GNU/Linux is a generic term for a set of different operating systems all based on the same core of free and open source software and in particular the Linux Kernel. Linux is a powerful operating system in its own right but can be also used as an alternative to commercial operating systems such as Microsoft Windows on generic personal computers or Apple OS/X on Apple Macs.
An individual Linux based operating system is known as a distribution because it is a way of distributing a set of related software to a user who wants to make use of it. There are hundreds of Linux distributions – some well known and well used, others less known or more specialized.
Example Linux distributions include:
- Android – which usually runs on smart phones or tablets.
- TiVo software – which runs on digital video recorders such as the Virgin Media TiVo box.
- TomTom GO – car navigation systems
- Boeing 787 In-Flight Entertainment System – powered by Android
- Raspbian – a variant of Debian Linux compiled to run on the Raspberry Pi single board computer
- Angstrom – a tiny Linux distribution designed to run on the smallest devices
Desktop Operating Systems
- Google Chrome OS – as used on Chromebooks
- Ubuntu – maintained by Canonical (see tour here)
- Fedora – maintained Red Hat
- Linux Mint – maintained by the community
- Mageia – a community distribution based on Mandriva
- openSUSE – supported by AttachMate
- Slackware – one of the earliest but still well maintained versions of Linux
Server Operating Systems
- Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) – commercial Linux distribution used by many major companies
- Community ENTerprise Operating System (CentOS) – a free community maintained variant of Red Hat Enterprise Linux
- Debian – used by many Internet Service Providers but also for desktop and embedded systems
- Zentyal – an Ubuntu derived business server distribution designed to replace Windows Server
- ClearOS – a Red Hat derived business server distribution designed to replace Windows Server
although there are hundreds more. Linux can be found on millions of systems across the world ranging from the smallest single chip computers to the biggest mainframes. A large percentage of the world’s web sites are served from Linux servers.