2.4 Open, Free, and Stable


Another feature of Unix is that Unix applications tend to use open file formats allowing a variety of tools to collaborate to work on those open formats. Indeed, this has been a key in recent developments to remove the strangle-hold of Microsoft proprietary formats. Rather than electronic document storage providing a longer term solution to the archival of documents, it is delivering an even shorter lifetime than paper-based archives! How can that be so? The formats created by proprietary software are often binary and not fully publicly specified. How many packages today can read old Word Perfect and MS Word documents? The standardisation on open formats, often text-based formats like XML that allow anyone to read them, provides a solution to this problem.

So why Unix? It is a conceptually simple operating system facilitating creativity by not restricting the developer but rather providing them with the freedom to learn from, build upon, and modify the system. Many have found it to be a fun operating system to work with allowing many innovative developments to be freely combined in new and even more innovative ways to deliver powerful ideas. A very large world wide group of people willingly provide excellent, free support over the Internet, particularly through Stack Overflow. Anyone can freely learn more about the operating system by studying the code itself. Everyone has the freedom to contribute the operating system or to any other open source software tools that they use and want to improve or extend.

Finally, stability. There is very little doubt that GNU and Linux are extremely stable. The habit of rebooting your older MS/Windows computer every time you come back to it is something we seem to be encouraged to do because of the tendency for this operating system to be less careful in managing its use of memory. Also, when you install a new package under MS/Windows chances are you will need to reboot the computer. Most Linux users rarely need to reboot their machine except for a kernel update and even that is being addressed. Check the uptime on your computer and you might find the machine has not been rebooted for months or years.

server@cloud$ uptime
 00:55:30 up 265 days,  2:47,  2 users,  load average: 2.79, 3.58, 3.91

laptop@home$ uptime
 10:55:45 up 6 days, 17:02,  1 user,  load average: 1.37, 0.78, 0.39

Here’s two variations of uptime for reference:

$ uptime -p  # Pretty print.
up 37 weeks, 6 days, 2 hours, 47 minutes

$ uptime -s  # Since.
2018-10-07 22:08:08

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