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Linux ( or ) is a family of
open-source Open source is source code that is made freely available for possible modification and redistribution. Products include permission to use the source code, design documents, or content of the product. The open-source model is a decentralized softwar ...
Unix-like A Unix-like (sometimes referred to as UN*X or *nix) operating system An operating system (OS) is system software that manages computer hardware, computer software, software resources, and provides common daemon (computing), services for compu ...
operating system An operating system (OS) is system software System software is software designed to provide a platform for other software. Examples of system software include operating systems like macOS macOS (; previously Mac OS X and later ...

operating system
s based on the
Linux kernel The Linux kernel is a free and open-source Free and open-source software (FOSS) is software that is both free software and open-source software where anyone is free software license, freely licensed to use, copy, study, and change the softwar ...
, an
operating system kernel In an operating system with a Abstraction layer, layered architecture, the kernel is the lowest level, has complete control of the hardware and is always in memory. In some systems it is a single block of memory, while other systems have mechani ...
first released on September 17, 1991, by
Linus Torvalds Linus Benedict Torvalds ( , ; born 28 December 1969) is a Finnish-American software engineer who is the creator and, historically, the main developer of the Linux kernel, used by Linux distributions and other operating systems such as Android (o ...
. Linux is typically packaged in a
Linux distribution A Linux distribution (often abbreviated as distro) is an operating system An operating system (OS) is system software System software is software designed to provide a platform for other software. Examples of system software include operatin ...
. Distributions include the Linux kernel and supporting
system software System software is software designed to provide a platform for other software. Examples of system software include operating systems (OS) like macOS, Linux, Android (operating system), Android and Microsoft Windows, computational science software, ...
and
libraries A library is a collection of materials, books or media that are easily accessible for use and not just for display purposes. It is responsible for housing updated information in order to meet the user's needs on a daily basis. A library provi ...
, many of which are provided by the
GNU Project The GNU Project () is a free software Free software (or libre software) is computer software Software is a collection of Instruction (computer science), instructions and data (computing), data that tell a computer how to work. This i ...
. Many Linux distributions use the word "Linux" in their name, but the
Free Software Foundation The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded by Richard Stallman on October 4, 1985, to support the free software movement, which promotes the universal freedom to study, distribute, create, and modify compu ...
uses the name "GNU/Linux" to emphasize the importance of
GNU GNU () is an extensive collection of free software, which can be used as an operating system or can be used in parts with other operating systems. The use of the completed GNU tools led to the family of operating systems popularly known as Lin ...

GNU
software, causing some controversy. Popular Linux distributions include
Debian Debian (), also known as Debian GNU/Linux, is a composed of , developed by the community-supported Debian Project, which was established by on August 16, 1993. The first version of Debian (0.01) was released on September 15, 1993, and its fir ...

Debian
,
Fedora A fedora is a hat with a soft brim and indented crown.Kilgour, Ruth Edwards (1958). ''A Pageant of Hats Ancient and Modern''. R. M. McBride Company. It is typically creased lengthwise down the crown and "pinched" near the front on both sides. F ...
, and
Ubuntu Ubuntu ( ) is a based on and composed mostly of . Ubuntu is officially released in three editions: ', ', and ''Core'' for devices and s. All the editions can run on the computer alone, or in a . Ubuntu is a popular for , with support for ...

Ubuntu
. Commercial distributions include
Red Hat Enterprise Linux Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) is a Linux distribution A Linux distribution (often abbreviated as distro) is an operating system An operating system (OS) is system software that manages computer hardware, computer software, software resour ...
and
SUSE Linux Enterprise Server SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) is a Linux-based operating system developed by SUSE SUSE ( ) is a German-based multinational open-source software company that develops and sells Linux products to business customers. Founded in 1992, it ...
. Desktop Linux distributions include a windowing system such as
X11 The X Window System (X11, or simply X) is a windowing system for bitmap displays, common on Unix-like operating systems. X provides the basic framework for a GUI environment: drawing and moving windows on the display device and interacting with ...

