What is the difference between linux and unix

People might think that Linux is the legacy operating system of computers, phones and servers / networking but that isn’t the case. Windows supersedes the age of Linux but even before windows was every fully developed companies like AT&T and IBM were using Unix. Before Linux or windows was ever mainstreamed, Unix controlled the OS market for things such as computers, servers and gaming consoles.

The Short Answer – Linux VS Unix

In Server operating systems, it is often very confusing when someone refers to Unix based commands in ssh and Linux based commands. People often times inter-use the two as synonyms but that is not proper nor correct. Unix is a copyrighted based operating system that only few companies can really claim and use (IBM, Hewlett Packard and Sun Solaris). The easiest way to think about Linux is that it is a kernel. Within a Linux distribution (depending on the version you run), they can include GNU tools and a GUI system + system administration tools. They can run various applications (such as internet browsers like chrome and Firefox). Unix however as a stand alone product acts as a complete operation system that is sourced from a single vendor. Within Unix driven OS’s like Solaris and Mac OS X, they create programs within the system itself and is a bit more difficult creating programs that can run on it. With Linux, the ability to run almost any program with ease is much greater. All the Different options for Linux and Unix operating Systems

The long Answer – Full Comparison and Differences

The history of Unix started around 1985 with Richard Stallman. He created the Free Software Foundation. It was through that foundation of which Richard developed what’s known today as the GNU (General Public License), an initiative to spread open sourced software for free. At the time all programs required an operating system to run on (like libraries, text notepads, and a window exploring system) which was created by 1992. Certain kernels and drivers were still not complete by then though which led to the development of the first Linux kernel ever which was released Sept. 17th, 1991 and it only worked on Intel processor led computing systems.

License and Cost

The biggest difference currently in cost is that Linux is free. You can get it from many open source websites or even redistribute it yourself under a GNU GPL License. Because it is free, there is a thriving community of programmers and coders behind the kernel. Almost all UNIX distributions are not free though and are typically given out on a commercial distribution given by a server provider (One exception on the market of this is OpeSolaris UNIX). The distributors of UNIX include: IBM, HP, and SUN. A typical setup will run you $25k – $250k depending on your needs. Since each UNIX system is typically custom written, startups and non-fortune 500 companies will opt out for a well support linux distribution like Redhat, Mandrake or SUSE. However if you want to purchase a UNIX server, the vendor will offer an assistance plan for setting up, configuring and maintaining the system.

Threats and Security

Linux will come with standard iptables or net filters based on the firewall addon you use to protext your server and/or desktop from hackers or malicious requests. Since linux originally started out as a free cloned version of UNIX, it included lots of the same characteristics and functionality identified within unix. Again, with Linux being free and more people using it, they will have a more responsive reaction and quicker bounce backs from vulnerabilities. Bugs are usually addressed in a timely manner and new versions of the linux kernel frequently come out (under GNU licenses). As a bug shows up within the linux system OS, the errors and log can be reported by anyone in active developer forums, and when that happens things are usually fixed within days. Unix however, is not as streamlined. When a bug is found, you will often times have to return back to the vendor that deployed your server to initially look at the log report and find out what the root cause was.

Who are the biggest users of each?

Over 70% of the world’s servers today use some form of linux. Whether its Ubuntu, centos, Debian or android (which Google has SURGED the usage of linux with all android phones now). Ubuntu is used for fast deployments of server environments for websites that want to get up and running within minutes. The same can be said with centos and Debian but programs like Cpanel need to be installed first along with the DNS server. The most installations of the Linux kernel as an OS has definitely been on Android smartphone devices though. Unix on the other hand has really taken storm by one company in particular… Apple. The Macontosh has really streamlined a version of unix. While its not open source (and so many people despise that), it is very very stable. Max OSX’s latest version is called “el capitan” and what many people did not know is that is on a Unix based platform (as is all of their OS Versions).

Comparison Chart

Linux Unix
File Systems The default settings of support are ext3 and/or ext4 file systems. More however can be added on if you wish. Depending on the custom setup, Unix can include many more but here are the majority of what they support: jfs, jpfs (Solaris), gpfs, AIX, gpfs (HP-UX).
System Adminstration Different distributions will give you different defaults, but redhat comes with its own GUI named “redhat-config”. SUSE is equipped with yast. Comes with it own utilities like HP-UX and SAM.
Test mode Traditional BASH is the standard shell, although it can also support many command interpretations. Bourne Shell originally. Newer versions of Unix will come with BASH as well and Korn & C.
Supported Processors Almost any on the market today. Itanium, PowerPC, PA-RISC, x86, x64, just to name a few of many.
Distributions Redhat, Archlinux, Android, Fedora, UBUNTU, Debian Solaris, MAC OSX
Startup For: Linux  – /etc/init.d for: HP-UX – /sbin/init.d For: AIX – /etc/rc.d.init.d

Attached is our infographic from here.

 16 Differences between Linux and Unix


1 Comment
  1. I haven’t used Unix since 2002!

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