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FAQ and Primer for comp.os.linux.advocacy, Edition III, Part 1

  • Subject: FAQ and Primer for comp.os.linux.advocacy, Edition III, Part 1
  • From: High Plains Thumper <highplainsthumper@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 20 Dec 2008 07:09:49 -0700
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Following are excerpts from the official FAQ, entire text is found at:



[comp.os.linux.advocacy] FAQ and Primer for COLA, Edition III

Copyright: (c) 2002 The FAQ and Primer for COLA Team -- All Rights

Frequently Asked Questions and Primer for comp.os.linux.advocacy

Edition III

April 19, 2002

| Beware of those who would call you a friend for |
| many will eat your bread while working against  |
| you. They will take credit for your good works  |
| and blame you for their own misdeeds.           |
|                             - The Great Unknown |

1.1 Availability

This document is posted on a weekly to the comp.os.linux.advocacy,
comp.answers, and news.answers newsgroups. In addition it is archived
at rtfm.mit.edu ftp archive and its mirrors and is also available on
the Internet FAQ Consortium's website at www.faqs.org.

1.2 Welcome to comp.os.linux.advocacy

If you are new to Linux and/or comp.os.linux.advocacy, welcome. It is
hoped that you will will enjoy your time in comp.os.linux.advocacy and
find it educational. We also hope that you will find Linux as useful
for you. and that in the ripeness of time that you will become a
contributing member of the Linux community.

COLA is like a meeting hall for Linux advocacy. A place where those
who advocate the use of Linux can meet and discuss all things Linux.
In addition it is a place were individuals interested in Linux can
come to gain an understanding of the Linux and the Linux community and
to learn about the capabilities of Linux from those who are
experienced with the use, administration, and development of Linux.

By using Linux as a user or sysadmin you are a member of the Linux
community of which this newsgroup is an asset. The Linux community is
world-wide and interconnected by the internet and other networks gated
to the internet.

The description that your news server delivers to you for
comp.os.linux.advocacy, or COLA for short, is "Benefits of Linux
compared to other operating systems". That description is derived from
the charter of COLA. Sometimes advocacy groups are viewed as a place
where the bickering undesirables of other newsgroups are directed, in
order to remove a disruption from another group on the same general
subject. That is incorrect for COLA.

1.3 Contributing to this FAQ and Primer

All those who advocate the use of Linux are invited to submit material
and suggestions to be considered for future versions of this document.
Submissions should be sent by email to mjcr@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx You may
also post your submissions in COLA; however, in that case you should
still email your submission as well, so that the submission will not
be missed as can happen if it were posted in COLA only.

Submissions offered by those who may deemed to be hostile to Linux,
including but not limited to anti-Linux propagandists, will not be

1.4 The Charter of comp.os.linux.advocacy

The charter of comp.os.linux.advocacy is:

For discussion of the benefits of Linux compared to other operating

That single sentence is the one and only charter of the newsgroup
comp.os.linux.advocacy. The newsgroup's charter is for the newsgroup
as a place for supporters of Linux to gather to discuss Linux, for the
betterment of the Linux community and the promotion and development of
Linux. It supports this as a place for those who would like to learn
more about Linux to come to learn from those who know Linux. It does
not call for it to be a place where the anti-Linux propagandists to
gather in order to discredit Linux.

You may have heard of another charter sometimes called by some the
"original charter," that opens the newsgroup to the abuses that are
inflicted on Linux by those who oppose Linux. That other charter never
existed, it was a proposed charter for another newsgroup that never
was created that would also have been called comp.os.linux.advocacy.

On 14 Feb 1994, Danny Gould dgould@xxxxxxxxxxxxx posted
comp.os.linux.advocacy-RFD1@xxxxxxxxxxxx a Request for Discussion
entitled "Request for Discussion (RFD) on comp.os.linux.advocacy" to
the news.groups newsgroup. That RFD was cross posted to the
appropriate newsgroups and a number of other inappropriate newsgroups
as well. It included the following proposed charter:

The proposed group will provide a forum for the discussion of Linux.
In addition, it will allow comp.os.linux.misc to deal with Linux-
specific issues. Discussion will include (but not be limited to) the
discussion of the pros and cons of Linux and applications for Linux,
and the comparison of Linux with other operating systems and
environments such as Microsoft DOS and Windows, SCO UNIX, Coherent,
NeXTstep, Macintosh System, etc. It will be an unmoderated forum.

The call for votes on the proposal was not posted, the issue died
without a vote.

