Learning Linux: What is Linux?

linux logo
Linux Logo

As I wrote in last week’s post, I have decided to learn Linux and share with you the ins and outs as I go along. I am majoring in Software Development at Georgia Gwinnett College where we learn Java development, but as far as Linux is concerned, I am on my own. There is an Operating Systems course that is offered at the school, but that is still at least a year away until I finish my prerequisite courses, so if it is to be, it is up to me.

Screenshot of linux.com What is Linux?
Screenshot of linux.com What is Linux?

So, what is Linux? Well, it is an operating system, more specifically, a kernel. A kernel is the core of an operating system, its purpose being to manage the CPU, memory, and peripheral devices of your desktop or laptop system. The kernel is lowest level of the operating system. You can find a great introductory article at https://www.linux.com/what-is-linux .

Linux is the most-popular and most-used open-source operating system in the world. You may be using it and not even know it. Android phones are based on the Linux kernel as well as the Roku streaming devices, (I don’t watch regular television, unless it’s football. I cut cable long ago). Many internet sites are run off of Linux through servers, plus many  of the world’s super computers rely on some subset of Linux.

Screenshot of linux.org What is Linux?
Screenshot of linux.org What is Linux?

Linux was created in 1991 by Linus Torvalds, who was a student at the University of Helsinki. Linus wanted a free and open-source version of Minix, which was a clone of Unix, that was used in academic circles. Unix is an operating system created at Bell Labs in the 1970s by Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, along with others. Torvalds intended to use the name “Freax”, but the administrator of the server Torvalds used to distribute his code named the directory “Linux” from a combination of his first name and Unix. You can find out more about the history of Linux at http://www.linux.org/threads/what-is-linux.4076/.

Torvalds holds the trademark for Linux, and the source code is under copyright and licensed GPLv2. Most of the Linux kernel is written in the C programming language, which was also invented by Dennis Ritchie. Even so, being open source means that anyone can download and install Linux for free. You will not be tied down by software licenses or time limits for use.

As such, there are many different versions of Linux, called distributions, or “distros.” Some of the most popular are:

  • Ubuntu Linux
  • Arch Linux
  • Deepin
  • Fedora
  • Debian
  • openSUSE

There is a distribution for everyone, whether you are a newbie, just average, or advanced. What really set Linux apart is Live Distribution. Linux provides the capability of being run from a CD/DVD or USB drive. You can “test drive” a distribution before making a decision on which one to choose. You can also install Linux on the same drive as your Windows or Mac system. Installation of Linux is probably the easiest you will find anywhere.

In my next post, I will give a breakdown of Linux and its components. As always, I value your comments and ideas. Tell me what you like and also what it is you don’t like.