What Linux did for us

As Linux turns 20, here's our pick of the OS kernel's greatest hits

Those 150 million Android devices that have been activated to date? All running on an OS built on the Linux operating system kernel. Let's raise a Samsung Galaxy S II to those all-important 14 million lines of Linux code.

At the last count, nine out of 10 Hollywood animation studios ran on Linux servers. Dreamworks is a big fan – say thanks for Chicken Run and Shrek – and James Cameron also chose Linux servers to power 2009's Avatar.

The selfless birthday boy reckons its greatest achievement is providing the foundation for successful online businesses. Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, Amazon and eBay are all built on open source architecture. You know what they say: there's no 'I' in Linux. Oh, wait.

It's only the best for supercomputers like IBM's faster-than-fast Sequoia so it makes sense that a whopping 413 out of the top 500 supercomputers on the planet run Linux.

Linux is a Unix-like OS, using the core behavioural and operational values, without adhering to any particular Unix specification. Another Unix-based OS is taking the world by storm: Mac OS X. Read our OS X Lion review.

Linux is the original open-source. You'd have to be pretty attached to Internet Explorer or Safari not to have used an open-source web browser like Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome, which ramp up the browser competition with killer features like Chrome's menu-free interface and Firefox's Panorama tabs feature. 

Asus' Eee PC range of tiny laptops, running on the Xandros distribution of Linux, kickstarted the netbook trend back in 2007. Okay, later models had the option to run Windows but plenty of netbook users stayed with the alternative OS.

Bet little old Linux isn't the first thing that springs to mind when surfing BBC iPlayer on your 52in plasma. Most of the smartness in Smart TV offerings from the electronics giants, like connecting to the internet and running apps or add-ons, is originally based on Linux, Unix or similar open-source platforms.

Playstation used to brag about setting up your PS2 with Linux but these day it's a little trickier due to some over competent hackers. It's still possible to transform your PS3 into a PC by installing Linux on the console. A variant called Yellow Dog was designed for this purpose.

Until last summer, Dell was selling a fair few PCs and laptops running the Ubuntu version of Linux – including the Latitude business range and the Inspiron Mini 10 netbook. Windows-bashers can still order hardware running Ubuntu over the phone.


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