On 4 Oct 1994, Dave Sill de5@xxxxxxxx posted 37mn57$dhs@xxxxxxxxxxxx a
Request for Discussion entitled "REQUEST FOR DISCUSSION (RFD)
comp.os.linux reorganization." Thus far comp.os.linux.advocacy was not
yet proposed. Note that unlike Danny, Dave posted the Request for
Discussions to appropriate newsgroups only, that is a hallmark of a
serious effort.

On 14 Oct 1994, Dave Sill de5@xxxxxxxxxxxx posted
37mn57$dhs@xxxxxxxxxxxx a revised version of this Request for
Discussion, this revised posting called for the creation of
comp.os.linux.advocacy among other comp.os.linux.* groups. Dave
proposed this charter for comp.os.linux.advocacy:

For discussion of the benefits of Linux compared to other operating

The Call for Votes went out in the required form, and on 13 Dec 1994
posted the results ikluft@xxxxxxxxxx with greater than 8 to 1 in favor
of the creation of comp.os.linux.advocacy (our COLA) with Dave's
proposed charter. On that date, that charter became effective and that
other charter that was proposed for the other comp.os.linux.advocacy
that never was created, never became anything that affects this

Those who oppose Linux and have invaded comp.os.linux.advocacy in
order to try to subvert the purpose of this newsgroup will continue as
they have to insult the intelligence of the Linux advocates by citing
that other proposed charter of that other newsgroup that never came
into existence. They also have continued to quote from the
introductory paragraph of the Danny's Request for Discussion as though
that were a part of any actual or even a part of the failed, proposed
charter. Perhaps they feel that the introductory section provides them
with a greater impact.

When someone posts citations from that failed Request for Discussion
in order to make it appear that the anti-Linux propagandists are
sanctioned to be posting in COLA, as was done by an anti-Linux
propagandist on January 13, 2002 in article
pMr08.457$Wf1.316644@xxxxxxxxxxxxx, then once again by another anti-
Linux propagandist on February 13, 2002 in article
d6761fb5.0202131955.6c3b9f22@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx they are not only
using disinformation they are also insulting the intelligence of
everyone who is a reader COLA.


2.1 On Topic Subjects

On-topic is anything anything regarding Linux that is of interest to a
person who advocates the use of Linux, or requests for information
about Linux by a person who would like to learn about it. COLA is also
a great place to share your Linux success stories.

COLA is not a place to advocate the use of other operating systems,
there are other newsgroups for advocating them. COLA is not a place to
vent real or imagined complaints regarding Linux. There are other
newsgroups created for that purpose.

COLA is not a place to post advertisements or other promotions for
financial gain or for promoting anything other than the use of Linux
operating system and growth of the Linux community.

3 Linux

Linux is an operating system based on the unix class of operating
systems. It can be argued that Linux is the kernel of the operating
system; however, in common usage the word Linux is used to refer to
entire operating system as a whole, an operating system comprised of
the kernel, systems utility software, user utility software and to a
lesser extent the applications software. This is the practice that
will be followed in this document. Specific instances of this from
given vendors are referred to as Linux Distributions.

Linux as stated above, is based on unix, but is not legally a clone of
the unix operating system. On the other hand it looks like unix,
behaves like unix, feels like unix enough to functionally be
considered a unix. Linux is more compatible with both major classes of
unix, BSD and AT&T, than they are with each other. Linux fully
operates with with the other unixes as an equal peer via networking.

Linux runs software compatible with those other unixes and in most
cases the very same software does run on each of those unixes and
Linux as well. Where the other unixes have deviated from each other
with various utilities or services, Linux typically supports both of
their styles of utilities. Often Linux is more compatible with the
various unixes, than they are with each other.

Linus Torvalds started developing Linux from scratch as a better unix
than than the Minix that was then available. Minix is a contraction of
Minimal Unix, and is the name of a very minimal unix that was licensed
for educational purposes. The name Linux is in turn a contraction of
Linus's Minix, although the actual results of Linus's early releases
had already so far out classed Minix so that Linus's Unix would have
been a better base to form the contraction Linux.

One of the major goals of creating Linux was to create a unix that was
free from the encumbrances of existing unixes and the licensing that
restricted the use of Minix. So it was necessary to write the Linux
kernel from scratch.

