Why Linux Matters
What is Linux?
To understand Linux, think about your car. If you turn the key of your car you expect it to start, right? What happens if your engine is dead? You don’t expect it to go anywhere, do you? Just as a car needs an engine, a computer needs an operating system, or “OS.” If it doesn’t have an OS, it’s just a bunch of plastic and metal that can’t do anything. If you own a computer, odds are your OS is some version of Windows, such as Windows XP, or the newer Windows Vista. If you instead own an Apple Macintosh–known as a “Mac”–your operating system might be OS X (pronounced “O.S. Ten.”)
Another OS has been maturing over the years, called Linux. Although not well known outside the computer world, its influence is widespread. For instance, the computer in your cell phone may use Linux.
One of the most attractive features of Linux is that anyone can get it for free. (How it comes for free is another topic for another day.) A number of our people within the organization have been calling for the software we develop to run on Linux.
Why Linux is Important
In just one example why they want this, Alan Johnson, a computer technician (among other things), said, “I’ve been involved in a short summer class at a university here in the Philippines, demonstrating the use of FieldWorks for Lexicography [which is one part of FLEx]. We were expecting that the students would all be able to get hands-on experience with FieldWorks at the university’s computer lab, but…I learned that the university computers all run only Linux.” If our software could run on Linux, Alan could have simply installed it on as many computers as was needed.
We have heard similar comments like this over the years. In 2008 we started work to make our software run on both Linux and Windows. We have since had two initial versions (called “alpha versions”) for a small set of Linux users.
We have been getting favorable responses from this effort. Kent Rasmussen, a linguist in the Eastern Congo Group, said, “I’m glad there’s someone out there who uses his expertise to make me tools for use in my work…the fact that it [will run] on Linux means I can freely share it with anyone who wants to join in the work, allowing our national colleagues to get involved without buying expensive operating systems or software to use it. So I’m excited by the impact your work has on mine, but also by the impact it has on Bible translation around the globe.”