10 June 2004

Nigeria: The Linux Phenomenon

Lagos — Recently, Hewlett Packard and Novell in collaboration with other Open Source (OS) supporting entities rounded off a global Linux road show in Lagos.

On December 28, 1969, when Linus Torvalds was born little did any one know that today, his name would be worth a multi-billion dollar software solution which later become a household name as 'Linux' Operating System (OS).

And on July 3, 1991, when he announced as a student of Computer Science, at the University of Helsinki, Findland to his colleagues that he was working on a project "in MINIX" through a comp.os.minix newsgroup, obviously no one took him serious.

MINIX is a small but highly portable Unix clone created by Mr. Andy Tanenbaum, for educational/academic purposes.

Ordinarily, an Operating System, and Linux specifically, acts as a communication service between the hardware, the physical equipment of a computer and the software, applications aspect of a computer system.

The Linux Kernel is seen as the core of the package, containing all the features expected in OS, including multi-tasking - a technique for sharing a single processor between several independent jobs; virtual memory which allows repetitive, extended use of the computer's Random Access Memory (RAM) for performance enhancement; fast Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) cum Internet Protocol (IP) which are one of the main protocols in networks connectivity.

TCP/IP drivers are for speedy communication and shared libraries which enable applications to share common code.

Other features available on Linux OS are the multi-user capability which means that hundreds of people could use the computer at the same time, either over a network, the Internet, or on laptops/computers or terminals connected to the serial ports of those computers and protected mode which allows programmes to access physical memory, and protects stability of the system.

Linux is distributed by a number of commercial and non-commercial organizations who add to or enhance the basic functions of the operating system, such as in Suse Linux, which is a distribution of Linux with features of the core Linux Kernel and enhancements, which are specific to that distribution.

Linux distributions come completely pre-configured to specifications set by that organization, and include configuration utilities and installers.

Today, Linux has a free X Windows Graphical User Interface (GUI), similar to that of Microsoft Windows which allows most X-based programmes to run under Linux without any modification.

Windows programmes could run inside X-Windows with the help of an emulator called WINE and usually, Windows run up to 10 times faster, due to Linux buffering capabilities.

However, as a networking support, Linux is advanced and superior to most other Operating Systems and since the people developing Linux collaborated and used the Internet for their development efforts, networking support came early in Linux development.

Hence it could be deployed as an Internet server. Linux, therefore, is a very good choice, often outperforming Windows NT, Novell and most UNIX systems on the same hardware, even multi-processor boxes.

Linux is frequently chosen by leading businesses for superior server and network performance and supports all of the most common Internet protocols, including Electronic Mail, Usenet News, Gopher, Telnet, Web, File Transfer Protocol (FTP) and many more. Linux could operate as a client or as a server for all of the above and has already been widely used and tested.

Linux also fits easily and tightly into Local Area Networks (LANs), regardless of system combinations, providing full and seamless support for Macintosh, Disk Operating System (DOS), Windows, Windows NT, Windows 95, Novell, OS/2, using their own native communication protocols. Linux can do all of this with low memory requirements.

Linux, therefore, does not have license restriction although the copyright is owned by Linus B. Torvalds under the terms of the General Public License (GPL).

The GPL states that the source code must be freely distributed and that anyone is allowed to make copies for their own use, or to sell or give to other people with a few restrictions.

While most Linux software is GPL'd, this does not mean that all software developed or ported to Linux has to be. Thus, many other licenses exist with some commercial software packages having more restrictive licenses, such as the common copying restrictions faced by Windows users.

Nowadays, there are thousands of applications running on Linux worldwide, such as on Application Servers, Database Servers, Workstations, X Terminal Clients, Unix Development, Network Servers, Internet Servers, Cluster Computing, Embedded systems, University systems, and so on.

It is also used in vertical solutions such as, hotels, medical offices, reservation systems, legal offices, petroleum companies, governments, media, telecommunications, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), resellers, manufacturers, retail, financial, trader workstations, corporate developers,

It was in this spirit of universally extending the benefits of Linux OS that the likes of Hewlett Packard (HP), Novell Africa, Oracle and RedHat organised a Linux roadshow in Lagos to sensitize Nigerians on the usage and was also held globally between November 2003 and May 2004.

And in a show of endorsement, global Information Technology (IT) solutions provider, Hewlett Packard (HP), said at the show that Linux is really safe.

HP's Linux Business Development Manager for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), Mr. Jean Solo Rafidinarivo, said "If Hewlett Packard (HP) could deploy Linux, it means Linux is really safe".

The sensitization was intended to lower the total cost of ownership (TCO) of their IT investments.

Mr. Rafidinarioro, who was accompanied by the Technical Marketing Manager Linux at HP, Mr. Michael Schulz and HP's Enterprise Business Unit Manager-Nigeria, Mr. Chuks Okpaka, said HP's choice of Linux was strengthened by the kind of partnership they have with Novell, RedHat, Oracle to name a few.

Stressing that Linux has free loyalities, safe and there is no lost of data, insisting that if HP could deploy Linux, it means Linux is really safe.

Also commenting, Mr. Schulz noted that HP realised that its customers need the best and "we think this was seen in Linux and that was why we chosed it" just as the firm have Internet security, e-payment solutions among others also running on the Linux platform.

HP benefits from using Linux specifically through the use of the platform on its products, such as PCs, notebooks, servers and so on, thus slashing the cost of ownership, mostly since there are no loyalities to be paid either annually or quarterly for the applications

Earlier in his opening remarks, country manager for HP Nigeria, Mr. Maduka Emelife, said the idea of evolving Linux was to assist its customers in acquiring PCs at a cheaper rate.

He emphasised that about 5,000 professional services personnel of HP had been globally trained on Linux.

The roadshow began in Norway on November 25, 2003, and was held across 23 countries in Europe, Middle East and Africa.

The fact remains that Linux has come to stay and the earlier nation's like Nigeria, realises this, the faster the efforts on entrenching Information Society (IS), which is about sharing information and resources, just like Linus Torvalds demonstrated years back on making Linux a license free operating system.

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