No, not the cute “Peanuts” kid with the blanket. That was Linus. Linux is the name of a free, open-source PC and server operating system that has been nibbling at the edges of the Microsoft Windows empire for the last six years.
Last week, CSI-Maximus of Wayne, PA, announced its fleet management and maintenance software products would be available in two new versions, for the latest Microsoft product, Windows 2000, and also for Linux. That means Linux could be working its way into the trucking software mainstream.
CSI-Maximus President Jim Paulitz said there was little demand for Linux at the moment, but that he wanted his company to “get out front on this one.”
Linux (pronounced with a short “i”) was developed during the early 1990s by Linus Thorvold, then a student at the University of Helsinki in Finland. Similar to the venerable UNIX operating systems still used on servers around the world, Linux caught on in the international computer community. Last year, it broke into popular markets when commercial versions of Linux showed up on retail software shelves. One Linux distributor, Red Hat, impressed Wall Street with a successful initial public offering.
While companies like Red Hat are selling Linux, the software itself can be had on the Internet for free. It has proven to be remarkably stable – something Windows often is not -- and has recently drawn support from such industry giants as IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Compaq Computer, etc.
The downside of Linux is related to its strength. As free, open-source software, it can be altered by anyone. As a result, there are countless versions of Linux availabe, not all of which will run every program labeled as Linux-compatible.
However, Linux programs can read data stored in Windows and DOS formats and vice versa. That, plus the discipline provided by commercial releases, make Linux more and more of a threat to Microsoft hegemony in the PC market.
Major software makers are releasing Linux versions of their products, and now they have been joined by at least one fleet software provider.
But then, that’s the way Linux has been spreading – one convert at a time.