What is Linux?

We’ve all heard people who have argued about the name of Linux, the Linux kernel, and Linux distributions. Infact, we probably all have argued ourselves about that exact topic. What should we call a Linux-based operating system? Linux? Linux-based? GNU/Linux? GNU/X/Bash/Linux? etc…etc… and what actually IS Linux?

Well, I have long drawn away from this argument, as I hadn’t fully decided on my opinion. I am now, however, delving headfirst into this wonderful, fantastic world of naming.

So, what I’m basically trying to decide is, what actually is Linux? Now, we could say technically that Linux is just a kernel. Which, technically it is. Well…let us now look at the definition of a “kernel”  From dictionary.com

The essential part of Unix or other operating systems, responsible for resource allocation, low-level hardware interfaces, security etc. See also microkernel.

Now, for me, the mainpart of this is “the essential part”. Now…is that a good enough reason for the name of the operating system to be called Linux? No? Ok. Well, the problem that we have with a generic name for all linux-based  distributions, is that when people finally learn what an “Operating System” is, they then learn that its not as simple as it seems.

Operating system:

the collection of software that directs a computer’s operations, controlling and scheduling the execution of other programs, and managing storage, input/output, and communication resources.

Now, does this mean that different Linux distributions are different operating systems? I don’t know. But it is confusing when people say that Ubuntu is Linux, and then o wait, so is Fedora, and so is Arch, etc etc. So, this is when we get back to the question of “What is Linux?”

In my opinion, we shouldn’t really call it GNU/Linux, because then we say, “Well, we should give credit to everyone who has put code into Linux”. Well, no, that isn’t gonna work. Why don’t we just call it Linux. Linux is what it is. Linux is what makes it different from BSD, Solaris and even Mac osX. All those Operating systems can run a lot of the same programs, with very little code difference. So, what makes them different? Really, it is the kernel.

So, in that case, if the kernel is the part that makes it different, and it is such a broad Operating System as Linux is, then why not have an umbrella term that is “Linux”. Linux is an Operating System. But you can package it in many many different ways, with different programs, and different packaging systems etc etc.

So, in my opinion, the Operating System is Linux, and you can get different flavours of Linux by having different programs etc in them, which are distributions.

Then comes the question of “What is a distribution?”. To be honest, I don’t think I can get into this just now, because I haven’t thought about it enough, but maybe I’ll do another blog post in a while about what a Linux Distribution is. I have a few more posts I need to talk about in the next few weeks similar to this topic, and they have an order :P

Sorry the wording in this blog post really hasn’t been good. I don’t know where I can make it better, so I’m just putting it out as my thoughts as they came.