10 Interesting and Fun Facts About Linux

Check out these surprising, interesting facts about Linux and its extensive use today.

Today, the Linux operating system powers supercomputers, bullet trains, Hollywood films, submarines, International Space Station, the New York Stock Exchange, and so on. However, the birth and journey of Linux have many thought-provoking and amazing facts.

1. Linux Was Born as a Directory Name

For those who don’t know, Torvalds originally named his kernel “FREAX” – a mix of “free,” “freak,” and “x” (as an allusion to Unix).

Related: Linus Torvalds Has Revealed the Date of Linux’s Real Birthday

When his coworker Ari Lemmke, one of the volunteer administrators for the FTP server, uploaded the kernel to the FTP site, he didn’t like the name when he created the source code subdirectory and renamed it Linux without asking Torvalds.

2. Tux Was Named After Torvalds

Torvalds was unavailable when it came to naming the mascot, so the developers launched a contest to name the penguin while Linus wasn’t around.

Below is Torvalds’ favorite penguin picture, used as inspiration for Tux.

Linus Torvalds favorite penguin picture", used as inspiration for Tux

James Hughes was the first person to call Tux, Tux. According to him, it was an acronym for Torvalds UniX.

This communication contains the earliest documented attempt at naming “The Penguin.”

Let’s name the penguin! (was: Re: Linux 2.0 really _is_ released..)
Henning Schmiedehausen ([email protected])
10 Jun 1996 16:18:56 +0200
[email protected] (Linus Torvalds) writes:
> Ok, I took the plunge, and Linux-2.0 is out there on the normal
> sites. I even got the energy to write some inane announcement
> about it on cola, so it’s too late to chicken out any more.
So it’s the ‘Electrified Penguin on Cola’ release? 😉
Anyway: Congratulations for this great achievement.
Let’s start the ‘We name that penguin while Linus is not around’ contest.
I vote for ‘Homer’ (Of course) 🙂

The following reply seems to be the first use of the name “Tux”:

Re: Let’s name the penguin! (was: Re: Linux 2.0 really _is_ released..)
James Hughes ([email protected])
Mon, 10 Jun 1996 20:25:52 -0400
(T)orvolds (U)ni(X) –> TUX!

Well, that kind of provides an explanation for the name.

3. Torvalds No Longer Writes Code

Torvalds himself had written fewer than 1% of the Linux kernel as of 2021. Nowadays, Linux is fueled by more than 20,000 contributors from more than 1,500 companies.

Yes, Torvalds has written the initial codes of Linux, but you won’t find him writing codes in the present days.

I write very little code these days and haven’t for a long time because all my real work is spent on reading and writing emails. It’s mostly about communication, not coding.

Linux Torvalds

When Linux Torvalds introduced the first kernel, it had only 10,250 lines of codes and occupied only 65 KB. For comparison, the present number of lines of Linux codes is composed of more than 27 million.

4. Hidden Dates in the Linux Kernel

Let’s now talk about the variables and their values in the reboot.h header file in the Linux kernel source repository. Did you know that there is an Easter egg hidden in the Linux reboot() system call?

There are some checks on the reboot() system call to prevent it from being called errantly, for you wouldn’t want to reboot your system accidentally. There are two arguments labeled magic1 and magic2.

The first one is pretty straightforward – it only accepts 0xfee1dead as a value. However, magic2 can have four potential values – 672274793, 85072278, 369367448, and 537993216.

Converting these numbers into hexadecimal reveals something interesting.

printf "%x\n" 672274793

printf "%x\n" 85072278

printf "%x\n" 369367448

printf "%x\n" 537993216
20112000Code language: JavaScript (javascript)
  • 28121969 ( 28-12-1969) – Birthday of Linus Torvalds.
  • 5121996 (5-12-1996) – Linus’ first daughter’s birthday.
  • 16041998 (16-04-1998) – Linus’ second daughter’s birthday.
  • 20112000 (20-11-2000) – Linus’ third daughter’s birthday.

In the US, the right way to write a date is MM-DD-YYYY. However, outside of the US, they tend to be written DD-MM-YYYY. Although, as you know, Linus is not natively from the US, he is Finnish-born.

