Linodes run Linux. Linux is an operating system that works just like Windows and Mac OS X. As an operating system, Linux manages your Linode’s hardware and provides services your other software needs to run.
Linux is a very hands-on operating system. If running Windows is like driving an automatic, then running Linux is like driving a stick. It can take some work, but once you know your way around Linux, you’ll be using the command line and installing packages like a pro. This article aims to ease you into the world of Linux.
This section provides a brief overview of the history of Linux.
Linux, like Mac OS X, is based on the Unix operating system. A research team at AT&T’s Bell Labs developed Unix in the late 1960s and early 1970s with a focus on creating an operating system that would be accessible and secure for multiple users.
Corporations started licensing Unix in the 1980s and 1990s. By the late 1980s, there was interest in building a free operating system that would be similar to Unix, but that could be tinkered with and redistributed. In 1991, Linus Torvalds released the Linux kernel as free, open-source software. Open source means that the code is fully visible, and can be modified and redistributed.
Strictly speaking, Linux is the kernel, not the entire operating system. The kernel provides an interface between your Linode’s hardware and the input/output requests from applications. The rest of the operating system usually includes many GNU libraries, utilities, and other software, from the Free Software Foundation. The operating system as a whole is known as GNU/Linux.