(commonly pronounced IPA: /
lnks/ in English; variants exist) is a generic termreferring to Unix-like computer operating systems based on the Linux kernel. Their development is one of themost prominent examples of free and open source software collaboration; typically all the underlying sourcecode can be used, freely modified, and redistributed by anyone under the terms of the GNU GPL
and other free licenses.Linux is predominantly known for its use in servers, although it is installed on a wide variety of computer hardware, ranging from embedded devices and mobile phones to supercomputers. Linux distributions,installed on both desktop and laptop computers, have become increasingly commonplace in recent years,owing largely to the popular Ubuntu distribution and to the emergence of netbooks. The name "Linux"comes from the Linux kernel, originally written in 1991 by Linus Torvalds. The rest of the system, includingutilities and libraries, usually comes from the GNU operating system announced in 1983 by Richard Stallman.The GNU contribution is the basis for the Free Software Foundation's preferred name
The Unix operating system was conceived andimplemented in the 1960s and first released in1970. Its wide availability and portability meantthat it was widely adopted, copied andmodified by academic institutions andbusinesses, with its design being influential onauthors of other systems.The GNU Project, started in 1984 by RichardStallman, had the goal of creating a"
complete Unix-compatible softwaresystem
"composed entirely of free software. Thenext year Stallman created the Free SoftwareFoundation and wrote the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL) in 1989. By the early 1990s, many of the programs required in an operating system (such as libraries, compilers, text editors, a Unix shell, anda windowing system) were completed, although low-level elements such as device drivers, daemons, andthe kernel were stalled and incomplete. Linus Torvalds has said that if the GNU kernel had been availableat the time (1991), he would not have decided to write his own.
In 1991 while attending the University of Helsinki, Torvalds began to work on a non-commercialreplacement for MINIX, which would eventually become the Linux kernel.Linux was dependent on the MINIX user space at first. With code from the GNU system freely available, itwas advantageous if this could be used with the fledgling OS. Code licensed under the GNU GPL can beused in other projects, so long as they also are released under the same or a compatible license. In order to make the Linux kernel compatible with the components from the GNU Project, Torvalds initiated aswitch from his original license (which prohibited commercial redistribution) to the GNU GPL. Developersworked to integrate GNU components with Linux to make a fully functional and free operating system.
Commercial and popular uptake
Richard Stallman, left, founder of the GNU project,and Linus Torvalds, right, author of the Linux kernel