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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | Hard Disk Drives | Hard Disk Logical Structures and File Systems | Operating Systems and File Systems ]

UNIX / Linux

UNIX is one of the very oldest operating systems in the computer world, and is still widely used today. However, it is not a very conspicuous operating system. Somewhat arcane in its operation and interface, it is ideally suited for the needs of large enterprise computing systems. It is also the most common operating system run by servers and other computers that form the bulk of the Internet. While you may never use UNIX on your local PC, you are using it indirectly, in one form or another, every time you log on to the 'net.

While few people run UNIX on their own systems, there are in fact a number of different versions of UNIX available for the PC, and millions of PC users have chosen to install "UNIXy" operating systems on their own desktop machines. There are dozens of variants of the basic UNIX interface; the most popular one for the PC platform is Linux, which is itself available in many flavors. While UNIX operating systems can be difficult to set up and require some knowledge to operate, they are very stable and robust, are efficient with system resources--and are generally free or very inexpensive to obtain.

UNIX operating systems are designed to use the "UNIX file system". I put that phrase in quotes, because there is no single UNIX file system, any more than there is a single UNIX operating system. However, the file systems used by most of the UNIX operating system types out there are fairly similar, and rather distinct from the file systems used by other operating systems, such as DOS or Windows.

As an operating system geared specifically for use on the PC, Linux is the UNIX variant that gets the most attention in PC circles. To improve its appeal, the programmers who are continually working to update and improve Linux have put into the operating system compatibility support for most of the other operating systems out there. Linux will read and write to FAT partitions, and with newer versions this includes FAT32. I believe Linux can also read and write HPFS volumes, and can read NTFS volumes as well, but not write to them. Even BeFS is now supported. Some of these may require special drivers or utilities to be added to a basic Linux install.

While I use UNIX every day (The PC Guide runs on a UNIX server) my experience with Linux specifically is limited. Fortunately, one of the best things about Linux is that there is a myriad of helpful information about it all over the Internet: a popular one is slashdot.org. Since the Linux operating system is constantly being updated, your best bet is to hook up with one or more of the better Linux web sites to keep yourself informed on the happenings in this alternative operating system for PCs.

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