The Benefits of Linux for Embedded Systems


The Linux operating system, based on the open-source Unix kernel, is used in desktops and laptops, servers, and a host of other electronic devices. It also serves as the backbone of most major Internet services and platforms. The Linux kernel has a number of features that make it especially well suited for use in embedded systems.

The system is based on the GNU General Public License, which means that anyone may modify and redistribute the code as long as the changes are made available under the same license terms. This openness and flexibility has contributed to the growth of the operating system as it’s become a foundation for so many different aspects of computing.

Developed by Linus Torvalds in 1991 while at the University of Helsinki, Linux began as a kernel to control his Intel 80386 microprocessor. The kernel provided drivers for the keyboard and serial port, emulation of VT100 terminal escape sequences for the screen, and a mechanism to dial via modem and read Usenet from his home computer.

In the years that followed, Linux grew into an operating system that can run almost anything from a web browser to a full-blown business suite, from video games to network switches and supercomputers. The system’s elasticity explains its popularity, as it can be adapted to drive almost any type of hardware.

A key feature of Linux is its support for traditional Unix-style, specific-purpose programming languages targeted at scripting, text processing and system configuration and management in general. The system comes with a variety of programs to do all of these tasks, including the command line shell, awk and sed, as well as the advanced text editor GNU Emacs.

In addition, Linux uses a standard file system with the /boot, /dev, /lib, /sbin and /var directories to store system files, startup scripts, login scripts and other configuration and management information. The system’s init program, such as the traditional sysvinit and the newer upstart, systemd or OpenRC, manages the low-level running of the kernel, and the various processes that constitute the remainder of the operating system.

Another big advantage of the system is its relative immunity to viruses and malware, making it far less vulnerable to ransomware or other exploits that have plagued many other operating systems in recent years. It is not uncommon for a server to remain stable for years, as long as it is updated regularly with the latest security patches.

Linux is widely supported by a large and active community of software developers and users. It is easy to install, and most modern distributions include what most people would call an app store — a centralized location where users can search for and download software to their computers. Ubuntu Linux has the GNOME Software app store, Elementary OS has its AppCenter, Deepin Linux has its AppStore and openSUSE has Synaptic. These tools provide a graphical interface for finding and installing software on the system.

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