What Is Linux?

The word Linux is a bit of a tricky to fully explain. Linux actually refers to the Linux Kernel, which is the core brains of Linux operating systems. We’ll get into the kernel more in later sections. Mostly, you’ll hear people say Linux and they broadly mean a Linux operating system, like Ubuntu.

Linux was first released in September, 1971 by Linus Torvalds from Finland as a free and open-source alternative to commercial operating systems. Since then, it’s grown to massive popularity with over 90% of the world’s super computers running Linux. Linus, of course, was standing on the shoulders of giants. Prior to Linux’s development, Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie developed the Unix operating system at Bell Labs along with tons of other utilities which would make it into Linux. Linus also took inspiration from and was initially developed on an Operating System called Minix. Minix was developed by a professor, Andrew Tanenbaum, for teaching his students how operating systems work. 

What is Open-Source?

In the context of Linux, open source refers to the concept of making the underlying source code of the operating system freely available to anyone to use, modify and distribute. This has some awesome implications. One being that the code can be modified and tuned to specific use-cases. Another being that it can be audited for security. In addition, anyone can read Linux’s source-code. This means that Linux is developed quickly and for a wide-range of use-cases.

Linux’s open source philosophy has indeed led to a massive community of thousands of developers working on improving Linux, fixing bugs and developing new features. Due to this, Linux has become a stable, reliable and secure operating system running all over the world.

Unix vs Linux

It’s important to call out that Unix and Linux are not the same. This can be confusing for beginners. Unix was developed in at Bell Labs in the 60’s, while Linus Torvalds developed Linux in the 90’s, 20-something years later. Much of Linux’s design was inspired by Unix. Linux is even called Unix-like. Linus picked up parts of Unix that he thought were helpful and dropped other pieces. Unix systems are still developed today and running many production systems.

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