6 Practical, Real-Life Applications of Linux

If you use Linux on your desktop, you might have wondered if the operating system you’re playing with has any practical uses. Fortunately, there are many real applications of Linux today. Here are a few.

1. Web servers

The biggest real use of Linux is for servers, especially web servers. There are several reasons why Linux dominates the web server market.

One of the reasons is that Linux is very cheap to install. In the “dot-com” era of the 90s, many startups discovered Linux for this reason. Unix systems were already popular for servers, but were very expensive and ran on specialized hardware.

You can easily download Linux for free and it runs on x86 processors, using the free Apache HTTP server. This meant that startups could buy fleets of inexpensive PCs and use them as servers.

These days, most data centers and cloud providers use special rack-mounted servers supported by contracts from companies like Canonical or Red Hat. Data centers still find Linux more attractive than Windows because open source software licensing costs, even with a contract, are much lower than proprietary operating systems like Windows.

Apache faces competition from Nginx, but Linux server fleets still outnumber Microsoft Windows servers by a comfortable margin. According to W3Techs, Linux servers dominate Windows at 37.7% compared to 20.2% for Windows in May 2022.


2. Supercomputers

Another practical use of Linux is in supercomputers. Linux is so popular on supercomputers that according to Top500, 100% of current supercomputer installations are running some version of Linux.

The reasons for its adoption in supercomputing are probably similar to those for its adoption for other server applications. Linux was cheap and could run on standard x86 hardware. Scientists also already knew Unix. Researchers could build clusters of inexpensive PCs to perform complex calculations without having to rewrite their code.

Again, as with web servers, Linux supercomputers evolved as Linux was ported to other architectures like IBM’s POWER. This allowed Linux to replace proprietary Unix systems in these research applications, just as it did in commercial data centers.

Among other things, supercomputers like IBM’s Summit have been instrumental in developing COVID-19 vaccines and helping track down variants. If you got the vaccine, it means Linux could save your life.

3. Single board computers

While Linux powers supercomputers, it’s also perfect for simpler machines. The best-known Linux-powered single-board computer is the Raspberry Pi.

The Raspberry Pi has become popular for teaching computer science to children because it is cheap enough for children to own and experiment with. Parents don’t have to worry about a child messing up a family computer. The reason Linux was chosen was because of its open source nature and the fact that an ARM port already existed.

It’s also popular for small embedded computing projects, and there are as many uses for the Raspberry Pi as you can imagine.

The reason for its popularity is that it is easy to port Linux to different processor architectures. Linux first booted on the Intel 80386, but it has been ported to almost every processor out there. This includes the ARM chip that powers the Raspberry Pi.

4. Reuse old computers

The first release of Unix at Bell Labs ran on a Digital PDP-7, which even then was considered underpowered. The tradition of reusing old computers continues as traditional Unix has given way to Linux distributions.

Linux distros are great for using older computers when official support from Apple or Microsoft dries up and you can’t afford to upgrade or new versions of the operating system don’t support your material.

Minimalist distros work well for this purpose. Google is releasing Chrome OS Flex, a special version of Chrome OS for conventional PCs and Macs to use in place of their stock operating systems.

If you have an old computer, don’t throw it away. Try putting a Linux distro in there instead. You might want to keep it as a secondary computer or give it to someone who needs a PC. You will also help avoid e-waste this way.

5. Classic Game

If you love classic games, you might be surprised to know that Linux and open source are fueling the revival of older games.

Open source emulators like MAME, Nestopia, and Stella let you play classic console and arcade games on all platforms, including Linux.

Not only have open source volunteers recognized the value of classic games, but companies have used Linux and open source emulators as part of their commercial offerings. If you have the NES Classic, you actually have a Linux machine, according to Omg! Ubuntu. If you have a Raspberry Pi and a DIY spirit, you can make it your own classic game console.

If you’re really into DIY, you can even build your own arcade machine, as shown in this video from The Geek Pub:

6. Backup and Restore

Your computer works fine unless something goes wrong. And if you run into trouble, Linux is there to bail you out, too.

Although you can use your operating system’s installation media to try and repair your system, there are Linux distros like SystemRescue that can fix many common boot problems, from a damaged partition table to a password. forgotten administrator password.

If your hard drive or SSD fails, you can also copy all important files to an external drive. You don’t need to be a Linux user to use these tools. You can even reset Windows passwords using SystemRescue. This is one of the reasons why you should consider having a bootable Linux distribution on a spare USB drive, because you don’t know when you might need it.

There are many practical uses for Linux today.

Linux is not just a hacker’s toy, but has many real-world uses for work and play. Whether it’s running web servers, crunching numbers, or playing retro games, if you can think of it, someone has used Linux to do it. But how did Linux become so ubiquitous? Certain technologies have facilitated the spread of Linux.

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Steven L. Nielsen