Linux (/ˈlɪnəks/ ( listen) LIN-əks) is a family
of free and open-source software operating systems built around the
Linux kernel. Typically,
Linux is packaged in a form known as a Linux
distribution (or distro for short) for both desktop and server use.
The defining component of a
Linux distribution is the Linux
kernel, an operating system kernel first released on September 17,
1991, by Linus Torvalds. Many
Linux distributions use the
word "Linux" in their name. The
Free Software Foundation
Free Software Foundation uses the name
Linux to refer to the operating system family, as well as specific
distributions, to emphasize that most
Linux distributions are not just
Linux kernel, and that they have in common not only the kernel,
but also numerous utilities and libraries, a large proportion of which
are from the
GNU project. This has led to some controversy.
Linux was originally developed for personal computers based on the
Intel x86 architecture, but has since been ported to more platforms
than any other operating system. Because of the dominance of the
Android OS on smartphones,
Linux has the largest
installed base of all general-purpose operating systems.
also the leading operating system on servers and other big iron
systems such as mainframe computers, and the only OS used on TOP500
supercomputers (since November 2017, having before gradually
eliminated all competitors). It is used by around 2.3% of
desktop computers. The Chromebook, which runs the Linux
kernel-based Chrome OS, dominates the US
K–12 education market
and represents nearly 20% of the sub-$300 notebook sales in the
Linux also runs on embedded systems—devices whose operating
system is typically built into the firmware and is highly tailored to
the system. This includes
TiVo and similar DVR devices, network
routers, facility automation controls, televisions, video game
consoles and smartwatches. Many smartphones and tablet computers
run Android and other
The development of
Linux is one of the most prominent examples of free
and open-source software collaboration. The underlying 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.
Some of the most popular and mainstream Linux
distributions are Arch Linux, CentOS, Debian, Fedora,
Linux Mint, Mageia, open
SUSE and Ubuntu, together with
commercial distributions such as
Red Hat Enterprise Linux
Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE
Linux Enterprise Server. Distributions include the
supporting utilities and libraries, many of which are provided by the
GNU Project, and usually a large amount of application software to
fulfil the distribution's intended use. Desktop
include a windowing system, such as X11, Mir or a Wayland
implementation, and an accompanying desktop environment such as GNOME
KDE Plasma; some distributions may also include a less
resource-intensive desktop, such as
LXDE or Xfce. Distributions
intended to run on servers may omit all graphical environments from
the standard install, and instead include other software to set up and
operate a solution stack such as LAMP. Because
Linux is freely
redistributable, anyone may create a distribution for any intended
1.4 Commercial and popular uptake
1.5 Current development
2.1 User interface
2.2 Video input infrastructure
3.2 Programming on Linux
4 Hardware support
5.1.1 Performance and applications
5.1.2 Components and installation
5.3 Servers, mainframes and supercomputers
5.4 Smart devices
5.5 Embedded devices
5.7 Specialized uses
5.7.1 Home theater PC
5.7.2 Digital security
5.7.3 System rescue
5.7.4 In space
6 Market share and uptake
7 Copyright, trademark and naming
8 See also
11 External links
Main article: History of Linux
Linus Torvalds, principal author of the
Unix operating system was conceived and implemented in 1969, at
Bell Laboratories in the United States by Ken Thompson,
Dennis Ritchie, Douglas McIlroy, and Joe Ossanna. First released
Unix was written entirely in assembly language, as was common
practice at the time. Later, in a key pioneering approach in 1973, it
was rewritten in the C programming language by
Dennis Ritchie (with
the exception of some hardware and I/O routines). The availability of
a high-level language implementation of
Unix made its porting 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,
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 product, where users weren't legally allowed to
modify Unix. The
GNU Project, started in 1983 by Richard Stallman, had
the goal of creating a "complete Unix-compatible software system"
composed entirely of free software. Work began in 1984. Later, in
1985, Stallman started the
Free Software Foundation
Free Software Foundation 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, and a windowing system) were
completed, although low-level elements such as device drivers,
daemons, and the kernel, called GNU/Hurd, were stalled and
Linus Torvalds has stated that if the
GNU kernel had been available at
the time (1991), he would not have decided to write his own.
Although not released until 1992, due to legal complications,
development of 386BSD, from which NetBSD,
OpenBSD and FreeBSD
descended, predated that of Linux. Torvalds has also stated that if
386BSD had been available at the time, he probably would not have
MINIX was created by Andrew S. Tanenbaum, a computer science
professor, and released in 1987 as a minimal
system targeted at students and others who wanted to learn the
operating system principles. Although the complete source code of
MINIX was freely available, the licensing terms prevented it from
being free software until the licensing changed in April 2000.
In 1991, while attending the University of Helsinki, Torvalds became
curious about operating systems. Frustrated by the licensing of
MINIX, which at the time limited it to educational use only, he
began to work on his own operating system kernel, which eventually
Torvalds began the development of the
Linux kernel on
applications written for
MINIX were also used on Linux. Later, Linux
matured and further
Linux kernel development took place on Linux
GNU applications also replaced all
because it was advantageous to use the freely available code from the
GNU Project with the fledgling operating system; code licensed under
GNU GPL can be reused in other computer programs as long as they
also are released under the same or a compatible license. Torvalds
initiated a switch from his original license, which prohibited
commercial redistribution, to the
GNU GPL. Developers worked to
GNU components with the
Linux kernel, making a fully
functional and free operating system.
