Welcome to Running Linux, Version 5! When we wrote the first edition of this book, Linux had barely arrived on the scene. Our task seemed simple: help readers learn the basics of a new operating system that required a pretty fixed and predictable set of tasks. Few if any observers expected Linux would become a best-of-breed operat- ing system, supported by the vast majority of hardware and software manufacturers on the planet. Who would have known that Linux would grow from a small user base of 30,000 people in 1995 to hundreds of millions only 10 years later? People use Linux everywhere on the planet and in some cases in outer space and under the ocean.
To the casual observer, Linux looks like a fairly simple personal computer desktop built on the same chassis as any IBM PC. People use Linux to browse the Internet, exchange email, listen to music, watch videos, and instant message their friends and coworkers. Students and office workers create documents with word processors, per- form numerous tasks with spreadsheet programs, and make slide presentations.
The same Linux operating system also drives sonar arrays in nuclear submarines, indexes every document on the Internet, unifies large corporate data centers, runs nearly 70% of all web sites in the world, records your television programs, works in your cellular phone, and runs the switches that allow you to connect with your friends and family anywhere on the globe. Linux runs systems on the international space station as well as the shuttles that take astronauts there. It protects you from spam and computer viruses on numerous routers and back-end systems.
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