The Linux operating system provides all the features that users and
administrators should expect from any modern, high-performance
operating system. Many of these features have been a part of Linux and
stable for years. While the developers of various, so-called popular
operating systems claim to be innovating, they are only playing catch
up with Linux. As this document is being written, Linux is increasing
its lead with the
development on the 2.5.x series developmental/experimental kernels.

3.1 The Kernel

The Kernel is the core of the operating system. That is the part that
communicates with devices, handles memory management, schedules
processes, and provides other basic services to the systems utility
software, user utility software and applications software. Thanks to
the fact that the kernel handles the hardware and provides a uniform
view of it to higher level software, regardless of your hardware
platform, Linux will present the user with a uniform environment. That
means that once you as a user of Linux learn to run it on a PC, or a
Mac, or a minicomputer, or a mainframe computer you will be able to
sit down to use Linux on any other of the supported platforms, and
feel right at home. The hardware may look and feel different such as a
different key layout or a different pointing device, but Linux
knowledge is portable across hardware platforms. Members of the team
that produced this document can attest to this, through their first
hand experience on multiple hardware platforms running Linux.

Many versions of the Linux kernel have been released, in fact since
the release of the Linux kernel version 1.0.0 in there have been over
600 official main line kernels released, including the AC series of
Linux kernels there have been almost 900 releases in that time. The
reason for so many releases has to do with the development of the
kernel being an open process, this way you don't have to wait for
months or years for a needed patch to be provided or for a feature
that you really need to be made available.

3.9 Linux's Compatibility With Other Operating System

Linux is compatible at different levels with many other operating
systems, ranging from the networking level all the way to running the
same software.

3.9.1 Compatible With Windows

Linux can run Windows software by running that software under the
actual Windows operating system (requiring a properly licensed copy of
Windows) that is in turn running as a guest operating system in a PC
emulator such as VMware. Linux can also run Windows software on Linux
itself with an implementation of the Windows Application Programming
Interface (API) via Wine. It is also possible to compile the source
code for Windows based
software on Linux and link it against the Wine libraries to produce a
Linux executable of that Windows software. One note about Wine, Wine
can only run on PC style hardware, since it is not a PC emulator
hardware, and runs the Windows software directly on the underlying

Linux can provide network printers and act as a fileserver for Windows
computers by running Samba using TCP/IP networking. You can also use
MarsNWE to provide printers and network volumes using IPX/SPX
networking. Linux can also access shares and printers provided by
computers running Windows by the use of Samba and the Samba
filesystem. Linux can also be a file, and print server to Windows
clients by using Samba. Linux machines
can access Windows machines that are emulating NetWare file servers by
using the NetWare core protocol filesystem.

Linux can read and write to Windows hard drive partitions that use the
filesystems of MS-DOS and Windows 9x. The NTFS filesystem are a bit
problematic because of their nature and they way their specifications
change from version to version. Linux can read Windows NT, Windows
2000, and Windows XP NTFS partitions well; however, writing directly
to such partitions is possible but not recommended.

There is an indirect method for Linux to read and write to NTFS
partitions. Running Windows under a PC emulator such as VMware, give
that copy of Windows access to the NTFS partition or partitions and
have that copy of Windows running as a fileserver. Then let Linux
access the fileserver through a virtual or actual network connection.

Linux understands the Windows extensions to the CD-ROM standards.
Linux can both read them and generate them. Linux can also access
Windows diskettes and other disk media, either by mounting them as any
other Linux partition can be mounted, or by the use of the mtools.

3.9.3 Compatible With MacOS

Linux can provide network printers and act as a fileserver for
Macintosh computers. Linux can access Macintosh based print servers
and fileserver.

Linux can read and write Macintosh floppies, hard drives, and other
disk media.

3.10 Linux Leaves Users Wanting Less

From them 1950's through the 1970's users would expect their computers
to operate as specified in the manuals and the specification sheets.
The POP manuals (Principal of Operations manuals) and the rest of the
documentation of those computers were considered to be faithful
representations of the operations of those computers.

There was one computer that was installed in 1964, the organization
that owned it decommisioned it in 1984, and wanted to donate it to a
college computer science department but they had lost the installation
media of the machine's operating system. The computer was running
twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week for those twenty years
without a single reboot or any down time. There were components that
had failed: individual tape drives and card readers/punches had worn
out and were replaced, CRT terminals were added and the most of the
card readers, the old model 26 keypunch stations and most of the model
29 keypunch stations were retired. Disk drives were added to that
computer years after the initial installation, None of that needed any
downtime or reboots.