5.25-inch floppy disks holding a very early version of Linux
Linus Torvalds had wanted to call his invention "Freax", a portmanteau
of "free", "freak", and "x" (as an allusion to Unix). During the start
of his work on the system, some of the project's makefiles included
the name "Freax" for about half a year. Torvalds had already
considered the name "Linux", but initially dismissed it as too
In order to facilitate development, the files were uploaded to the FTP
server (ftp.funet.fi) of
FUNET in September 1991. Ari Lemmke,
Torvalds' coworker at the
Helsinki University of Technology
Helsinki University of Technology (HUT), who
was one of the volunteer administrators for the FTP server at the
time, did not think that "Freax" was a good name. So, he named the
project "Linux" on the server without consulting Torvalds. Later,
however, Torvalds consented to "Linux".
To demonstrate how the word "Linux" should be pronounced
(/ˈlɪnəks/ ( listen) LIN-əks), Torvalds included
an audio guide ( listen (help·info)) with the kernel source
code. Another variant of pronunciation is /ˈlaɪnəks/
Commercial and popular uptake
Ubuntu, a popular
Nexus 5X running Android
Linux in production environments, rather than being used
only by hobbyists, started to take off first in the mid-1990s in the
supercomputing community, where organizations such as
NASA started to
replace their increasingly expensive machines with clusters of
inexpensive commodity computers running Linux. Commercial use followed
Dell and IBM, followed by Hewlett-Packard, started offering Linux
support to escape Microsoft's monopoly in the desktop operating system
Linux systems are used throughout computing, from embedded
systems to virtually all supercomputers, and have secured a
place in server installations such as the popular LAMP application
stack. Use of
Linux distributions in home and enterprise desktops
has been growing.
Linux distributions have
also become popular in the netbook market, with many devices shipping
Linux distributions installed, and Google releasing
their own Chrome OS designed for netbooks.
Linux's greatest success in the consumer market is perhaps the mobile
device market, with Android being one of the most dominant operating
systems on smartphones and very popular on tablets and, more recently,
Linux gaming is also on the rise with Valve showing its
Linux and rolling out its own gaming oriented Linux
Linux distributions have also gained popularity with
various local and national governments, such as the federal government
In flight entertainment system booting up showing the
Torvalds continues to direct the development of the kernel.
Stallman heads the Free
Software Foundation, which in turn
GNU components. Finally, individuals and corporations
develop third-party non-
GNU components. These third-party components
comprise a vast body of work and may include both kernel modules and
user applications and libraries.
Linux vendors and communities combine and distribute the kernel, GNU
components, and non-
GNU components, with additional package management
software in the form of
A Linux-based system is a modular
Unix-like operating system, deriving
much of its basic design from principles established in
the 1970s and 1980s. Such a system uses a monolithic kernel, the Linux
kernel, which handles process control, networking, access to the
peripherals, and file systems.
Device drivers are either integrated
directly with the kernel, or added as modules that are loaded while
the system is running.
GNU userland is a key part of most systems based on the Linux
kernel, with Android being the notable exception. The Project's
implementation of the C library functions as a wrapper for the system
calls of the
Linux kernel necessary to the kernel-userspace interface,
the toolchain is a broad collection of programming tools vital to
Linux development (including the compilers used to build the Linux
kernel itself), and the coreutils implement many basic
Unix tools. The
project also develops a popular CLI shell. The graphical user
interface (or GUI) used by most
Linux systems is built on top of an
implementation of the X Window System. More recently, the Linux
community seeks to advance to Wayland as the new display server
protocol in place of X11. Many other open-source software projects
Various layers within Linux, also showing separation between the
userland and kernel space
For example, bash, LibreOffice, GIMP, Blender, 0 A.D., Mozilla
Low-level system components:
systemd, runit, logind, networkd, PulseAudio, ...
GTK+, Qt, EFL, SDL, SFML, FLTK, GNUstep, etc.
Mesa, AMD Catalyst, ...
C standard library
open(), exec(), sbrk(), socket(), fopen(), calloc(), ... (up to 2000
glibc aims to be POSIX/SUS-compatible, uClibc targets embedded
systems, bionic written for Android, etc.
stat, splice, dup, read, open, ioctl, write, mmap, close, exit, etc.
(about 380 system calls)
Linux kernel System Call Interface (SCI, aims to be
Other components: ALSA, DRI, evdev, LVM, device mapper,
Linux Security Modules: SELinux, TOMOYO, AppArmor, Smack
Hardware (CPU, main memory, data storage devices, etc.)
Installed components of a
Linux system include the following:
A bootloader, for example
GNU GRUB, LILO, SYSLINUX, or Gummiboot. This
is a program that loads the
Linux kernel into the computer's main
memory, by being executed by the computer when it is turned on and
after the firmware initialization is performed.
An init program, such as the traditional sysvinit and the newer
OpenRC and Upstart. This is the first process launched by the
Linux kernel, and is at the root of the process tree: in other terms,
all processes are launched through init. It starts processes such as
system services and login prompts (whether graphical or in terminal
Software libraries, which contain code that can be used by running
Linux systems using ELF-format executable files, the
dynamic linker that manages use of dynamic libraries is known as
ld-linux.so. If the system is set up for the user to compile software
themselves, header files will also be included to describe the
interface of installed libraries. Besides the most commonly used
software library on
Linux systems, the
GNU C Library (glibc), there
are numerous other libraries, such as SDL and Mesa.
