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Linux ( or ) is a family of open-source
Unix-like A Unix-like (sometimes referred to as UN*X or *nix) operating system is one that behaves in a manner similar to a Unix system, while not necessarily conforming to or being certified to any version of the Single UNIX Specification. A Unix-like Ap ...
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 ...

operating system
s based on the
Linux kernel The Linux kernel is a free and open-source, Monolithic kernel, monolithic, Modular design, modular, Computer multitasking, multitasking, Unix-like operating system kernel (operating system), kernel. It was conceived and created in 1991 by Linus To ...
, an
operating system kernel The kernel is a computer program A computer program is a collection of instructions that can be executed by a computer to perform a specific task. A computer program is usually written by a computer programmer in a programming language ...
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 (op ...
. 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 that manages computer hardware, computer software, software resources, and provides common daemon (computing), services for c ...
. 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 like macOS macOS (; previously Mac OS X and later OS X) is a Proprietary software, proprieta ...
and
libraries A library is a curated collection of sources of information and similar resources, made accessible to a defined community for reference or borrowing. It provides physical or digital access to material, and may be a physical location or a virt ...
, many of which are provided by the
GNU Project The GNU Project () is a free software, mass collaboration project that Richard Stallman announced on September 27, 1983. Its goal is to give computer users freedom and control in their use of their computers and computing devices by collaborat ...
. 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) A 501(c)(3) organization is a corporation, trust, unincorporated association, or other type of organization exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of Title 26 of the United States ...
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 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, sof ...
,
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 Linux distribution based on Debian and composed mostly of free and open-source software. Ubuntu is officially released in three editions: '' Desktop'', '' Server'', and ''Core'' for Internet of things devices and robot ...

Ubuntu
. Commercial distributions include
Red Hat Enterprise Linux Red Hat Enterprise Linux (often abbreviated to 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 soft ...
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 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 softwa ...
such as
GNOME GNOME () is a free and open-source software, free and open-source desktop environment for Unix-like operating systems. GNOME was originally an acronym for ''GNU Network Object Model Environment'', but the acronym was dropped because it no longer ...
or
KDE Plasma KDE Plasma 5 is the fifth and current generation of the graphical workspaces environment created by KDE primarily for Linux systems. KDE Plasma 5 is the successor of KDE Plasma 4 and was first released on 15 July 2014. It includes a new default ...

KDE Plasma
. Distributions intended for servers may omit
graphics Graphics () are visual perception, visual images or designs on some surface, such as a wall, canvas, screen, paper, or stone, to inform, illustration, illustrate, or entertain. In contemporary usage, it includes a pictorial representation of data ...
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 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 a keyboard (mouse not shown) A personal com ...
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 software engineering, porting is the process of adapting software Software is a collection of Instruction (computer science), instructions and data (computing), data that tell a computer how to work. This is in contrast to Computer hardwa ...
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 ...
on
smartphone A smartphone is a mobile device that combines cellular and mobile computing functions into one unit. They are distinguished from feature phones by their stronger hardware capabilities and extensive mobile operating systems, which facilitat ...

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 is a laptop or tablet running the Linux-based Chrome OS as its operating system An operating system (OS) is system software that manages computer hardware, computer software, software resources, and provides common daemon (com ...
, which runs the Linux kernel-based
Chrome OS Chrome OS (sometimes styled as chromeOS) is a Gentoo Linux-based operating system An operating system (OS) is system software that manages computer hardware, computer software, software resources, and provides common daemon (computing), ser ...
, 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 A computer is a machine that can be programmed to carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. Modern computers can perform generic ...
s, and is the only OS used on
TOP500 The TOP500 project ranks and details the 500 most powerful non- distributed computer A computer is a machine that can be programmed to carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. Modern computers can perform ge ...
supercomputer 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 measured in floating-point operations per second (FLOPS) instead of million instructions p ...

supercomputer
s (since November 2017, having gradually eliminated all competitors). Linux also runs on
embedded system An embedded system is a computer system—a combination of a computer processor, computer memory, and input/output peripheral devices—that has a dedicated function within a larger mechanical or Electronics, electronic system. It is ''e ...
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 algorithmic processes and development of both computer hardware , hardware and softwa ...
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 (TV), sometimes shortened to tele or telly, is a telecommunication medium used for transmitting moving images in monochrome (black and white), or in color, and in two or three dimensions and sound. The term can refer to a te ...

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-based mobile operating system backed by the Linux Foundation but developed and used primarily by Samsung Electronics. The project was originally conceived as an HTML5-based platform for mobile devices to succeed MeeGo. Samsun ...
and
WebOS webOS, also known as LG webOS and previously known as Open webOS, HP webOS and Palm webOS, is a Linux kernel-based multitasking operating system An operating system (OS) is system software that manages computer hardware, computer software, s ...

WebOS
, respectively),
automobiles A car (or automobile) is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transportation Transport (commonly used in the U.K.), or transportation (used in the U.S.), is the Motion, movement of humans, animals and cargo, goods from one location to anothe ...
(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 that records video in a digital format to a disk drive Disk storage (also sometimes called drive storage) is a general category of storage mechanisms where data is recorded by various electr ...
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 proc ...
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). While ...

smartwatch
es. The
Falcon 9 Falcon 9 is a partially reusable two-stage-to-orbit A two-stage-to-orbit (TSTO) or two-stage rocket launch vehicle File:Soyuz TMA-5 launch.jpg, Russian Soyuz TMA-5 lifts off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan heading for the Inter ...

Falcon 9
's and the Dragon 2's
avionics Avionics (a blend of ''aviation'' and ''electronics'') are the electronic Electronic may refer to: *Electronics Electronics comprises the physics, engineering, technology and applications that deal with the emission, flow and control of e ...
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 that tell a computer A computer is a machine that can be programmed to carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. Modern computers can perform generic sets of operatio ...

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 s ...

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 redistribute that ...
.


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 and data (computing), data that tell a computer how to ...
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 ...
'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 development, research and scientific development S.A. ...
, 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 computer scientist A computer scientist is a person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reaso ...
,
Douglas McIlroy Malcolm Douglas McIlroy (born 1932) is a mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathem ...
, 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, assembly language (or assembler language), often abbreviated asm, is any low-level programming language in which there is a very strong correspondence between the instructions in the language and the computer architecture ...
, 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 computer scientist A computer scientist is a person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reaso ...
(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, porting is the process of adapting software for the purpose of achieving some form of execution in a Computing platform, computing environment that is different from the one that a given program (meant for such execution) ...
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) A 501(c)(3) organization is a corporation, trust, unincorporated association, or other type of organization exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of Title 26 of the United States ...
(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 activist and programmer A computer programmer, sometimes called a software developer, a programmer or more recently a ...

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 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, sof ...
(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 (often abbreviated to 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 soft ...
). 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 GNOME () is a free and open-source software, free and open-source desktop environment for Unix-like operating systems. GNOME was originally an acronym for ''GNU Network Object Model Environment'', but the acronym was dropped because it no longer ...
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