From MTU LUG wiki
Linux is a free unix like operating system started by Linus Torvalds. This is the operating system of choice for the MTU LUG.
The Unix operating system was conceived and implemented in 1969 at AT&T's Bell Laboratories in the United States by Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, Douglas McIlroy, and Joe Ossanna and first released in 1971. Unix was written in assembly language and later re-written in C in 1973 by Dennis Ritchie. Its wide availability and portability due to being written in C meant that it was widely adopted, copied and modified by academic institutions and businesses, with its design being influential on authors of other systems.Template:Citation needed
The GNU Project, started in 1983 by Richard Stallman, had the goal of creating a "complete Unix-compatible software system" composed entirely of free software. Work began in 1984.<ref name="gnu_announce">Template:Cite web</ref> Later, in 1985, Stallman created the Free Software Foundation and wrote the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL) in 1989. By the early 1990s, many of the programs required in an operating system (such as libraries, compilers, text editors, a Unix shell, and a windowing system) were completed, although low-level elements such as device drivers, daemons, and the kernel were stalled and incomplete.<ref name="gnu history">Template:Cite web</ref> Linus Torvalds has said that if the GNU kernel had been available at the time (1991), he would not have decided to write his own.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>
Torvalds began the development of Linux on Minix and applications written for Minix were also used under Linux. Later Linux matured and it became possible for Linux to be developed under itself.<ref>Template:Cite news</ref> Also GNU applications replaced all Minix ones because, with code from the GNU system freely available, it was advantageous if this could be used with the fledgling OS. Code licensed under the GNU GPL can be used in other projects, so long as they also are released under the same or a compatible license. In order to make the Linux kernel compatible with the components from the GNU Project, Torvalds initiated a switch from his original license (which prohibited commercial redistribution) to the GNU GPL.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Developers worked to integrate GNU components with Linux to make a fully functional and free operating system.<ref name="gnu history"/>
Commercial and popular uptake
Template:Main Today Linux distributions are used in numerous domains, from embedded systems to supercomputers,<ref>Template:Cite web</ref><ref>Template:Cite web</ref> and have secured a place in server installations with the popular LAMP application stack.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Use of Linux distributions in home and enterprise desktops has been expanding.<ref name="galli2007">Template:Cite news</ref><ref name="paul2007">Template:Cite news</ref><ref name="beer2007">Template:Cite news</ref><ref name="applications2007"> Template:Cite web</ref><ref name="xitimonitor2007">Template:Cite news</ref><ref name="globalstats2007"> Template:Cite web</ref><ref name="zeitgeist2004"> Template:Cite web</ref> They have also gained popularity with various local and national governments. The federal government of Brazil is well known for its support for Linux.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref><ref>Template:Cite news</ref> News of the Russian military creating their own Linux distribution has also surfaced.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Indian state of Kerala has gone so far as to make it mandatory for all state high schools to run Linux on their computers.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref><ref>Template:Cite web</ref> China uses Linux exclusively as the operating system for its Loongson processor family to achieve technology independence.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> In Spain some regions have developed their own Linux distributions, which are widely used in education and official institutions, like gnuLinEx in Extremadura and Guadalinex in Andalusia. France and Germany have also taken steps towards the adoption of Linux.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>
Linux distributions have also become popular with the newly founded netbook market, with many devices such as the ASUS Eee PC and Acer Aspire One shipping with customized Linux distributions pre-installed.
Torvalds continues to direct the development of the kernel. Stallman heads the Free Software Foundation, which in turn supports the GNU components. Finally, individuals and corporations develop third-party non-GNU components. These third-party components comprise a vast body of work and may include both kernel modules and user applications and libraries. Linux vendors and communities combine and distribute the kernel, GNU components, and non-GNU components, with additional package management software in the form of Linux distributions.
Linux as a whole is broken up into a number of different distributions. Each of these distributions uses the Linux kernel but provides different features.