C standard library is the library needed to run C programs on a
computer system, with the
GNU C Library being the standard. For
embedded systems, alternatives such as the
EGLIBC (a glibc fork once
used by Debian) and uClibc (which was designed for uClinux) have been
developed, although both are no longer maintained. Android uses its
own C library, Bionic.
Unix commands, with
GNU coreutils being the standard
implementation. Alternatives exist for embedded systems, such as the
copyleft BusyBox, and the BSD-licensed Toybox.
Widget toolkits are the libraries used to build graphical user
interfaces (GUIs) for software applications. Numerous widget toolkits
are available, including
GTK+ and Clutter developed by the GNOME
project, Qt developed by the
Qt Project and led by Digia, and
Enlightenment Foundation Libraries
Enlightenment Foundation Libraries (EFL) developed primarily by the
A package management system, such as dpkg and RPM. Alternatively
packages can be compiled from binary or source tarballs.
User interface programs such as command shells or windowing
The user interface, also known as the shell, is either a command-line
interface (CLI), a graphical user interface (GUI), or through controls
attached to the associated hardware, which is common for embedded
systems. For desktop systems, the default mode is usually a graphical
user interface, although the CLI is commonly available through
terminal emulator windows or on a separate virtual console.
CLI shells are text-based user interfaces, which use text for both
input and output. The dominant shell used in
Linux is the Bourne-Again
Shell (bash), originally developed for the
GNU project. Most low-level
Linux components, including various parts of the userland, use the CLI
exclusively. The CLI is particularly suited for automation of
repetitive or delayed tasks, and provides very simple inter-process
On desktop systems, the most popular user interfaces are the GUI
shells, packaged together with extensive desktop environments, such as
the K Desktop Environment (KDE), GNOME, MATE, Cinnamon, Unity, LXDE,
Pantheon and Xfce, though a variety of additional user interfaces
exist. Most popular user interfaces are based on the X Window System,
often simply called "X". It provides network transparency and permits
a graphical application running on one system to be displayed on
another where a user may interact with the application; however,
certain extensions of the
X Window System
X Window System are not capable of working
over the network. Several X display servers exist, with the
reference implementation, X.Org Server, being the most popular.
Several types of window managers exist for X11, including tiling,
dynamic, stacking and compositing. Window managers provide means to
control the placement and appearance of individual application
windows, and interact with the X Window System. Simpler X window
managers such as dwm or ratpoison provide a minimalist functionality,
while more elaborate window managers such as FVWM, Enlightenment or
Window Maker provide more features such as a built-in taskbar and
themes, but are still lightweight when compared to desktop
environments. Desktop environments include window managers as part of
their standard installations, such as Mutter (GNOME),
KWin (KDE) or
Xfwm (xfce), although users may choose to use a different window
manager if preferred.
Wayland is a display server protocol intended as a replacement for the
X11 protocol; as of 2014[update], it has not received wider adoption.
Unlike X11, Wayland does not need an external window manager and
compositing manager. Therefore, a Wayland compositor takes the role of
the display server, window manager and compositing manager. Weston is
the reference implementation of Wayland, while GNOME's Mutter and
KWin are being ported to Wayland as standalone display servers.
Enlightenment has already been successfully ported since version 19.
Video input infrastructure
Main article: Video4Linux
Linux currently has two modern kernel-userspace APIs for handling
video input devices: V4L2 API for video streams and radio, and DVB API
for digital TV reception.
Due to the complexity and diversity of different devices, and due to
the large amount of formats and standards handled by those APIs, this
infrastructure needs to evolve to better fit other devices. Also, a
good userspace device library is the key of the success for having
userspace applications to be able to work with all formats supported
by those devices.
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Simplified history of
Unix-like operating systems.
similar architecture and concepts (as part of the
POSIX standard) but
does not share non-free source code with the original
Unix or MINIX.
Linux distribution and Free software
The primary difference between
Linux and many other popular
contemporary operating systems is that the
Linux kernel and other
components are free and open-source software.
Linux is not the only
such operating system, although it is by far the most widely used.
Some free and open-source software licenses are based on the principle
of copyleft, a kind of reciprocity: any work derived from a copyleft
piece of software must also be copyleft itself. The most common free
software license, the
GNU General Public License (GPL), is a form of
copyleft, and is used for the
Linux kernel and many of the components
Linux based distributions are intended by developers for
interoperability with other operating systems and established
Linux systems adhere to POSIX, SUS, LSB,
ISO, and ANSI standards where possible, although to date only one
Linux distribution has been POSIX.1 certified, Linux-FT.
Free software projects, although developed through collaboration, are
often produced independently of each other. The fact that the software
licenses explicitly permit redistribution, however, provides a basis
for larger scale projects that collect the software produced by
stand-alone projects and make it available all at once in the form of
Linux distributions, or "distros", manage a remote collection of
system software and application software packages available for
download and installation through a network connection. This allows
users to adapt the operating system to their specific needs.
Distributions are maintained by individuals, loose-knit teams,
volunteer organizations, and commercial entities. A distribution is
responsible for the default configuration of the installed Linux
kernel, general system security, and more generally integration of the
different software packages into a coherent whole. Distributions
typically use a package manager such as apt, yum, zypper, pacman or
portage to install, remove, and update all of a system's software from
one central location.