X11
or Wayland, and a
desktop environment In computing, a desktop environment (DE) is an implementation of the desktop metaphor made of a bundle of programs running on top of a computer operating system that share a common graphical user interface (GUI), sometimes described as a graphical ...

desktop environment
such as
GNOME A gnome is a mythological creature A legendary or mythological creature, also called fabulous creature and fabulous beast, is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena that are not subject to the laws of nature.http ...

GNOME
or
KDE PlasmaPlasma is a desktop environment by KDE KDE is an international free software community that develops free and open-source software Free and open-source software (FOSS) is software Software is a collection of Instruction (computer scienc ...

KDE Plasma
. Distributions intended for servers may omit
graphics Graphics () are visual The visual system comprises the sensory organ A sense is a biological system A biological system is a complex network which connects several biologically relevant entities. Biological organization spans several s ...

graphics
altogether, or include a
solution stack In computing, a solution stack or software stack is a set of software subsystems or components needed to create a complete Computing platform, platform such that no additional software is needed to support applications. Applications are said to "r ...
such as LAMP. Because Linux is freely redistributable, anyone may create a distribution for any purpose. Linux was originally developed for
personal computer A personal computer (PC) is a multi-purpose computer whose size, capabilities, and price make it feasible for individual use. Personal computers are intended to be operated directly by an end user, rather than by a computer expert or technician ...
s based on the
Intel x86 x86 is a family of instruction set architecture In computer science Computer science deals with the theoretical foundations of information, algorithms and the architectures of its computation as well as practical techniques for th ...
architecture, but has since been
ported In , porting is the process of adapting for the purpose of achieving some form of execution in a that is different from the one that a given program (meant for such execution) was originally designed for (e.g., different , operating system, or ...
to more platforms than any other operating system. Because of the dominance of the Linux-based
Android Android may refer to: Science and technology * Android (robot), a humanoid robot or synthetic organism designed to imitate a human * Android (operating system), Google's mobile operating system ** Android (operating system)#Mascot, Unnamed Androi ...

Android
on
smartphone A smartphone is a Mobile device, portable device that combines Mobile phone, mobile telephone and Mobile computing, computing functions into one unit. They are distinguished from feature phones by their stronger hardware capabilities and exten ...

smartphone
s, Linux also has the largest
installed base Installed base (also install base, install ''ed'' user base or just user base) is a measure of the number of units of a product or service that are actually in use, especially software Software is a collection of Instruction (computer science) ...
of all
general-purpose operating system An operating system (OS) is system software that manages computer hardware, computer software, software resources, and provides common daemon (computing), services for computer programs. Time-sharing operating systems scheduler (computing), sch ...
s. Although Linux is used by only around 2.3 percent of
desktop computer A desktop computer is a personal computer File:Crystal Project computer.png, upright=0.9, An artist's depiction of a 2000s-era desktop-style personal computer, which includes a metal case with the computing components, a display monitor and ...
s, the
Chromebook A Chromebook (sometimes stylized in lowercase as chromebook) is a laptop or Tablet computer, tablet running the Linux-based Chrome OS as its operating system. Initially designed to heavily rely on web applications for tasks using the Google Chrom ...

Chromebook
, which runs the Linux kernel-based
Chrome OS Chrome OS (sometimes styled as chromeOS) is a Gentoo Linux Gentoo Linux (pronounced ) is a Linux distribution A Linux distribution (often abbreviated as distro) is an operating system An operating system (OS) is system software that m ...
, dominates the US
K–12 K–12 (spoken as "k twelve", "k through twelve", or "k to twelve"), from kindergarten Kindergarten (, ) is a preschool educational approach based on playing, singing, practical activities such as drawing, and social interaction as part of t ...
education market and represents nearly 20 percent of sub-$300
notebook A notebook (also known as a notepad, writing pad, drawing pad, or legal pad) is a book or stack of paper pages that are often ruled and used for purposes such as recording notes or memoranda, other writing, drawing or scrapbooking. History E ...

