What goes with Linux
Throughout this site, we are going to be talking a great deal about what makes up the Linux
operating system. In its earliest form, Linux consisted of the base operating
system and many of the tools that were provided on a standard UNIX system. For
many companies or businesses, that was enough. These companies may have only required a single
computer with several serial terminals attached, running a word processor, database, or other
application. However, when a single computer is not enough, the base Linux
package does not provide you with everything that you need.
Suppose you want to be able to connect all the computers in your company into a computer
network. The first thing that you could use is the networking capabilities of
UUCP, which is included in Linux's network package. However, this is limited
to exchanging files, remotely executing programs, and simple terminal
emulation. Also, it is limited to serial lines and the speed at which data can be transferred is
limited as well.
So it was in the dark recesses of ancient computer history. Today, products exist that allow
simultaneous connection between multiple machines with substantially higher performance. One such
product is TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol). If a company decides it needs
an efficient network, it might decide to install TCP/IP, which has become the
industry standard for connecting not only UNIX systems, but other systems as
There is a problem with TCP/IP that many companies run into. Suppose you want everyone in the
company to be able to access a specific set of files. With TCP/IP you could devise a scheme that
copies the files from a central machine to the others. However, if the files need to be changed, you
need to ensure that the updated files are copied back to your source machine. This is not only prone
to errors, but it is also inefficient.
Why not have a single location where the source files themselves can be edited? That way, changes
made to a file are immediately available to everyone. The problem is that TCP/IP by itself has
nothing built in to allow you to share files. You need a way to make a directory (or set of
directories) on a remote machine appear as though it were local to your machine.
Like many operating systems, Linux provides an answer: NFS
(Network File System). With NFS, directories or even entire filesystems can appear as if they are
local. One central computer can have the files physically on its hard disk and make them available
via NFS to the rest of the network.
Two other products are worth mentioning. To incorporate the wonders of a graphical user interface
(GUI), you have a solution in the form of X-Windows. And if you just switched to Linux and still
have quite a few DOS applications that you can't live without, Linux provides a
solution: dosemu or the DOS Emulator package.