Unix versus linux: The core difference and comparison

Linux is a Unix-clone written from scratch. But is that all that there is to it? In this Unix versus Linux article, we shall uncover what makes the two of these operating systems alike and different from one another.

Unix versus Linux

Unix versus Linux: What is Unix?

This operating system was born in the late 1960s at the AT&T Bell Labs and was called Unix. Written in C, it also allowed quicker modification, acceptance, and portability. Above all, it is a stable, multi-user, multi-tasking system for servers, desktops, and laptops. So, Unix is popular in companies, universities, big enterprises, etc.

The design of Unix systems is based on “Unix Philosophy” which includes the following characteristics:

  • Firstly, usage of plain text for data storage.
  • Secondly, hierarchical file system.
  • Thirdly, handling devices and some specific kinds of inter-process communication (IPC) as files.
  • Then, employing a huge number of software tools.
  • Moreover, multiple small, simple and modular programs which can be threaded together via a command-line interpreter using pipes, contrasting to use a single monolithic program which comprises of all the same functionality.

Unix versus Linux: What is Linux?

Linux is an open source, free to use operating system widely used for computer hardware and software, game development, tablet PCs, mainframes, etc. It also was built by Linus Torvalds at the University of Helsinki in 1991 deriving its name from the Linux kernel. 

Above all, what made it stand out was the fact that it could be installed on various types of computers, mobile phones, tablets, video game consoles, etc.

Moreover, the development of Linux is one of the most prominent examples of free and open source software collaboration. Today many companies and similar numbers of individuals have released their own version of OS based on the Linux Kernel, e.g. Apple’s iOS.

The comparision: Many differences between Linux and Unix

The comparision in general

LinuxUnix and other Variants
Linux refers to the kernel of the GNU/Linux operating system. To clarify, it refers to the family of derived distributions.Unix refers to the original operating system developed by AT&T. To clarify, it refers to family of derived operating systems.
Original code developed by Linus and the GNU FoundationOriginal code developed by AT & T
GNU/Linux and derivates like Debian and FedoraSystem-V Unix and derivatives like IBM-AIX and HP-UX; Berkeley Unix and derivatives like FreeBSD and macOS
Open Source under the copyleft General Public LicenseBerkeley Unix is partially open source under the BSD License. System-V Unix source may be procured under a proprietary commercial license.
Designed as a general-purpose scalable platform for a broad set of applications.Typically designed for a narrow audience with a defined set of target platforms and applications.
Broadly available as configurable software download and installer.Typically shipped along with hardware e.g. MacBook
Free community support. Paid support available from a number of service providers.Paid commercial support. Often leads to vendor lock-in.
Interfaces often evolveInterfaces usually stable
Frequent updates, with quick bug fixesInfrequent updates, and fixes may take time
Breadth of system administration tools often with limited focus e.g. Suse YASTEach version typically has a mature system administration tool e.g. HP SAM

Some important differences between Linux and Unix

DeveloperInspired by MINIX (a Unix-like OS), Linux was originally developed by Finnish-American software engineer Linus Torvalds. Since it is an open source, we have community developers for Linux.Originally derived from AT&T Unix, it was developed at Bell Labs by Kenneth Lane Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, and 3 others.
Written inC and other programming languages.C and assembly language.
Working stateCurrentCurrent
Source ModelOpen sourceMixed. Traditionally closed source, however, few Unix projects are open source which include illumos OS and BSD (Berkley Software Distribution) OS.
Available inMultilingualEnglish
Official Websitehttps://www.kernel.org/http://opengroup.org/unix
ExamplesDebian, Ubuntu, Fedora, Red Hat, Android, etc.IBM AIX, Solaris, HP-UX, Darwin, macOS X, etc.
ArchitectureWas originally created for Intel’s x86 hardware, ports available for a lot of CPU types.Compatible with PA and Itanium machines. Solaris is also available on x86/x64. OSX is PowerPC.
Threat detection and solutionHence threat detection and solution is quite fast in case of Linux.Due to the proprietary nature of Unix, users need to wait for proper bug fixing patches.
SecurityBoth Linux and Unix based OS is generally regarded as very well protected against malware. As of 2018, there has been none widespread Linux virus.Unix is very safe. There is no actively spreading virus for Unix nowadays.
PriceLinux is free. However, corporate support is available at a price.Some Unix versions are free for development use (Solaris). In a collaborative environment, Unix costs $1,407 per user and Linux costs $256 per user.
Hence, UNIX is extremely expensive.

Final Thoughts

Linux is more flexible and free when compared to true Unix systems and that is why Linux has gained more popularity. While discussing the commands in Unix and Linux, they are not the same but are very much similar.

Limitations of Unix

  • Firstly, Unix’s interface is unfriendly, terse, inconsistent, and non-mnemonic to say the least.
  • Secondly, Unix OS isn’t quite designed for fast performance.
  • Thirdly, shell interface can be treacherous because typing mistake can destroy files.
  • Unix’s versions lack overall consistency as it varies from machine to machine.
  • Then, Unix does not provide any assured hardware interrupt response time, so it does not support real-time response systems.

Limitations of Linux

  • Firstly, There’s no availability of any standard edition of Linux
  • Then, Linux has patchier support for drivers which may result in misfunctioning of the entire system.
  • Moreover, many of the programs exclusive to Windows only run on Linux only with the help of a complicated emulator. For example. Microsoft Office.

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