Last Updated: Monday July 02, 2007
Note: You may want to start with our FAQ
(Frequently Asked Questions) to see answers to some of the most common queries
we get about Linux. If you're thinking about switching to Linux, you
may want to read How to Become a Successful Linux User . Also,
the page: So You Want to Use Linux? provides some more
information about Linux migration.
Linux is an operating system that was initially created as a hobby by a young
student, Linus Torvalds, at the University of Helsinki in Finland. Linus had an
interest in Minix, a small UNIX system, and decided to develop a system that
exceeded the Minix standards. He began his work in 1991 when he released
version 0.02 and worked steadily until 1994 when version 1.0 of the Linux
Kernel was released. The kernel, at the heart of all Linux systems,
is developed and released under the GNU General Public License and its source code is freely available to everyone. It is this kernel that
forms the base around which a Linux operating system is developed. There
are now literally hundreds of companies and organizations and an equal number of
individuals that have released their own versions of operating systems
based on the Linux kernel. More information on the kernel can be found
at our sister site, LinuxHQ and
at the official Linux Kernel Archives.
The current full-featured version is 2.6 (released December 2003) and
Apart from the fact that it's freely distributed,
Linux's functionality, adaptability and robustness,
has made it the main alternative for proprietary Unix and Microsoft
operating systems. IBM, Hewlett-Packard and other giants of the computing
world have embraced Linux and support its ongoing development. Well into its second decade of
existence, Linux has been adopted worldwide primarily as
a server platform. Its use as a home and office desktop operating
system is also on the rise. The operating system can also be incorporated
directly into microchips in a process called "embedding"
and is increasingly being used this way in appliances and devices.
Throughout most of the 1990's, tech pundits, largely unaware of
Linux's potential, dismissed it as a computer hobbyist project,
unsuitable for the general public's computing needs. Through the
efforts of developers of desktop management systems such as KDE and
GNOME, office suite project OpenOffice.org and the Mozilla web browser
project, to name only a few, there are now a wide range of
applications that run on Linux and it can be used by anyone regardless
of his/her knowledge of computers. Those curious to see the
capabilities of Linux can download a live CD version called Knoppix . It comes with everything
you might need to carry out day-to-day tasks on the computer and it
needs no installation. It will run from a CD in a computer capable of
booting from the CD drive. Those choosing to continue using Linux can
find a variety of versions or "distributions" of Linux that are easy
to install, configure and use. Information on these products is available
in our distribution section and can
be found by selecting the mainstream/general public category.
If you're interested in learning about Linux, need help with some aspect
of its use or are enthusiastic about it and want to help foster its adoption, you
may want to get in touch with a
Linux User Group in your area. There are
groups in practically every country, region and city in the world, so there
is likely to be one near you.
Each day, Linux use is increasing in every sector of our society. We have
information about Linux deployments in government,
industry and the arts.
Linux has an official mascot, Tux, the Linux penguin,
which was selected by Linus Torvalds to represent the image he
associates with the operating system.
Tux was created by Larry Ewing and Larry has generously given
it to the community to be freely used to promote Linux. More
information on use of the image can be found on his
links to variations on the image and alternative logos can be found
on our logo page
Many people are not sure of the pronunciation of the word Linux.
Although many variations of the word exist, often due to native language
factors, it is normally pronounced with a short " i " and with the
first syllable stressed, as in LIH-nucks.
You can hear how Linux creator Linus Torvalds pronounces the word in Swedish and in
More information on Linus Torvalds, can be found on our short biography page.
If you're interested in the history of Linux, we have a timeline page that features important milestones in the development of the operating system.