What is Linux?

What is GNU/Linux?

GNU/Linux is a free Unix-like computer operating system originally created by Linus Torvalds with the help of many developers around the world. Developed under the GNU General Public License, GNU/Linux can be freely modified, used and redistributed by anyone.

Brief History of Linux

In 1983 Richard Stallman started the GNU Project, pronounced “guh-noo”, with the goal of creating a UNIX-like, POSIX-compatible operating system composed entirely of free software. Many programs and utilities were contributed by developers around the world, and by 1991 most of the components of the system were ready. Still missing was the kernel.

In 1991, a student at the University of Helsinki in Finland named Linus Torvalds who had been using Minix, a non-free Unix-like system, began writing his own kernel as a non-commercial replacement to the Minix kernel. This kernel, which is called Linux, pronounced 'linnuks', was afterwards combined with the GNU Project to produce a complete free operating system.

Linus Torvalds
Linus Torvalds
Richard Stallman
Richard Stallman

After that many people from all over the world contributed to the project. They developed GNU/Linux to what it is today.

GNU/Linux Distribution

A GNU/Linux distribution is a member of the GNU/Linux family of Unix-like software distributions. Such distributions consist of a GNU/Linux operating system and a collection of applications. The operating system will consist of the Linux kernel and, usually, a set of libraries and utilities from the GNU project, with graphics support from the X Window System.

Some of the popular Linux distributions

Ubuntu logo Fedora logo OpenSUSE logo redhat logo CentOS logo

Ubuntu, a newly popular desktop distribution maintained by Canonical that is derived from Debian.
Fedora which is a community distribution sponsored by Red Hat
openSUSE, originally derived from Slackware, sponsored by the company Novell
Red Hat Enterprise Linux, which is a derivative of Fedora maintained and commercially supported by Red Hat
CentOS is a freely-available Linux distribution that is based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

Some Popular Linux Distro Screenshots
(Please click image for a larger view)

Ubuntu Hardy






There are currently over three hundred GNU/Linux distributions. Some excellent places to get started learning about distributions are www.distrowatch.com, http://polishlinux.org/ and http://www.zegeniestudios.net/ldc/.