In the 1970's there was the development of microprocessors and
microcomputers, most of them matched their operating systems in what
ever form they came in and were as reliable as the computers of the
prior decade. Some of the hardware was problematic but the operating
systems would generally operate as specified.

In the early 1980's something started to change. Today many users have
come to accept and even expect their computers and operating system to
fail frequently, many shops now use regular reboot cycles as an
attempt to use pre-emptive reboots to avoid crashes at unexpected
times. They have come to expect their operating systems and systems
software and applications software to not work as documented. What is
even worse, they often see nothing wrong with that madness. In prior
decades, if such undependability and unreliability were experienced, it
would not have not been acceptable and the vendor would have to replace
those useless systems and often had to pay for the customer's losses as

Now flash forward to present day, users have come to expect very
little from their computers. Such poor performance has led them to
expect less and less while wanting more and more with little prospect
of getting it. But in addition to such unreliable operating systems,
there is Linux, leaving its users wanting less and less because it
provides more and more all the time.

* A stable operating system. Linux users no longer want for a
stable operating system because Linux is as stable operating system.
Twenty four hours, seven days a week non-stop operation for years at
a time with off the shelf PC hardware is not anything unusual for
Linux. As members of the FAQ and Primer team can attest to from
personal experience.

* An operating system that doesn't require me to spend a fortune on
new hardware. Linux can run on hardware with just the computing power
needed or that is available. Linux sysadmins upgrade to more powerful
hardware to have more power available for their users, not to regain
yesterday's performance from today's operating system.

* An operating system with a decent graphical user interface.
Or rather one that can be configured to work the way you want it too.
With the look and feel you seek. Linux does not actually have any
graphical user interfaces, but the X Windowing System is commonly run
on Linux and other unixes. There are also other graphical user
interface besides the X Window System that can run on Linux, including
some next generation test bed systems. If a Linux user wishes he can
run today a user interface that won't be available elsewhere for years
or even decades, that is if he likes to live on the bleeding edge.

* An operating system with lots of useful stuff built in. Much of
what a person needs to purchase to get some other operating systems to
be useful comes with the common Linux distributions.  Sometimes in
surprising ways, such as the little program named "cat"  that
concatenates files and is the more powerful original that the DOS
command "type" was copied from. The program "cat" also provides by
itself much of the functionality of Norton Ghost.

* An operating system that doesn't try to prevent me from using my
computer. Linux does not second guess or interfere with the human
decision making process. It respects the wisdom of the human sysadmin
and the user. There are utilities available to automate that, but in
the end humans are the bosses. There has been a call for more "Windows
like" automation to take over from human authority, one distribution
that used that philosophy was Corel Linux. It is now a hated
distribution by its own users as a result.

* An OS not prone to viral infections.
While in theory no operating system can be 100% all worms and viruses,
Linux by is nature is immune enough that the possibilities that such
little beasties exist have become like urban legends in the Linux
community. Even if such infections could target Linux, the
multifaceted code base would in itself limit the spread, if a sysadmin
selects the software to run without regard to distributions and does
not use precompiled binaries, he has just increased the level of
immunity of his systems. The worst an attacking worm could do is crash
a server program, but the worm creator could not actually control
anything with the worm because he could not predict the memory layout
of the program he is attacking on systems so independent from
distributions. That same would generally be true with binaries
supplied from a different distribution or different version than the
one he is targeting.

* An operating system which I can program and hack easily
Anyone can have access to the source code of the Linux kernel and
most if not all the programs they run on Linux. If one is a
programmer, Linux provides all the tools and the source code to add or
alter any feature he pleases. If he wants to write a new program and
has questions, about the operation of the library functions, or the
kernel, he can refer to the documentation, ask for help on-line, or
just read the applicable source code. If he has a device for which he
want to create a driver for, he can write it. If he wants to see how
similar drivers work, there is the Linux kernel source code and the
code of the other drivers available.

* An operating system which doesn't decay over time.
Since the late days of DOS programs and the coming of Window NT and
Windows 95, there has been a pheonoma known as software rot, also
known as bit rot. With late DOS programs it could take an individual
program on a production system out of commission needing to be
reinstalled. Windows 95 and Windows NT elevated the software rot
phenomenon from causing the decay of individual programs to the decay
of the entire operating system. This is not a factor with Linux.

All these items are things that Linux users are not wanting for any
longer, because Linux has given to them what they have been wanting
for up to a decade. So yes, Linux leaves its users wanting less,
because it provides so much more of what they have been hoping for
from their prior operating system.

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