Thursday, September 01, 2005

What Does Thin-client Mean?

Thin-client computing is a “back to the future” technology. Before the advent of the personal computer (pc), mainframe computers powered “dumb terminals,” which were reliable, affordable, and centrally controlled. The adoption of pcs by organizations as their main computing platform was driven by the variety of software being written for the pc, but resulted in the difficult tasks that most organizations are familiar with today: installing, managing, and maintaining individual computers. In a thin-client network, a powerful computer called a “server” does the actual processing tasks, while significantly less powerful computers act as “clients,” just providing the keyboard, mouse, and video-display interaction with the server. To users accustomed to a personal computer, it can be a surprise to learn that the super-fast “client” computer they are sitting at is not actually performing their tasks. As high-end pcs have increased in power and decreased in cost, they are now increasingly being used as servers in thin-client networks. In this configuration, the server alone requires maintenance and configuration, significantly simplifying the support tasks associated with computer use.

What is Free and/or Open Source Software?

Software that is developed openly by a community of programmers may look like a chaotic process close-up, but produces extremely stable results long-term--comparable to the processes of democracy and open-market economies. Linux is just one example of thousands of computer programs that have been “copy-lefted,” a licensing process that immediately puts the program's code into the public domain while at the same time guaranteeing it will stay publicly available. (Sometimes called “share and share alike”). The GNU General Public License, originally written by Richard Stallman, is the most popular of this type of license. The different movements which are generally referred to as “Free and Open Source Software” are motivated by both altruism and pragmatism; by a belief that the ability to work together to create and build upon computer code benefits both the programmer (who can produce better software by not having to start from scratch) and the ultimate users of the software (who get better software). Recent studies have shown open-source software to have many fewer coding errors than proprietary software because of the process of peer review that takes place in the development process. The most widely known example of an Open Source software program is the Apache web server software, which runs over 70% of the world's websites.

What Is Linux?

What Is Linux?
Linux (pronounced “linnuks”) is a computer operating system, like Microsoft Windows® or the Apple Mac OS (the Linux “desktop” or main screen, in fact, looks much like a combination of the two). Linux is most widely known among corporate computer users because of its quality, reliability, and price. Linux has matured to the point where it is now the preferred platform for most of the world's more robust and critical computer systems. Because of the robust Linux programmer community, there are several “flavors” of Linux (known as “distributions”), each specialized in slightly different way. The logo for Linux is a penguin.

Who Created Linux?
In 1991, Linus Torvalds, a student at the University of Helsinki in Finland, started to write a computer operating system. By releasing early versions of the software under a “public” license, Torvalds provided an environment for many other programmers to work together to improve his software, which became known as Linux. It was this commitment to freely available software code, in combination with similarly free programming tools written by Richard Stallman from MIT, that allowed Linux to rapidly become the main alternative to proprietary operating systems.