notebook
sales in the US. Linux is the leading operating system on servers (over 96.4% of the top 1 million web servers' operating systems are Linux), leads other
big iron "Big Iron" is a country music, country ballad written and performed by Marty Robbins, originally released as an album track on ''Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs'' in September 1959, then as a single in February 1960 with the song "Saddle Tramp ...
systems such as
mainframe computer A mainframe computer, informally called a mainframe or big iron, is a computer used primarily by large organizations for critical applications like bulk data processing for tasks such as census, censuses, industry and consumer statistics, ent ...
s, and is the only OS used on
TOP500 The TOP500 project ranks and details the 500 most powerful non-distributedDistribution may refer to: Mathematics *Distribution (mathematics) Distributions, also known as Schwartz distributions or generalized functions, are objects tha ...
supercomputer upright=1.5, Computing power of the top 1 supercomputer each year, measured in FLOPS A supercomputer is a computer with a high level of performance as compared to a general-purpose computer. The performance of a supercomputer is commonly mea ...

supercomputer
s (since November 2017, having gradually eliminated all competitors). Linux also runs on
embedded system An embedded system is a computer system A computer is a machine that can be programmed to carry out Sequence, sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. Modern computers can perform generic sets of operations known as Co ...
s, i.e. devices whose operating system is typically built into the
firmware In computing Computing is any goal-oriented activity requiring, benefiting from, or creating computing machinery. It includes the study and experimentation of algorithm of an algorithm (Euclid's algorithm) for calculating the greatest commo ...
and is highly tailored to the system. This includes routers,
automation Automation describes a wide range of technologies that reduce human intervention in processes. Human intervention is reduced by predetermining decision criteria, subprocess relationships, and related actions — and embodying those predetermi ...
controls, smart home technology,
television Television, sometimes shortened to TV or telly, is a telecommunication Telecommunication is the transmission of information by various types of technologies over wire A wire is a single usually cylindrical A cylinder (from Gre ...

television
s (Samsung and LG
Smart TV A smart TV, also known as a connected TV (CTV), is a traditional television set A Sony Wega CRT television set A television set or television receiver, more commonly called a television, TV, TV set, telly, or tele, is a device that combines a ...
s use
Tizen Tizen () is a Linux Linux ( or ) is a family of free and open-source software, open-source Unix-like operating systems based on the Linux kernel, an Kernel (computing), operating system kernel first released on September 17, 1991, by Linu ...
and
WebOS webOS, also known as LG webOS and previously known as Open webOS, HP webOS and Palm webOS, is a Linux kernel The Linux kernel is a free and open-source Free and open-source software (FOSS) is software that is both free software and open-so ...

WebOS
, respectively),
automobiles A car (or automobile) is a wheeled motor vehicle Electric bicycles parked in Yangzhou's main street, Wenchang Lu. They are a very common way of transport in this city, in some areas almost outnumbering regular bicycles A motor vehicle, also k ...
(for example, Tesla, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, and Toyota all rely on Linux),
digital video recorder A digital video recorder (DVR) is an electronic device The field of electronics is a branch of physics and electrical engineering that deals with the emission, behaviour and effects of electrons The electron is a subatomic particle, symbol ...

digital video recorder
s,
video game console A video game console is an electronic device that output Output may refer to: * The information produced by a computer, see Input/output In computing, input/output (I/O, or informally io or IO) is the communication between an information pro ...
s, and
smartwatch A smartwatch is a wearable computer in the form of a watch; modern smartwatches provide a local touchscreen interface for daily use, while an associated smartphone app provides for management and telemetry (such as long-term biomonitoring). Whil ...

smartwatch
es. The
Falcon 9 Falcon 9 is a partially reusable two-stage-to-orbit medium-lift launch vehicle designed and manufactured by SpaceX in the United States. The latest version of the first stage can return to Earth and be flown again multiple times. Both the first ...

