What is Linux ?

For many years, Windows has been the dominant operating system in the world of micro-computing. However, there are some alternative systems based on Linux that are widely used to operate computer servers.

What is Linux ?

Before delving into what Linux is, it is important to understand the definition of an operating system. Simply put, it is a collection of software programs that work together to manage a computer’s hardware resources, enable user interactions, and facilitate data manipulation. It is common for people to confuse Linux with an operating system, but in reality, they are two distinct concepts.

Linux is a kernel.

The kernel is the core of the operating system, and it is responsible for managing the hardware resources of a computer, such as the CPU, memory, and input/output devices.

It’s the heart of the system.

The Linux kernel is the fundamental component of the Linux operating system, responsible for managing all the hardware components of a computer, such as the processor, RAM, persistent memory, and input/output devices like the keyboard and mouse.

In addition to allocating resources to various programs running on the computer, the kernel is also responsible for distributing memory when a program requests it. However, it cannot work alone and requires the support of other software components, such as the shell, which provides an interface for user interaction. The bash shell is one of the most widely used shells in the Linux world.

Depending on the computer’s function, the operating system may include additional components, such as a graphical environment or software for configuring kernel functions like firewalls. The Linux kernel serves as the foundation for a vast array of Linux distributions and is open-source software, freely available for modification and distribution.

Linux distributions

Most software used in creating a Linux distribution is open source, including the Linux kernel. While the proportion of open source software may vary from one distribution to another, it typically approaches 100%. Consequently, numerous distribution projects have emerged and continue to thrive, resulting in a diverse and thriving ecosystem. Linux is more than just an operating system; it is an entire ecosystem built around the open-source philosophy.

Are there many Linux distributions ?

The Linux operating system has a vast and ever-evolving ecosystem of distributions that are built around the Linux kernel. While the exact number of distributions is difficult to determine, Distrowatch.com currently lists over 200 active distributions. Each distribution is unique, utilizing different configurations and versions of the Linux kernel.

Some of the most popular and widely used Linux distributions include :

  • Ubuntu
  • Linux Mint
  • Debian
  • Fedora
  • openSUSE
  • CentOS
  • Red Hat

These distributions have been tried and tested by millions of users worldwide and offer a wide range of features and functionalities.


An example of Linux distribution with the Ubuntu desktop.

The Linux distribution office Ubuntu which is very suitable for the general public

Who uses these Linux distributions ?

Linux distributions are used by a vast majority of people across various industries and sectors. From web servers to smartphones, the Linux kernel powers a multitude of services that are used by millions of people worldwide. In fact, more than 60% of websites on the internet use Linux distributions, including the one you’re currently viewing, which is powered by the nginx web server.

The popularity of Linux distributions has exploded in recent years, particularly in the field of telephony, with the widespread adoption of Android smartphones. Developed by Google, Android is built around a highly customized Linux kernel, making it one of the most widely used operating systems in the world. This adoption by Google is a testament to the reliability and stability of the Linux kernel.

However, in the realm of personal computing, the proportion of Linux distribution users is comparatively low, with Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac OS holding a larger market share. Nonetheless, Linux distributions continue to gain popularity among users who value the open-source philosophy and customization options offered by these distributions.

Who creates and maintains these distributions ?

The creation and maintenance of Linux distributions are primarily carried out by professionals who may either work on this as their primary job or as a side activity in their free time.

Linux distributions are essentially a collection of software that is sourced from various other projects. In the case of major distributions, the individuals responsible for integrating applications into the distribution are typically active contributors to the development of those applications as well. This approach ensures that the distribution is built with the latest and most stable versions of software, and any issues or bugs are quickly resolved.

In addition to these professionals, Linux distributions also benefit from the contributions of a large community of volunteers who offer their time, knowledge, and expertise to ensure that the distributions are up-to-date and perform efficiently. This collaborative approach to development is a cornerstone of the open-source philosophy that underpins Linux distributions, and it has helped to create a thriving ecosystem of innovative software and applications.

Who programs the Linux kernel ?

A community of several thousand developers, often on a voluntary basis, led by the original creator of the Linux kernel, Linus Torvalds.

Can I install a Linux distribution on my personal computer ?

Installing a Linux distribution on a personal computer is generally possible and straightforward. With the growing support for a wide range of peripherals, most hardware components are recognized and functional upon completing the installation process. Additionally, installers have become more user-friendly and accessible to a wider audience. In addition, users can test Linux without installing it on their computer by using a Live CD or a Live USB.

Is Linux Free ?

One of the notable advantages of Linux is that it is entirely free. While open source software is not necessarily free, the Linux kernel and many of the distributions built around it are completely free. However, some distributions may charge for their services, mainly for the assembly and optimization of various elements within the package, as well as technical support provided by the company marketing the distribution. Nevertheless, the free and open-source nature of Linux has led to a vast community of contributors who have developed and maintained an abundance of high-quality software and applications that can be used freely by anyone.

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