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(computer science)
A freely available, open-source Unix-like operating system kernel capable of running on many different types of computer hardware; first released in 1991.


(operating system)
("Linus Unix") /li'nuks/ (but see below) An implementation of the Unix kernel originally written from scratch with no proprietary code.

The kernel runs on Intel and Alpha hardware in the general release, with SPARC, PowerPC, MIPS, ARM, Amiga, Atari, and SGI in active development. The SPARC, PowerPC, ARM, PowerMAC - OSF, and 68k ports all support shells, X and networking. The Intel and SPARC versions have reliable symmetric multiprocessing.

Work on the kernel is coordinated by Linus Torvalds, who holds the copyright on a large part of it. The rest of the copyright is held by a large number of other contributors (or their employers). Regardless of the copyright ownerships, the kernel as a whole is available under the GNU General Public License. The GNU project supports Linux as its kernel until the research Hurd kernel is completed.

This kernel would be no use without application programs. The GNU project has provided large numbers of quality tools, and together with other public domain software it is a rich Unix environment. A compilation of the Linux kernel and these tools is known as a Linux distribution. Compatibility modules and/or emulators exist for dozens of other computing environments.

The kernel version numbers are significant: the odd numbered series (e.g. 1.3.xx) is the development (or beta) kernel which evolves very quickly. Stable (or release) kernels have even major version numbers (e.g. 1.2.xx).

There is a lot of commercial support for and use of Linux, both by hardware companies such as Digital, IBM, and Apple and numerous smaller network and integration specialists. There are many commercially supported distributions which are generally entirely under the GPL. At least one distribution vendor guarantees Posix compliance. Linux is particularly popular for Internet Service Providers, and there are ports to both parallel supercomputers and embedded microcontrollers. Debian is one popular open source distribution.

The pronunciation of "Linux" has been a matter of much debate. Many, including Torvalds, insist on the short I pronunciation /li'nuks/ because "Linus" has an /ee/ sound in Swedish (Linus's family is part of Finland's 6% ethnic-Swedish minority) and Linus considers English short /i/ to be closer to /ee/ than English long /i:/ dipthong. This is consistent with the short I in words like "linen". This doesn't stop others demanding a long I /li:'nuks/ following the english pronunciation of "Linus" and "minus". Others say /li'niks/ following Minix, which Torvalds was working on before Linux.

More on pronunciation.

LinuxHQ. slashdot. freshmeat. Woven Goods. Linux Gazette.

funet Linux Archive, US mirror, UK Mirror.


A very popular open source operating system that runs on all major hardware platforms including x86, Itanium, PowerPC, ARM and IBM mainframes. Based on the design principles in the Unix operating system, and often called a "Unix clone", Linux is widely deployed as a server OS and as an embedded OS. For example, Linux runs in most of the servers on the Internet and in countless appliances and consumer electronics (see embedded Linux). In the desktop world, Linux has a small market share; however, Google's Chrome OS may change that status in the future (see Chromebook).

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.

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 (see Linux distribution). Linux is also compliant with POSIX, 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 user interfaces, 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"
In Finland, they say "lee-nooks" because Linus is pronounced "lee-noose." Since the English pronounce Linus as "line-iss," some call it "line-icks." More common is "lynn-icks." 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,

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)
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