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What is the Linux Operating System?

Filed under
GNU
Linux

The Linux kernel is the main component of the Linux operating system. In general terms, the kernel is a software code that serves as a layer between the hardware and main programs that run on a computer. It was created by Linus Torvalds back in the early 1990s in Finland and licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL). In other words, Torvalds was made the Linux kernel available to the world for free. There is an official website for the Linux kernel.

The rest of the system consists of other programs, many of which were written by or for the GNU Project. These utilities were then added to the Linux kernel to create a complete system. The kernel is an essential part of an operating system, but useless by itself, because the Linux kernel alone does not form a working operating system. It can only function in the context of a complete operating system.

The Linux kernel is used by Linux distributions alongside GNU tools and libraries that interact with it. This combination is sometimes referred to as GNU/Linux.

So Linux is just a kernel, but the term Linux is far more commonly used by the public and media and that it serves as a generic term for systems that combine that kernel with software from multiple other sources. Therefore when most people say Linux, they’re really talking about a combination of the Linux kernel plus a lot of tools and libraries from the GNU Project.

To put it more clearly, Linux and GNU/Linux refer to the same operating system and software. There is still a controversy over which term is more appropriate.

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