Linux is highly customizable and adaptable. Plus, it’s free! With all these qualities, it’s not surprising to hear that people use Linux for all sorts of tasks.

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However, you might be surprised by some of the niche ways people use Linux. You may even want to take on some of these projects yourself.

1. Start the radio

Have you ever thought about what goes into the operation of a radio station? While this form of media has been around for over a century, operators these days use computers to make the magic happen. If you want to get into it, you can save money by using free software.

The Open Source Radio project has a Wiki page and a GitHub page filled with resources for people who want to create and run their own stations. There you can find examples of studio setups, see what operating systems people have installed, get help building low power FM stations, and more. GNU Radio is another community to add to your list.

2. Create your own car dashboard

Cars have long been equipped with sensors that show your speed and other important indicators. Newer vehicles often display this information digitally. They also come with other nice touches like Bluetooth, touchscreens and built-in navigation.

Many car manufacturers use Linux to power these systems. Not only that, you can use Linux to create your own. Several developers have experimented with this idea using Linux and the Qt toolkit, or you can put something together using a Raspberry Pi (shown in the video above).

Although you may think that pairing an OBD2 dongle with an Android app is a more pragmatic option.

3. Monitoring and analysis of your solar panels

The cost of solar panels is falling rapidly. While switching to the sun for energy still requires a costly initial investment, it can save you money in the long run. This is the case even in many less sunny regions.

How much energy do you get from your panels? Are you getting a solid return on your investment? The US Department of Energy provides the PVWatts website as a free way to answer these questions. But if you want to go deeper, the department has released the System Advisor Model tool as open source software for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

4. Water your yard or garden

Is your existing sprinkler controller incompetent at spraying water through the plants in your yard? With Linux and an old computer or a small single board PC (like the Arduino or Raspberry Pi hardware), you can take matters into your own hands.

Instructables has a guide for those who want to use an old computer. The video above shows what you can do with OpenSprinkler, which now allows you to control your system with your smartphone. Don’t want to make your own? Lucky you. Now you can buy Linux.

5. Provide in-flight entertainment

Airlines have to deal with some of the most specific technical constraints of any place on the planet. Ultimately, the question is: what software should be used to power in-flight entertainment systems? It turns out that many airlines use Linux.

According to Linux Insider, Linux in-flight entertainment systems have appeared on airlines ranging from US-based United to Dubai-based Emirates and Air New Zealand. If you have the money for a private jet, perhaps you can do the same.

CoKinetic is one company that specializes in Linux-based in-flight entertainment (Windows and Mac versions of its products are also available).

6. Drone Automation

You know that drones will appear drones that drones but did you know that many of them rely on Linux?

Of course, the extent to which they depend on Linux varies. Some combine Linux with a real-time operating system subsystem. Often Linux includes the controller program on your PC rather than the code for the drone itself. Like it or not, Linux is an active part of the drone ecosystem.

ArduPilot is a popular open source autopilot software that you can run on Linux. With open or supported hardware like the Pixhawk series, you can set up your own autonomous vehicle to take to the skies. Check out for a long list of projects.

7. Earthquake monitoring

When you live in an earthquake-prone area, natural disasters are as likely to occur as above. Although we cannot prevent them from occurring, you may receive an alert when someone is about to affect your home or business.

The USGS provides a ShakeCast program that can send notifications within minutes of an earthquake. The software depends on ShakeMap, which shows the magnitude of the earthquake and the affected area. You need a server version of Linux for this (CentOS 6 is obviously supported). If you prefer Windows, you can also go this route.

8. Control your home climate

You can’t buy a thermostat at the store these days without seeing a selection of «smart» options front and center. However, there are various reasons to be skeptical about these products. Even if you don’t, the cost can be off-putting. Either way, Linux allows you to take a do-it-yourself approach.

Someone made their own using Raspberry Pi and you can do the same. You also need a relay module for the HVAC controller and a digital temperature sensor, and the desire to learn some code.

What has Linux helped you do?

There are many ways to use Linux. What projects did you take on, for fun or for work?

If you feel like experimenting and looking for ideas, here are some more impressive (or fun) things you can do with your Raspberry Pi.

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