When you're used to one operating system, it can be easy to look at other operating systems almost as if they were apps. If you use one OS on your desktop, you might think of another OS as the app that people use to run servers, and another OS as the app that plays games, and so on. We sometimes forget that an operating system is the part of a computer that manages a countless number of tasks (millions per second, technically), and they're usually designed to be capable of a diverse set of tasks. When people ask me what Linux does, I usually ask what they want it to do. There's no single answer, so here are five surprising things I do with Linux.
At my nearest makerspace, there's a big industrial machine, about the size of a sofa, that slices through all kinds of materials according to a simple line-drawing design file. It's a powerful laser cutter, and I the first time I used it I was surprised to find that it just connected to my Linux laptop with a USB cable. In fact, in many ways, it was easier to connect to this laser cutter than it is to connect with many desktop printers, many of which require over-complicated and bloated drivers.
Using Inkscape and a simple plugin, you can design cut lines for industrial laser cutters. Design a case for your Raspberry Pi laptop, use these Creative Commons design plans to build a cryptex lockbox, cut out a sign for your shopfront, or whatever it is you have in mind. And do it using an entirely open source stack.