An operating system derived from the UNIX family of operating systems that is POSIX-compliant and freely distributed through many sites on the Internet. Linux was developed in 1991 by a student from Finland named Linus Torvalds, who still controls the development of the Linux operating system kernel. However, numerous individuals have made important contributions over the years to the operating system.
A typical Linux distribution includes the Linux kernel and supporting files, the GNU C/C++ compiler, the Xfree86 version of the X Windows graphical interface, the Apache web server, and other tools and utilities, plus source code for everything.
Linux is supported by a network of thousands of users and developers who continue to improve its functionality and performance.
Linux is a good starting point for students interested in learning the UNIX operating system. It has also found a niche in some companies for specific server-based solutions such as Web servers and mail gateways, but some corporations are reluctant to utilize free software such as Linux in their mission-critical operations, because there is no single company responsible for its development and support. Recently, companies such as Red Hat have sought to enhance the usability of Linux in the corporate environment by providing technical support along with easy-to-install Linux distribution.