What is Linux?
Every desktop computer uses an operating system. The most popular operating systems in use today are:
- Mac OS
Linux is an operating system — very much like UNIX — that has become very popular over the last several years.
What is Operating System?
Operating systems are computer programs. An operating system is the first piece of software that the computer executes when you turn the machine on. The operating system loads itself into memory and begins managing the resources available on the computer. It then provides those resources to other applications that the user wants to execute. Typical services that an operating system provides include:
- A task scheduler – The task scheduler is able to allocate the execution of the CPU to a number of different tasks. Some of those tasks are the different applications that the user is running, and some of them are operating system tasks. The task scheduler is the part of the operating system that lets you print a document from your word processor in one window while you are downloading a file in another window and recalculating a spreadsheet in a third window.
- A memory manager – The memory manager controls the system’s RAM and normally creates a larger virtual memory space using a file on the hard disk.
- A disk manager – The disk manager creates and maintains the directories and files on the disk. When you request a file, the disk manager brings it in from the disk.
- A network manager – The network manager controls all data moving between the computer and the network.
- Other I/O services manager – The OS manages the keyboard, mouse, video display, printers, etc.
- Security manager – The OS maintains the security of the information in the computer’s files and controls who can access the computer.
An operating system normally also provides the default user interface for the system. The standard “look” of Windows 98 includes the Start button, the task bar, etc. The Mac OS provides a completely different look and feel for Macintosh computers.
Linux is as much a phenomenon as it is an operating system.
How was Linux created?
Linux was created in 1991 by Linus Torvalds, a then-student at the University of Helsinki. Torvalds built Linux as a free and open source alternative to Minix, another Unix clone that was predominantly used in academic settings. He originally intended to name it “Freax,” but the administrator of the server Torvalds used to distribute the original code named his directory “Linux” after a combination of Torvalds’ first name and the word Unix, and the name stuck.
Who “owns” Linux?
By virtue of its open source licensing, Linux is freely available to anyone. However, the trademark on the name “Linux” rests with its creator, Linus Torvalds. The source code for Linux is under copyright by its many individual authors, and licensed under the GPLv2 license. Because Linux has such a large number of contributors from across multiple decades of development, contacting each individual author and getting them to agree to a new license is virtually impossible, so that Linux remaining licensed under the GPLv2 in perpetuity is all but assured.