Now everything is clear. Linus chose to incorporate a little bit of himself into the system call. Pretty cool, isn’t it?

5. Steve Jobs Offered Linus Torvalds a Job

In 2000 Steve Jobs invited Torvalds to Apple’s Cupertino campus and offered a job at Apple on the condition that he should drop Linux development and start doing non-Linux stuff.

Instead, Torvalds was offered a thick salary and a remarkable position within the organization.

Steve Jobs Offered Linus Torvalds a Job in 2000

Unix for the biggest user base: that was the pitch.

Linus Torvalds

Torvalds said no. Moreover, Torvalds did not like the Mac Kernel, Mach. Instead, he preferred working on his dream.

6. Apache HTTP Server Skyrocket Linux’s Popularity

Apache is one of the oldest web servers still functions and receives updates. According to the Apache foundation, it was developed 26 years ago, and thus it provides rock-solid performance and legacy support.

Related: Web Server: What is it, How it Works, and What it is Used for

If you track the adoption curve of Linux, you will see that many of the early companies used Linux because of the Apache HTTP server. This was the same time during which sites turned into business tools.

So the primary reason that urged individuals and companies to embrace Linux in the good old days was the Apache webserver.

7. U.S. Military Loves Linux

With national security concerns, it appears that the implementation of Linux could effectively meet the United States government’s critical security needs for application development and installations.

The US Army is the single largest installed base for Red Hat Linux, and the U.S. Navy nuclear submarine fleet runs on Linux, including their sonar systems.

US Nuclear Submarine

In addition, Linux has already been certified to meet the three different security certifications required by the United States Department of Defense.

8. Hollywood Goes Open Source

For most of the past 30 years, Hollywood has led the development of computer graphics by constantly pushing state of the art to wow audiences with ever more spectacular visuals.

One secret of Hollywood Blockbuster films is using Linux to supply its films. It is not just the low cost that has made Linux an attractive choice for high-profile media studios. The unmatched performance it also offers easily outshines what Apple or Microsoft offers.

Titanic, released in 1997, was the first major motion picture to render most of its effects under Linux using a rack of high-performance DEC Alpha-based servers. However, Linux was still used in its traditional role as a back-end server in this early stage.

Hollywood Goes Open Source

These days, large studios like Disney Pixar, Sony, or Dreamworks use Linux primarily based working machines to create their visible effect or animation.

But this isn’t a story about one or two studios adopting Linux. Instead, we’re talking about the entire industry. In other words, all the big film studios primarily use Linux for animation and visual effects.

9. Microsoft Contributes to Linux Kernel

That’s right. The company, whose main philosophy rests on proprietary software development, also contributes to Linux. For decades, Microsoft Windows and the open-source Linux operating system were opposites.

Now Microsoft is a member of the Linux Foundation and the Linux kernel security mailing list. The Redmond tech giant first began contributing to the Linux kernel in 2009.

Microsoft is submitting patches to the Linux kernel to create a complete virtualization stack with Linux and Microsoft hypervisor.

Microsoft Contributes to Linux Kernel

These days, thanks to a feature called Windows Subsystem for Linux, you can already run Linux applications in Windows.

Additionally, Microsoft engineers continue increasing their contributions to the Linux kernel where it makes business sense for them, such as in the case of securing the Azure cloud.

10. Linux is a Genuine Washing Powder Brand

Let’s finish with a fun fact. Linux is also a genuine washing powder brand in Switzerland. A company of washing powder named the same as the kernel created by Linus Torvalds.

Linux is Also a Genuine Washing Powder Brand in Switzerland

This is a famous washing powder brand that produces washing powder and liquid detergent, laundry care, washing-up liquid, dishwasher, etc.

Bobby Borisov

Bobby Borisov

Bobby, an editor-in-chief at Linuxiac, is a Linux professional with over 20 years of experience. With a strong focus on Linux and open-source software, he has worked as a Senior Linux System Administrator, Software Developer, and DevOps Engineer for small and large multinational companies.

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  1. One of the early mascot suggestions was a Seagull! I used to have a 3-ring binder with all sorts of information, including mailing list items, cheatsheets, etc., along with the Seagull logo on the front of it. (printed out from eps file).

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