Falcon 9
's and the
Dragon 2 Dragon 2 is a class of partially reusable spacecraft A reusable spacecraft is a class of spacecraft 275px, The US Space Shuttle flew 135 times from 1981 to 2011, supporting Spacelab, ''Mir'', the Hubble Space Telescope, and the ISS. ( ...
's
avionics Avionics are the Electronics, electronic systems used on aircraft, artificial satellites, and spacecraft. Avionic systems include communications, navigation, the display and management of multiple systems, and the hundreds of systems that are f ...

avionics
use a customized version of Linux. Linux is one of the most prominent examples of free and open-source
software Software is a collection of instructions Instruction or instructions may refer to: Computing * Instruction, one operation of a processor within a computer architecture instruction set * Computer program, a collection of instructions Music * I ...

software
collaboration. The
source code In computing Computing is any goal-oriented activity requiring, benefiting from, or creating computing machinery. It includes the study and experimentation of algorithmic processes and development of both computer hardware , hardware and ...

source code
may be used, modified and distributed commercially or non-commercially by anyone under the terms of its respective licenses, such as the
GNU General Public License The GNU General Public License (GNU GPL or simply GPL) is a series of widely used free software license A free-software license is a notice that grants the recipient of a piece of software extensive rights to modify and software distribu ...
.


History


Precursors

The
Unix Unix (; trademarked as UNIX) is a family of multitasking, multiuser Multi-user software is computer software Software is a collection of Instruction (computer science), instructions that tell a computer how to work. This is in contrast t ...

Unix
operating system was conceived and implemented in 1969, at
AT&T AT&T Inc. is an American multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multiple countries * Multinational force, a military body from multiple countries * Multinational state, a s ...

AT&T
's
Bell Labs Nokia Bell Labs (formerly named Bell Labs Innovations (1996–2007), AT&T Bell Laboratories (1984–1996) and Bell Telephone Laboratories (1925–1984)) is an American industrial research and scientific development company A company, ab ...
, in the United States by
Ken Thompson Kenneth Lane Thompson (born February 4, 1943) is an American pioneer of computer science Computer science deals with the theoretical foundations of information, algorithms and the architectures of its computation as well as practical techni ...

Ken Thompson
,
Dennis Ritchie Dennis MacAlistair Ritchie (September 9, 1941 – October 12, 2011) was an American . He created the and, with long-time colleague , the and . Ritchie and Thompson were awarded the from the in 1983, the from the in 1990 and the from in ...

Dennis Ritchie
,
Douglas McIlroy Malcolm Douglas McIlroy (born 1932) is a mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers ( and ), formulas and related struct ...
, and
Joe Ossanna Joseph Frank Ossanna, Jr. (December 10, 1928 in Detroit (strait) , nicknames = The Motor City, Motown, Renaissance City, City of the Straits, The D, D-Town, Hockeytown, The Automotive Capital of the World, Rock City, The ...
. First released in 1971, Unix was written entirely in
assembly language In computer programming Computer programming is the process of designing and building an executable computer program to accomplish a specific computing result or to perform a particular task. Programming involves tasks such as analysis, gene ...
, as was common practice at the time. In 1973 in a key, pioneering approach, it was rewritten in the C programming language by
Dennis Ritchie Dennis MacAlistair Ritchie (September 9, 1941 – October 12, 2011) was an American . He created the and, with long-time colleague , the and . Ritchie and Thompson were awarded the from the in 1983, the from the in 1990 and the from in ...