Free software community and
Linux User Group
A distribution is largely driven by its developer and user
communities. Some vendors develop and fund their distributions on a
Debian being a well-known example. Others maintain a
community version of their commercial distributions, as
Red Hat does
with Fedora, and
SUSE does with openSUSE.
In many cities and regions, local associations known as
Groups (LUGs) seek to promote their preferred distribution and by
extension free software. They hold meetings and provide free
demonstrations, training, technical support, and operating system
installation to new users. Many Internet communities also provide
Linux users and developers. Most distributions and free
software / open-source projects have IRC chatrooms or newsgroups.
Online forums are another means for support, with notable examples
LinuxQuestions.org and the various distribution specific support
and community forums, such as ones for Ubuntu, Fedora, and Gentoo.
Linux distributions host mailing lists; commonly there will be a
specific topic such as usage or development for a given list.
There are several technology websites with a
Linux focus. Print
Linux often bundle cover disks that carry software or
Linux distributions are generally available without charge,
several large corporations sell, support, and contribute to the
development of the components of the system and of free software. An
analysis of the
Linux kernel showed 75 percent of the code from
December 2008 to January 2010 was developed by programmers working for
corporations, leaving about 18 percent to volunteers and 7%
unclassified. Major corporations that provide contributions
include Dell, IBM, HP, Oracle,
Sun Microsystems (now part of Oracle)
and Nokia. A number of corporations, notably Red Hat, Canonical and
SUSE, have built a significant business around
The free software licenses, on which the various software packages of
a distribution built on the
Linux kernel are based, explicitly
accommodate and encourage commercialization; the relationship between
Linux distribution as a whole and individual vendors may be seen as
symbiotic. One common business model of commercial suppliers is
charging for support, especially for business users. A number of
companies also offer a specialized business version of their
distribution, which adds proprietary support packages and tools to
administer higher numbers of installations or to simplify
Another business model is to give away the software in order to sell
hardware. This used to be the norm in the computer industry, with
operating systems such as CP/M,
Apple DOS and versions of
Mac OS prior
to 7.6 freely copyable (but not modifiable). As computer hardware
standardized throughout the 1980s, it became more difficult for
hardware manufacturers to profit from this tactic, as the OS would run
on any manufacturer's computer that shared the same architecture.
Programming on Linux
Linux distributions support dozens of programming languages. The
original development tools used for building both
and operating system programs are found within the
which includes the
Compiler Collection (GCC) and the
System. Amongst others, GCC provides compilers for Ada, C, C++, Go and
Fortran. Many programming languages have a cross-platform reference
implementation that supports Linux, for example PHP, Perl, Ruby,
Python, Java, Go, Rust and Haskell. First released in 2003, the LLVM
project provides an alternative cross-platform open-source compiler
for many languages. Proprietary compilers for
Linux include the Intel
C++ Compiler, Sun Studio, and
IBM XL C/
BASIC in the form
Visual Basic is supported in such forms as Gambas, FreeBASIC, and
XBasic, and in terms of terminal programming or Quick
BASIC or Turbo
BASIC programming in the form of QB64.
A common feature of
Linux includes traditional
specific-purpose programming languages targeted at scripting, text
processing and system configuration and management in general. Linux
distributions support shell scripts, awk, sed and make. Many programs
also have an embedded programming language to support configuring or
programming themselves. For example, regular expressions are supported
in programs like grep and locate, the traditional
Unix MTA Sendmail
contains its own
Turing complete scripting system, and the advanced
Emacs is built around a general purpose Lisp
Most distributions also include support for PHP, Perl, Ruby, Python
and other dynamic languages. While not as common,
Linux also supports
C# (via Mono), Vala, and Scheme. Guile Scheme acts as an extension
language targeting the
GNU system utilities, seeking to make the
conventionally small, static, compiled C programs of
rapidly and dynamically extensible via an elegant, functional
high-level scripting system; many
GNU programs can be compiled with
optional Guile bindings to this end. A number of Java Virtual Machines
and development kits run on Linux, including the original Sun
Microsystems JVM (HotSpot), and IBM's J2SE RE, as well as many
open-source projects like
Kaffe and JikesRVM.
KDE are popular desktop environments and provide a framework
for developing applications. These projects are based on the
Qt widget toolkits, respectively, which can also be used independently
of the larger framework. Both support a wide variety of languages.
There are a number of Integrated development environments available
including Anjuta, Code::Blocks, CodeLite, Eclipse, Geany, ActiveState
Komodo, KDevelop, Lazarus, MonoDevelop, NetBeans, and Qt Creator,
while the long-established editors Vim, nano and
Linux is ubiquitously found on various types of hardware.
See also: List of Linux-supported computer architectures
Linux kernel is a widely ported operating system kernel, available
for devices ranging from mobile phones to supercomputers; it runs on a
highly diverse range of computer architectures, including the
hand-held ARM-based iPAQ and the
IBM mainframes System z9 or System
z10. Specialized distributions and kernel forks exist for less
mainstream architectures; for example, the
ELKS kernel fork can run on
Intel 8086 or
16-bit microprocessors, while the µClinux
kernel fork may run on systems without a memory management unit. The
kernel also runs on architectures that were only ever intended to use
a manufacturer-created operating system, such as
Intel processors), PDAs, video game consoles,
portable music players, and mobile phones.
