Did you know Linux is in your TV?

Learn about these four important places you'll find Linux.
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How Linux got to be Linux: Test driving 1993-2003 distros

Internet Archive Book Images. Modified by Opensource.com. CC BY-SA 4.0

From humble beginnings, Linux has been adopted for everything from low-power electronics to supercomputers running in space. It is able to do this because of its versatility and the openness of the Linux community to entertain new use-cases. The multiplier effect of community software development allows companies and individuals in different industries to work together on the same software and do the things that are important to them.

Let's look deeper into four interesting places you'll find Linux.

In your TV

If you have a SmartTV, BluRay player, or set-top box from your internet provider, chances are you are streaming your home entertainment over Linux. Linux has become a leading embedded OS for SmartTVs.

The popular choices for SmartTV operating systems include a number of Linux variants, including Android, Tizen, WebOS, and Amazon’s FireOS. More than half of all SmartTVs now run Linux inside.

In your car

The average modern car contains dozens of microprocessors that run everything from the radio, dashboard, and heating and cooling systems to the fuel injection. The next generation of car is internet-connected and will include a full infotainment system based on Linux.

Automotive Grade Linux, hosted at the Linux Foundation, is a project to create a common base platform for in-vehicle systems. There are plans to extend it to cover telematics systems and future applications like autonomous driving systems.

On a supercomputer

In 2006, the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory wanted to build a supercomputer, and they wanted to do it cheaply. They needed a lot of compute power, GPUs for accelerated floating-point math, low power requirements, and above all, low cost. At the time, the cheapest way to do that was to buy 1,760 Sony PlayStation 3 consoles, wire them together in a cluster, and install Linux on them.

The result, unveiled in 2010, was capable of 55 trillion floating-point operations per second, at 5-10% of the equivalent cost for off-the-shelf servers.

The use of Linux clusters for supercomputers started in 1994 with the creation of the first Beowulf cluster in NASA. The idea of a Beowulf cluster was to treat a cluster of computers running Linux as a single computer, with a workload scheduler distributing parallelizable pieces of work across the cluster and collecting and reassembling the results. Since then, its use has exploded, and 100% of the world’s top 500 supercomputers run some form of the Linux operating system today.

In space

The computer that got us to the moon in 1969 was less powerful than a modern calculator. Its processor ran at a little over 4 MHz, with 2 MB of memory. Upgrading hardware in space is difficult, as you can imagine, so when the International Space Station was due for an upgrade in 2017, engineers went with custom-built computer hardware that could survive Zero-G, space flares, and all the other hazards that space can throw at it. And of course, for the operating system, they chose Linux.

Until now, most complex calculations have been done on Earth and uploaded via satellite to the space station. But for a Mars mission, the lag time from Earth to the spacecraft and back would make this impractical. The goal of the project is to create an autonomous spaceborne computer for long-term missions.

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Dave Neary is a member of the Open Source and Standards team at Red Hat, helping make Open Source projects important to Red Hat be successful. Dave has been around the free and open source software world, wearing many different hats, since sending his first patch to the GIMP in 1999.

5 Comments

I'm pretty sure my three DVD recorders run Linux, as does my PVR, my DVD player and the MP3 players I have. With DVD recorders, it's the DVD drive that dies not the hard disk. The drives are IDE and finding replacements is getting difficult.

Here in the UK, ATMs run Windows and it's not uncommon to see a BSOD on them, usually when my wallet is empty and I need to use one.

My soon 10 years old TV without any "smart" features runs Linux too and has a menu option to show the GPL license too.

"The computer that got us to the moon in 1969 was less powerful than a modern calculator. Its processor ran at a little over 4 MHz, with 2 MB of memory."

Uhm, no. Actually just over 1 MHz and only 2K (Kilobytes NOT Megabytes) of RAM.

"Comparing the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) to an IBM PC XT. Did you know that the 8088 which formed the basis for the IBM PC, released in 1981, just a decade after Apollo 11’s trip to the Moon, had eight times more memory than Apollo’s Guidance Computer (16k, vs the Apollo’s 2k). The IBM PC XT ran at a dizzying clock speed of 4.077MHz. That’s 0.004077 GHz. The Apollo’s Guidance Computer was a snail-like 1.024 MHz in comparison, and it’s external signaling was half that."
https://igotoffer.com/blog/how-powerful-was-the-apollo-11-computer/

The gaming industry (slot machines) has been using Linux for quite a few years now.

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