Written by Alex Taylor | 11/19/2023


Linux is a free and open-source operating system (OS) kernel first released by Linus Torvalds on September 17, 1991. It forms the core interface between a computer's hardware and the applications running on it, managing resources and enabling communication between software and hardware. Over time, Linux has become one of the most prominent examples of free and open-source software collaboration.

The term "Linux" often refers to the Linux operating system kernel, but it's also used to describe entire operating systems that use the Linux kernel. These are more accurately called Linux distributions (distros), which include the kernel along with a selection of software packages to provide a full OS.

Key Features of Linux:

  • Open Source: One of the most notable features of Linux is its open-source nature. The source code is freely available for anyone to view, modify, and distribute.
  • Security: Linux is well-regarded for its security features. It has a robust permission system and is less prone to malware compared to some other operating systems.
  • Stability: Linux systems are known for their stability and reliability. They can run for years without needing a reboot.
  • Performance: Linux can run on a variety of hardware, from supercomputers to wristwatches, and is highly scalable.
  • Customizability: With Linux, users can control almost every aspect of the system. From the graphical user interface (GUI) to the kernel, everything can be modified to suit the user's needs.
  • Variety of Distributions: There are numerous Linux distributions tailored for different types of users and systems. Examples include Ubuntu for general use, Red Hat Enterprise Linux for servers, and Fedora for cutting-edge open-source technologies.

How Linux Works:

Linux, like other Unix-like operating systems, follows a modular design. The kernel handles process control, networking, access to the peripherals, and file systems. User-space programs provide a wide range of functions but rely on the kernel for operation.

Components of a Linux System:

  • Kernel: The core of the OS, managing resources and hardware.
  • Shell: A command-line interface (CLI) for interacting with the kernel.
  • Graphical Server: A system that provides a graphical interface, typically X.org or Wayland.
  • Desktop Environment: A suite of applications and an interface for user interaction, like GNOME or KDE Plasma.
  • Applications: Software programs that allow users to perform tasks.

Common Uses of Linux:

  • Servers: Linux powers a significant percentage of the internet's servers, including web servers and database servers.
  • Desktop Computing: While not as widespread as Windows or macOS in desktop computing, Linux maintains a loyal user base and is preferred by developers and system administrators.
  • Embedded Systems: Linux is popular in embedded systems due to its configurability, low cost, and small footprint.
  • Supercomputers: The majority of today's supercomputers run some version of Linux due to its scalability and performance.
  • Mobile Devices: Linux serves as the basis for Android, the world's most popular smartphone OS.

Development and Distribution:

Linux is developed collaboratively, meaning no single company is responsible for its development or ongoing support. Various organizations, volunteers, and companies contribute to the kernel and various software packages. The Linux Foundation, a non-profit consortium, is one of the key supporters of Linux.

Security and Privacy:

Linux's security model is based on Unix principles of security, which involves permission and ownership. The system is designed with a set of permissions that are assigned to each file, dictating who can read, modify, or execute the file. Moreover, Linux has various security modules, like SELinux and AppArmor, which provide even more robust access controls.

In conclusion, Linux is a highly flexible and secure kernel that serves as the foundation for a wide range of operating systems used around the world. Its open-source nature encourages innovation and makes it a popular choice for a variety of computing applications, from personal devices to some of the most complex systems in the world.