There are several industry associations and hardware conferences
devoted to maintaining and improving support for diverse hardware
under Linux, such as FreedomHEC. Over time, support for different
hardware has improved in Linux, resulting in any off-the-shelf
purchase having a "good chance" of being compatible.
Linux range of use
Linux distributions designed for general-purpose use on
desktops and servers, distributions may be specialized for different
purposes including: computer architecture support, embedded systems,
stability, security, localization to a specific region or language,
targeting of specific user groups, support for real-time applications,
or commitment to a given desktop environment. Furthermore, some
distributions deliberately include only free software. As of
2015[update], over four hundred
Linux distributions are actively
developed, with about a dozen distributions being most popular for
Visible software components of the
Linux desktop stack include the
display server, widget engines, and some of the more widespread widget
toolkits. There are also components not directly visible to end users,
D-Bus and PulseAudio.
Desktop environment and
Linux adoption: Measuring desktop
The popularity of
Linux on standard desktop computers and laptops has
been increasing over the years. Most modern distributions include
a graphical user environment, with, as of February 2015[update],
the two most popular environments being the
KDE Plasma Desktop and
No single official
Linux desktop exists: rather desktop environments
Linux distributions select components from a pool of free and
open-source software with which they construct a GUI implementing some
more or less strict design guide. GNOME, for example, has its human
interface guidelines as a design guide, which gives the
human–machine interface an important role, not just when doing the
graphical design, but also when considering people with disabilities,
and even when focusing on security.
The collaborative nature of free software development allows
distributed teams to perform language localization of some Linux
distributions for use in locales where localizing proprietary systems
would not be cost-effective. For example, the Sinhalese language
version of the
Knoppix distribution became available significantly
Windows XP into Sinhalese. In this
case the Lanka
Linux User Group
Linux User Group played a major part in developing the
localized system by combining the knowledge of university professors,
linguists, and local developers.
Performance and applications
The performance of
Linux on the desktop has been a controversial
topic; for example in 2007
Con Kolivas accused the
Linux community of favoring performance on servers. He quit Linux
kernel development out of frustration with this lack of focus on the
desktop, and then gave a "tell all" interview on the topic. Since
then a significant amount of development has focused on improving the
desktop experience. Projects such as
Upstart and systemd aim for a
faster boot time; the Wayland and Mir projects aim at replacing X11
while enhancing desktop performance, security and appearance.
Many popular applications are available for a wide variety of
operating systems. For example,
LibreOffice and Blender have downloadable versions for
all major operating systems. Furthermore, some applications initially
developed for Linux, such as Pidgin, and GIMP, were ported to other
operating systems (including Windows and
Mac OS X) due to their
popularity. In addition, a growing number of proprietary desktop
applications are also supported on Linux, such as Autodesk Maya,
Softimage XSI and Apple Shake in the high-end field of animation and
visual effects; see the list of proprietary software for
more details. There are also several companies that have ported their
own or other companies' games to Linux, with
Linux also being a
supported platform on both the popular Steam and Desura
Many other types of applications available for
Microsoft Windows and
Mac OS X also run on Linux. Commonly, either a free software
application will exist which does the functions of an application
found on another operating system, or that application will have a
version that works on Linux, such as with
Skype and some video games
Dota 2 and Team Fortress 2. Furthermore, the Wine project
provides a Windows compatibility layer to run unmodified Windows
applications on Linux. It is sponsored by commercial interests
including CodeWeavers, which produces a commercial version of the
software. Since 2009, Google has also provided funding to the Wine
project. CrossOver, a proprietary solution based on the
open-source Wine project, supports running Windows versions of
Intuit applications such as
Quicken and QuickBooks,
Adobe Photoshop versions through CS2, and many popular games such as
World of Warcraft. In other cases, where there is no
Linux port of
some software in areas such as desktop publishing and professional
audio, there is equivalent software available on Linux. It
is also possible to run applications written for Android on other
Linux using Anbox.
Components and installation
Besides externally visible components, such as X window managers, a
non-obvious but quite central role is played by the programs hosted by
freedesktop.org, such as
D-Bus or PulseAudio; both major desktop
GNOME and KDE) include them, each offering graphical
front-ends written using the corresponding toolkit (
GTK+ or Qt). A
display server is another component, which for the longest time has
been communicating in the
X11 display server protocol with its
clients; prominent software talking
X11 includes the
X.Org Server and
Xlib. Frustration over the cumbersome
X11 core protocol, and
especially over its numerous extensions, has led to the creation of a
new display server protocol, Wayland.
Installing, updating and removing software in
Linux is typically done
through the use of package managers such as the Synaptic Package
Manager, PackageKit, and Yum Extender. While most major Linux
distributions have extensive repositories, often containing tens of
thousands of packages, not all the software that can run on
available from the official repositories. Alternatively, users can
install packages from unofficial repositories, download pre-compiled
packages directly from websites, or compile the source code by
themselves. All these methods come with different degrees of
difficulty; compiling the source code is in general considered a
challenging process for new
Linux users, but it is hardly needed in
modern distributions and is not a method specific to Linux.
