Non-nerd's Guide to Computers/lin

Linux (/ˈlɪnʊks/ LIN-uuks) is a family of open-source Unix-like operating systems based on the Linux kernel, an operating system kernel first released on September 17, 1991, by Linus Torvalds, and developed under the GNU General Public License.

There are Linux-based operating systems meant for both server use as well as personal computers, embedded computing devices, and mobile phones. Because of its stability, it is often used on servers and mission critical systems. Due to the presence of many free Linux-based operating systems, they are often preferred in situations where licensing costs for other operating systems may be cost-prohibitive.

For a more complete reference, read more at the Linux wikipedia page.



There is some controversy on the proper way to refer to an operating system running on the Linux kernel.

The combination of GNU software and Linux can be referred to as the "GNU/Linux" operating system, but these operating systems are also frequently referred to simply as "Linux".

There are multiple different ways to refer to these operating systems, which will be listed below, to demonstrate that each of the following items may be referring to the same thing (ignoring some specific differentiating details), an operating system running on the Linux kernel:

  • Linux operating systems
  • GNU/Linux - The combination of GNU software and Linux
  • Linux-based operating systems
  • Linux 'Distributions' - Named Linux operating systems

GNU Software on Linux


GNU is an extensive collection of free software (385 packages as of September 2023), 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 Linux. Most of GNU is licensed under the GNU Project's own General Public License (GPL).

The GNU Project was created by Richard Stallman to develop a Unix-like "free" operating system — software which respects its users freedoms. Unix-like operating systems comprise software collections of applications, libraries, and programmer/developer tools, all overlaid on a "kernel" - the program that allocates resources and communicates with the hardware.