What Is Linux?

First of all, let me answer the question “Who is Linux For?”, because the answer is so easy: it’s simply for everyone. From the basic home desktop or laptop user to the global search engine giants, from small businesses with few computers to large corporations, governments and educational institutions.

Linux is used in servers and systems such as mainframe computers and supercomputers: more than 90% of today’s fastest supercomputers run some variant of Linux. Check out an impressive list of Linux users, (which includes Google, Amazon, the U.S. Department of Defence, Peugeot, to name a few) on this website. Linux also runs on embedded systems such as mobile phones, network routers, television and video game consoles; the Android system in wide use on mobile phones is built on the Linux kernel.

In other words, most people are already in touch with Linux…  without even being aware of it!

Now, “What Is Linux?”

Simply, Linux is an operating system, much like Windows and Mac. One outstanding difference is that, from its very beginnings in the early nineties, it was never packaged as a profit-making product to be sold. Linus Torvalds provided the Linux kernel, and Richard Stallman was responsible for the rest of the OS components through his GNU project. They began to lead a random group of IT professionals who voluntarily worked on development of the system and offered the results to anyone at no cost. And, importantly, offered anyone capable enough to contribute to the development the possibility of doing so, voluntarily. Implementation of the Free Software License ensured that no one could exploit the projects for their own profit. So, as opposed to copyrighting the software, copyleft  was used, which is a licence whereby an author gives permission to reproduce, adapt or distribute the software and requires that any resulting copies or adaptations are also bound by the same licensing agreement. (See this link for a great documentary on the Linux/GNU history).

How these humble beginnings have developed into the momentous software movement that Linux has become is beyond the scope of this article, but please see the links for more.

Linux is available in user-friendly forms called distributions, which are basically different flavours of the Linux operating system core. Which one you choose depends on factors such as visual appeal, whether you’re setting up a home user desktop or a server, small business use or a large corporation. These distributions are available for free and can be installed on any, and as many, computers as you like, with no licence restrictions.

So, “Why Use Linux ?”  Go to the next page to find out …

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