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Definition: Linux


The most widely used open source operating system. Linux runs on all major hardware platforms including x86, ARM and IBM mainframes. Based on the design principles in the Unix operating system, Linux runs in almost all the servers on the Internet and in nearly every consumer electronics product that is controlled by a microprocessor (see embedded Linux). Except for Apple and Microsoft products, Linux is the OS in every smartphone and tablet. However, as a personal computer, Linux has a rather small market share, but that is changing due to Google's Chrome OS (see Chromebook). See Unix.

Linux is a multitasking, multiuser operating system that is known for its stability. Although modified by numerous people, its robustness stems from its Unix-like architecture that keeps applications isolated from the core operating system. Linux has often been called a "Unix clone."

Licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL), Linux is "the" flagship product of the open source community. Numerous groups work on their own flavor of Linux, modifying it for various purposes, and commercial organizations, such as Red Hat and Suse, "distribute" Linux for a fee along with tech support (see Linux distribution). Linux is also compliant with the IEEE compatibility standard (see POSIX). See open source and GNU General Public License.

Not Just One User Interface
Linux employs the X Window rendering system to create the basic window, but it relies on third-party user interfaces to display the borders, buttons, menus, icons and desktop that users manipulate. KDE and GNOME are two of the most popular, and both may be included in a Linux distribution. See X Window, KDE and GNOME.

From Unix to Minix to Linux
In 1990, Finnish computer science student Linus Torvalds created the Linux kernel (the heart of the OS). He was inspired by Minix, a classroom teaching tool similar to Unix. Although Torvalds created the kernel, many of the supporting libraries, utilities and applications have come from the GNU Project, which is why Linux is often designated as GNU/Linux. Over the years, a huge number of programmers have contributed. Torvalds maintains the official Linux kernel, and Linux is his registered trademark.

Linux Is Really "Lee-Nooks"
The most common pronunciation is "lynn-icks." However, because in Finnish Linus is pronounced "lee-noose," Torvalds named it "lee-nooks." It may also be called "line-icks" as many people call Linus "line-iss." See embedded Linux, Minix, Ubuntu, SuSE Linux, UnitedLinux, CoreOS, OS virtualization, GNU, open source, Linux Foundation, Trinux, SCO and Red Hat.




A Linux Desktop
This is a Linux desktop PC from System76. In 2005, System76 was first to offer packaged Linux systems that come with Ubuntu Linux and several popular applications (see Ubuntu). (Image courtesy of System76, www.system76.com)






Linux in Your TV
MontaVista Linux provides the user interface in this Sony TV. Increasingly, people are finding a GPL open source license with the electronics they purchase, which covers the legal use of the software running in the device. See GNU General Public License.






The Linux Logo
The Linux mascot is a penguin, and it appeared on some early iPods running a version of Linux from the iPodLinux Project. (Image courtesy of the iPodLinux Project)