Dennis Ritchie
(with the exception of some hardware and I/O routines). The availability of a
high-level language In computer science Computer science deals with the theoretical foundations of information, algorithms and the architectures of its computation as well as practical techniques for their application. Computer science is the study of Algori ...
implementation of Unix made its
porting In software engineering Software engineering is the systematic application of engineering approaches to the software development, development of software. A software engineer is a person who applies the principles of software engineering to desi ...
to different computer platforms easier. Due to an earlier antitrust case forbidding it from entering the computer business, AT&T was required to license the operating system's source code to anyone who asked. As a result, Unix grew quickly and became widely adopted by academic institutions and businesses. In 1984, AT&T divested itself of Bell Labs; freed of the legal obligation requiring free licensing, Bell Labs began selling Unix as a
proprietary {{Short pages monitor In the United States, the name ''Linux'' is a trademark registered to Linus Torvalds. Initially, nobody registered it, but on August 15, 1994, William R. Della Croce, Jr. filed for the trademark ''Linux'', and then demanded royalties from Linux distributors. In 1996, Torvalds and some affected organizations sued him to have the trademark assigned to Torvalds, and, in 1997, the case was settled. The licensing of the trademark has since been handled by the Linux Mark Institute (LMI). Torvalds has stated that he trademarked the name only to prevent someone else from using it. LMI originally charged a nominal sublicensing fee for use of the Linux name as part of trademarks, but later changed this in favor of offering a free, perpetual worldwide sublicense. The
Free Software Foundation The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded by Richard Stallman on October 4, 1985, to support the free software movement, which promotes the universal freedom to study, distribute, create, and modify compu ...
(FSF) prefers ''GNU/Linux'' as the name when referring to the operating system as a whole, because it considers Linux distributions to be GNU variants, variants of the
GNU GNU () is an extensive collection of free software, which can be used as an operating system or can be used in parts with other operating systems. The use of the completed GNU tools led to the family of operating systems popularly known as Lin ...

GNU
operating system initiated in 1983 by
Richard Stallman Richard Matthew Stallman (; born March 16, 1953), also known by his initials, rms, is an American free software movement The free software movement is a social movement A social movement is a loosely organized effort by a large group of peo ...

Richard Stallman
, president of the FSF. They explicitly take no issue over the name Android for the Android OS, which is also an operating system based on the Linux kernel, as GNU is not a part of it. A minority of public figures and software projects other than Stallman and the FSF, notably
Debian Debian (), also known as Debian GNU/Linux, is a composed of , developed by the community-supported Debian Project, which was established by on August 16, 1993. The first version of Debian (0.01) was released on September 15, 1993, and its fir ...

Debian
(which had been sponsored by the FSF up to 1996), also use ''GNU/Linux'' when referring to the operating system as a whole. Most media and common usage, however, refers to this family of operating systems simply as ''Linux'', as do many large Linux distributions (for example, SUSE Linux and
Red Hat Enterprise Linux Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) is a Linux distribution A Linux distribution (often abbreviated as distro) is an operating system An operating system (OS) is system software that manages computer hardware, computer software, software resour ...
). By contrast, Linux distributions containing only free software use "GNU/Linux" or simply "GNU", such as Trisquel GNU/Linux, Parabola GNU/Linux-libre, BLAG Linux and GNU, and gNewSense. , about 8% to 13% of a modern Linux distribution is made of GNU components (the range depending on whether
GNOME A gnome is a mythological creature A legendary or mythological creature, also called fabulous creature and fabulous beast, is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena that are not subject to the laws of nature.http ...

GNOME
is considered part of GNU), as determined by counting Source lines of code, lines of source code making up Ubuntu's "Natty" release; meanwhile, 6% is taken by the Linux kernel, increased to 9% when including its direct dependencies. (Wikipedia:SPS, self-published data)


See also

* Comparison of Linux distributions * Comparison of open source and closed source * Comparison of operating systems * Comparison of X Window System desktop environments * Criticism of Linux * Linux Documentation Project * Linux From Scratch * Linux Software Map * List of Linux distributions * List of Linux titles, List of games released on Linux * List of operating systems * Loadable kernel module


Notes


References


External links

*
Graphical map of Linux Internals

Linux kernel website and archives

The History of Linux in GIT Repository Format 1992–2010
{{Authority control Linux, 1991 software Computing platforms Cross-platform software Finnish inventions Linus Torvalds Unix variants Free software programmed in C Operating systems