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A picture for users of lesser OSs

Posted by Ricardo Bánffy at Oct 08, 2009 01:04 AM |

All in all, GNU/Linuxes are pretty mundane operating systems. There is nothing too fancy about them - It's more or less a collection of operating systems good ideas (Andrew Tanenbaum will never read this, fortunately), rolled out as a kernel (Linux itself), with a very polished userland (GNU, plus other programs that particular distros select) on top of it.

Its roots date back to the 70s, to Unix - it was made to its image. Current versions of both are quite similar and a Linux user will be pretty much at home on OSX, BSD, Solaris or AIX.

But those 70's ideas do not mean Linux is an old-fashined OS that brought nothing new to the world of operating systems.

One of the nicest things GNU/Linux introduced is comprehensive software package dependency and update management. With it, if you want to install a program, you can pick it from a list and, like by magic, all libraries, resources and everything else the program depends, plus the program itself, are installed. No need to browse  the web after an installer, no need to run programs as a super-user, nothing. Everything quick and simple. And then, when the time comes a new version of something in your computer becomes available, the machine warns you and prompts you to install it, regardless of where it came from, as long as its publisher is registered with the software management system (like the Chrome browser and the VirtualBox VM tools in the picture you see, as well as Skype, which you don't see in the picture because mine is up-to-date). Software components are neatly divided in packages that depend on each other. Need a DVD burner? Codecs will be downloaded with it. 

And then, when something becomes unnecessary or obsolete, the machine offers to delete it and conserve disk space.

Other operating systems attempt to accomplish the same with a variety of tools, but none, perhaps with the exception of OpenSolaris (because they hired the guy who designed Debian's package management), has anything that comes even close.

Cool, isn't it?