Samples of graphical desktop interfaces
Linux distributions have also become popular in the netbook market,
with many devices such as the
Asus Eee PC
Asus Eee PC and Acer
Aspire One shipping
Linux distributions installed.
In 2009, Google announced its Chrome OS as a minimal Linux-based
operating system, using the
Chrome browser as the main user interface.
Chrome OS does not run any non-web applications, except for the
bundled file manager and media player (a certain level of support for
Android applications was added in later versions). Netbooks that
shipped with the operating system, termed Chromebooks, started
appearing on the market in June 2011.
Servers, mainframes and supercomputers
Broad overview of the LAMP software bundle, displayed here together
with Squid. A high-performance and high-availability web server
solution providing security in a hostile environment.
Linux distributions have long been used as server operating systems,
and have risen to prominence in that area;
Netcraft reported in
September 2006, that eight of the ten (other two with "unknown" OS)
most reliable internet hosting companies ran
Linux distributions on
their web servers, with
Linux in the top position. In June 2008,
Linux distributions represented five of the top ten,
FreeBSD three of
Microsoft two of ten; since February 2010, Linux
distributions represented six of the top ten,
FreeBSD two of ten, and
Microsoft one of ten, with
Linux in the top position.
Linux distributions are the cornerstone of the LAMP server-software
combination (Linux, Apache, MariaDB/MySQL, Perl/PHP/Python) which has
achieved popularity among developers, and which is one of the more
common platforms for website hosting.
Linux distributions have become increasingly popular on mainframes,
partly due to pricing and the open-source model. In December
2009, computer giant
IBM reported that it would predominantly market
and sell mainframe-based Enterprise
Linux Server. At LinuxCon
North America 2015,
IBM announced LinuxONE, a series of mainframes
specifically designed to run
Linux and open-source software.
Linux distributions are also dominant as operating systems for
supercomputers. As of November 2017, all supercomputers on the 500
list run some variant of Linux.
Several operating systems for smart devices, such as smartphones,
tablet computers, smart TVs, and in-vehicle infotainment (IVI)
systems, are based on Linux. Major platforms for such systems include
Android, Firefox OS, Mer and Tizen.
Android has become the dominant mobile operating system for
smartphones, running on 79.3% of units sold worldwide during the
second quarter of 2013. Android is also a popular operating
system for tablets, and Android smart TVs and in-vehicle infotainment
systems have also appeared in the market.
Cellphones and PDAs running
Linux on open-source platforms became more
common from 2007; examples include the
Nokia N810, Openmoko's Neo1973,
and the Motorola ROKR E8. Continuing the trend, Palm (later acquired
by HP) produced a new Linux-derived operating system, webOS, which is
built into its line of
Palm Pre smartphones.
Nokia's Maemo, one of the earliest mobile operating systems, was based
on Debian. It was later merged with Intel's Moblin, another
Linux-based operating system, to form MeeGo. The project was
later terminated in favor of Tizen, an operating system targeted at
mobile devices as well as IVI.
Tizen is a project within The Linux
Samsung products are already running Tizen,
Samsung Gear 2 being the most significant example.
smartphones will use
Tizen instead of Android.
As a result of MeeGo's termination, the Mer project forked the MeeGo
codebase to create a basis for mobile-oriented operating systems.
In July 2012,
Jolla announced Sailfish OS, their own mobile operating
system built upon Mer technology.
Mozilla's Firefox OS consists of the
Linux kernel, a hardware
abstraction layer, a web-standards-based runtime environment and user
interface, and an integrated web browser.
Canonical has released Ubuntu Touch, aiming to bring convergence to
the user experience on this mobile operating system and its desktop
counterpart, Ubuntu. The operating system also provides a full Ubuntu
desktop when connected to an external monitor.
Embedded Linux and
Jolla Phone has the Linux-based Sailfish OS
In-car entertainment system of the
Tesla Model S
Tesla Model S is based on
Nokia X, a smartphone that runs
Due to its low cost and ease of customization,
Linux is often used in
embedded systems. In the non-mobile telecommunications equipment
sector, the majority of customer-premises equipment (CPE) hardware
runs some Linux-based operating system.
OpenWrt is a community driven
example upon which many of the OEM firmware releases are based.
For example, the popular
TiVo digital video recorder also uses a
customized Linux, as do several network firewalls and routers
from such makers as Cisco/Linksys. The Korg OASYS, the Korg KRONOS,
the Yamaha Motif XS/Motif XF music workstations, Yamaha
S90XS/S70XS, Yamaha MOX6/MOX8 synthesizers, Yamaha Motif-Rack XS tone
generator module, and Roland RD-700GX digital piano also run Linux.
Linux is also used in stage lighting control systems, such as the
In the past, not many games were available for Linux, but in the
recent years, more games have been released with support for Linux.
Nowadays, many games support
Linux (especially Indie games), except
for a few AAA title games. On the other hand, as a popular mobile
platform, Android (which uses the
Linux kernel) has gained much
developer interest and is one of the main platforms for mobile game
development along with iOS operating system by Apple for iPhone and
On February 14, 2013, Valve released a
Linux version of Steam, a
popular game distribution platform on PC. Many Steam games were
ported to Linux. On December 13, 2013, Valve released SteamOS, a
gaming oriented OS based on Debian, for beta testing, and has plans to
ship Steam Machines as a gaming and entertainment platform. Valve
has also developed VOGL, an
OpenGL debugger intended to aid video game
development, as well as porting its Source game engine to desktop
Linux. As a result of Valve's effort, several prominent games
such as DotA 2, Team Fortress 2, Portal,
Portal 2 and Left 4 Dead 2
are now natively available on desktop Linux.
