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What is GNU/Linux?

© Images Copyright: Aurelio A. Heckert (GNU Logo), Larry Ewing, Simon Budig and Anja Gerwinski (Tux Logo)

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GNU/Linux, or GNU+Linux, commonly known as Linux, is an alternative to the macOS® and Windows® operating systems. The most fundamental difference is that GNU+Linux can be freely used, copied, modified, and redistributed. The other two systems do not guarantee you the four essential freedoms of Free Software.

A GNU+Linux Distribution is made up of the GNU Operating System by Mr. Richard Matthew Stallman and the Free Software Foundation, and the Linux kernel by Mr. Linus Benedict Torvalds.

You can search among the major GNU+Linux distributions in DistroWatch and in

Linux distributions that have been active the longest are Slackware (1992), openSuSE (1992), Debian (1993), and Red Hat Linux (1995), which became Fedora Core (from 1 to 6) in 2003, and then Fedora (7 and above) in 2007. From these distributions, others have been developed that are derived.

The reason why few people know about the GNU+Linux operating system is because the other two systems are factory pre-installed on personal computers.

However, that is changing thanks to companies such as System76, Tuxedo Computers, Think Penguin, RetroFreedom, TechnoEthical, Vikings, Libiquity, Raptor Computing Systems, Dell, and Lenovo.

A little history

GNU is a clone of the Unix operating system, rewritten from scratch, without copying the Unix source code. GNU is a recursive acronym that stands for GNU’s Not Unix. On September 27, 1983, Mr. Richard Matthew Stallman published the announcement of the GNU Project for the purpose of creating the GNU System.

On January 5, 1984, Stallman began working on the GNU Project. In 1985, he wrote The GNU Manifesto. In October of the same year, he founded the Free Software Foundation. In February 1989, he published the GNU General Public License, version 1. By the early 1990s, the main components of the GNU Operating System had already been found or programmed, except for one, the kernel. Work had been performed to create a free kernel called GNU Hurd, but it wasn’t ready for distribution. Mr. Stallman is responsible for creating the Free Software Movement and starting the development of the GNU Operating System.

Linux is an operating system kernel. The kernel is the software responsible for detecting the hardware of the computer, at the lowest level (at the physical level), and making the resources available to the operating system and software. On August 25, 1991, Mr. Linus Benedict Torvalds wrote a message on the comp.os.minix Newsgroup to report that he was working on a minix-based operating system.

On September 17, 1991, Torvalds released version 0.01 of the Linux kernel for the first time. In February 1992, he released version 0.12, and made Linux free software, when he adopted the GNU General Public License, version 2.

The Linux kernel was integrated into GNU, forming the GNU/Linux operating system.

Is GNU/Linux similar to Windows?

Many will wonder if a GNU/Linux distribution is the same or similar to the Windows® system. The answer is no. In the same way that macOS® is not the same as Windows®, neither is GNU/Linux.

One very noticeable difference is that in Windows® you will see a Hard Drive (C:). If you connect a USB device, you will see a USB Disk (E:). In GNU/Linux, you will not see letters to distinguish the disks. Storage devices are “mounted” to a directory (to a folder). But that is transparent to the user.

If you decide to use GNU/Linux, you will work with Free Software. You should get used to looking for alternatives to existing software in proprietary operating systems.

There are websites that provide you with this type of information:

For example, when someone using Windows tells you to install Adobe Reader to view PDF documents, if you use GNU/Linux, you should look for an alternative, such as Evince. Once you know the name of the software you need, you must use the Software Installer that is included with GNU/Linux to find and install it.

It’s a bit tedious at first, but it’s straightforward when you know the workflow.

You can contact me for additional information about the GNU/Linux operating system.

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