One of the reasons you'll finding Linux sitting on all kinds of devices is because of its Free and Open nature. Since anyone in the world with the appropriate hacking skills can open Linux up and play with it to their heart's content, people will the appropriate hacking skills will. Since the hackers don't have to pay anyone to play with Linux, they'll pick it apart, pull at it, twist it until it breaks. In the process, they'll learn what Linux is good at, what Linux is bad at, and dream up all kinds of uses that Joe Computer User wouldn't consider.

Linux isn't the king of the portability mountain, that crown goes to our friends that work onNetBSD. They hack a different way than we do, but we share a lot of the same ideals. We drink with NetBSD people at tradeshows. They're cool people, and they're hip to the power of portability. Linux hackers can learn a lot from them.

One of the cool things about portability is the ability to share software equally across a platform. The Macintosh has access to some hardware that the standard x86 doesn't come with; that's why they're Macintosh computers. There's some closed-box, proprietary hardware in there, but that's okay. If you're running Linux on your Macintosh, you can compile Linux applications on your Mac and run them just like your friend with his Linux-converted Dell machine. It's not just the benefits of using a better operating system in the portability game, it's the ability to use source code independent of the hardware you're using to run an application.

Most of the portability you'll see from companies like Microsoft are mostly marketing-minded. Windows 2000 is a completely different system than Windows CE, but they meet at a certain level of compatibility to work together. Even though they're both 'Windows,' they're really not a lot like each other. I've got a mouse, and thanks to some driver software, it works with my computer, but I don't call my mouse a Linux mouse. It's got nothing to do with Linux. I can use a Palm organizer with Linux, but the Palm has got its own operating system. It's called PalmOS, not 'LinuxLite' or anything like that.

True portability, not marketing-speak 'portability,' is a good thing. It lets me share software with my friend Jim, who owns a Power Mac and dual-boots between MacOS and Linux. Portability lets the Empeg sit in your car's dashboard and play mp3's. It lets people build wearable computers and use a free operating system. Portability is good for the soul and the industry. If you know a mad-scientist type that isn't hip to Linux, let them try it out. You never know what they'll come up with.


Emmett Plant is the Editor-in-Chief of Linux.com, and he's really good at whack-a-mole. Emmett also enjoys eating gummi bears and playing the accordion. He can be E-mailed at emmett@linux.com.




   Page 1 of 1