On July 31, 2013,
Nvidia released Shield as an attempt to use Android
as a specialized gaming platform.
Linux users play Windows games through Wine or
Due to the flexibility, customizability and free and open-source
nature of Linux, it becomes possible to highly tune
Linux for a
specific purpose. There are two main methods for creating a
Linux distribution: building from scratch or from a
general-purpose distribution as a base. The distributions often used
for this purpose include Debian, Fedora, Ubuntu (which is itself based
on Debian), Arch Linux, Gentoo, and Slackware. In contrast, Linux
distributions built from scratch do not have general-purpose bases;
instead, they focus on the
JeOS philosophy by including only necessary
components and avoiding resource overhead caused by components
considered redundant in the distribution's use cases.
Home theater PC
A home theater PC (HTPC) is a PC that is mainly used as an
entertainment system, especially a Home theater system. It is normally
connected to a television, and often an additional audio system.
Linux distribution that incorporates the media center
software Kodi, is an OS tuned specifically for an HTPC. Having been
built from the ground up adhering to the
JeOS principle, the OS is
very lightweight and very suitable for the confined usage range of an
There are also special editions of
Linux distributions that include
MythTV media center software, such as Mythbuntu, a special edition
Kali Linux is a Debian-based
Linux distribution designed for digital
forensics and penetration testing. It comes preinstalled with several
software applications for penetration testing and identifying security
exploits. The Ubuntu derivative
BackBox provides pre-installed
security and network analysis tools for ethical hacking.
There are many
Linux distributions created with privacy, secrecy,
network anonymity and information security in mind, including Tails,
Tin Hat Linux and Tinfoil Hat Linux.
Lightweight Portable Security
Lightweight Portable Security is
a distribution based on
Arch Linux and developed by the United States
Department of Defense.
Tor-ramdisk is a minimal distribution created
solely to host the network anonymity software Tor.
Live CD sessions have long been used as a tool for recovering
data from a broken computer system and for repairing the system.
Building upon that idea, several
Linux distributions tailored for this
purpose have emerged, most of which use
GParted as a partition editor,
with additional data recovery and system repair software:
GParted Live – a Debian-based distribution developed by the
Parted Magic – a commercial
SystemRescueCD – a Gentoo-based distribution with support for
editing Windows registry.
SpaceX uses multiple redundant flight computers in a fault-tolerant
design in the Falcon 9 rocket. Each Merlin engine is controlled
by three voting computers, with two physical processors per computer
that constantly check each other's operation.
Linux is not inherently
fault-tolerant (no operating system is, as it is a function of the
whole system including the hardware), but the flight computer software
makes it so for its purpose. For flexibility, commercial
off-the-shelf parts and system-wide "radiation-tolerant" design are
used instead of radiation hardened parts. As of June
SpaceX has made 19 launches of the Falcon 9 since
2010, out of which 18 have successfully delivered their primary
payloads to Earth orbit, including some support missions for the
International Space Station.
In addition, Windows was used as an operating system on non-mission
critical systems—laptops used on board the space station, for
example—but it has been replaced with Linux; the first
Linux-powered humanoid robot is also undergoing in-flight
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Jet Propulsion Laboratory has used
Linux for a number of years "to
help with projects relating to the construction of unmanned space
flight and deep space exploration";
Linux in robotics in the
Mars rover, and Ubuntu
Linux to "save data from satellites".
Linux distributions have been created to provide hands-on experience
with coding and source code to students, on devices such as the
Raspberry Pi. In addition to producing a practical device, the
intention is to show students "how things work under the hood".
The Ubuntu derivatives
Edubuntu and The
Linux Schools Project, as well
Debian derivative Skolelinux, provide education-oriented
software packages. They also include tools for administering and
building school computer labs and computer-based classrooms, such as
Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP).
Instant WebKiosk and
Webconverger are browser-based Linux
distributions often used in web kiosks and digital signage.
Thinstation is a minimalist distribution designed for thin clients.
Rocks Cluster Distribution
Rocks Cluster Distribution is tailored for high-performance computing
There are general-purpose
Linux distributions that target a specific
audience, such as users of a specific language or geographical area.
Such examples include
Ubuntu Kylin for Chinese language users and
BlankOn targeted at Indonesians. Profession-specific distributions
Ubuntu Studio for media creation and
bioinformatics. There is also a Muslim-oriented distribution of the
name Sabily, as well as an Arabic-focused distribution called Ojuba
Linux that consequently also provides some Islamic tools. Certain
organizations use slightly specialized
Linux distributions internally,
GendBuntu used by the French National Gendarmerie, Goobuntu
used internally by Google, and
Astra Linux developed specifically for
the Russian army.
Market share and uptake
See also: Usage share of operating systems
Many quantitative studies of free/open-source software focus on topics
including market share and reliability, with numerous studies
specifically examining Linux. The
Linux market is growing
rapidly, and the revenue of servers, desktops, and packaged software
Linux was expected to[needs update] exceed $35.7 billion by
2008. Analysts and proponents attribute the relative success of
Linux to its security, reliability, low cost, and freedom from vendor
Desktops and laptops
According to web server statistics, as of June 2016[update], the
estimated market share of
Linux on desktop computers is around 1.8%.
Microsoft Windows has a market share of around 89.7%,
Mac OS covers around 8.5%.
W3Cook publishes stats that use the top 1,000,000 Alexa domains,
which as of May 2015[update] estimate that 96.55% of web servers
run Linux, 1.73% run Windows, and 1.72% run FreeBSD.
W3Techs publishes stats that use the top 10,000,000 Alexa domains,
updated monthly and as of November 2016[update] estimate
that 66.7% of web servers run Linux/Unix, and 33.4% run Microsoft
In September 2008, Microsoft's CEO
Steve Ballmer stated that 60% of
web servers ran Linux, versus 40% that ran Windows Server.
IDC's Q1 2007 report indicated that
Linux held 12.7% of the overall
server market at that time; this estimate was based on the number
Linux servers sold by various companies, and did not include server
hardware purchased separately that had
Linux installed on it later.
Android, which is based on the
Linux kernel, has become the dominant
operating system for smartphones. During the second quarter of 2013,
79.3% of smartphones sold worldwide used Android. Android is also
a popular operating system for tablets, being responsible for more
than 60% of tablet sales as of 2013. According to web server
statistics, as of December 2014[update] Android has a market
share of about 46%, with iOS holding 45%, and the remaining 9%
attributed to various niche platforms.
Linux has been the platform of choice in the film industry.
The first major film produced on
Linux servers was 1997's
Titanic. Since then major studios including DreamWorks
Animation, Pixar, Weta Digital, and Industrial Light & Magic have
migrated to Linux. According to the
Linux Movies Group,
more than 95% of the servers and desktops at large animation and
visual effects companies use Linux.
Use in government
Linux distributions have also gained popularity with various local and
national governments. The federal government of
Brazil is well known
for its support for Linux. News of the Russian military
creating its own
Linux distribution has also surfaced, and has come to
fruition as the G.H.ost Project. The Indian state of
gone to the extent of mandating that all state high schools run Linux
on their computers. China uses
Linux exclusively as the
operating system for its
Loongson processor family to achieve
technology independence. In Spain, some regions have developed
Linux distributions, which are widely used in education and
official institutions, like gnuLinEx in Extremadura and
Germany have also taken steps toward the
adoption of Linux. North Korea's Red Star OS, developed since
2002, is based on a version of Fedora Linux.
Copyright, trademark and naming
GNU/Linux naming controversy
GNU/Linux naming controversy and SCO-
Linux kernel is licensed under the
GNU General Public License (GPL),
version 2. The GPL requires that anyone who distributes software based
on source code under this license, must make the originating source
code (and any modifications) available to the recipient under the same
terms. Other key components of a typical
Linux distribution are
also mainly licensed under the GPL, but they may use other licenses;
many libraries use the
GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL), a
more permissive variant of the GPL, and the X.org implementation of
X Window System
X Window System uses the MIT License.
Torvalds states that the
Linux kernel will not move from version 2 of
the GPL to version 3. He specifically dislikes some
provisions in the new license which prohibit the use of the software
in digital rights management. It would also be impractical to
obtain permission from all the copyright holders, who number in the
A 2001 study of
Linux 7.1 found that this distribution
contained 30 million source lines of code. Using the Constructive
Cost Model, the study estimated that this distribution required about
eight thousand person-years of development time. According to the
study, if all this software had been developed by conventional
proprietary means, it would have cost about $1.53 billion (2018
US dollars) to develop in the United States. Most of the source
code (71%) was written in the C programming language, but many other
languages were used, including C++, Lisp, assembly language, Perl,
Python, Fortran, and various shell scripting languages. Slightly over
half of all lines of code were licensed under the GPL. The Linux
kernel itself was 2.4 million lines of code, or 8% of the total.
In a later study, the same analysis was performed for
4.0 (etch, which was released in 2007). This distribution
contained close to 283 million source lines of code, and the study
estimated that it would have required about seventy three thousand
man-years and cost US$8.46 billion (in 2018 dollars) to develop
by conventional means.
The name "Linux" is also used for a laundry detergent made by Swiss
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
Free Software Foundation
Free Software Foundation (FSF) prefers GNU/
Linux as the name when
referring to the operating system as a whole, because it considers
Linux distributions to be variants of the
GNU operating system
initiated in 1983 by 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 (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
Linux distributions (for example,
Linux and Red Hat
Enterprise Linux). 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
As of May 2011[update], about 8% to 13% of a modern Linux
distribution is made of
GNU components (the range depending on whether
GNOME is considered part of GNU), as determined by counting lines of
source code making up Ubuntu's "Natty" release; meanwhile, 6% is taken
Linux kernel, increased to 9% when including its direct
Free software portal
Open-source software portal
Comparison of open source and closed source
Comparison of operating systems
X Window System
X Window System desktop environments
Criticism of Linux
Linux Documentation Project
List of games released on Linux
List of operating systems
Loadable kernel module
Usage share of operating systems
GNU is the primary userland used in nearly all Linux
GNU userland contains system daemons, user
applications, the GUI, and various libraries.
GNU Core utilities are
an essential part of most distros. Most
Linux distributions use the X
Window system. Other components of the userland, such as the widget
toolkit, vary with the specific distribution, desktop environment, and
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