The Linux Operating System or GNU Linux is made by two part. The Linux Kernel and the GNU project, together they are the Linux Operating System or GNU Linux, or at least that is what is known in popular culture. Continue reading to learn more.

Linux Kernel

In 1991 Linus Torvalds, a student at the University of Helsinki in Finlad, started the Linux project as a side project trying to emulate MINIX, which is something like a Mini-Unix. MINIX was created for educational purposes by Andrew Tanenbaum.

So after working with MINIX at his university, the young Linus started developing Linux it differentiated from MINIX specially in one basic characteristic. MINIX uses a micro Kernel and Linux a Monolithic Kernel.

Micro Kernel:
In this structure only the most basic functions work on the Kernel mode, and others such as drivers, file systems and others work on user space, and above those the Applications
Monolithic Kernel:
In this structure all functions that are not applications run in kernel mode, in the case of Linux you could see some drivers load as modules which work in user space, but basically it is a monolithic kernel and thus an operating system per se.

Micro Kernel and monolithic Kernel

Image source: Wikipedia

GNU project

On 1983 Richard Stallman started the GNU project.

The GNU project is a mass collaboration of programmers who seek to create a completely free and open operating system that was similar to Unix but with completely original code.

— Wikipedia

Because the GNU project had all the applications that run on the top of a Kernel, and Linus released the Kernel as Linux to the public, it was added to the GNU project, and a fully functional Operating System was born. That is what we usually know as the Linux Operating System, but it should be called GNU / Linux Operating Syste, this way we give credit to all contributors.

In order to put credit where credit is due, in this site we will call about:

GNU / Linux Operating System
Is the joint of the Linux Kernel and applications from the GNU project, all together creating all Linux distributions we know.

An Operating System, may be defined as the Kernel with other tools needed to control a computer (the hardware).
At least, that is the case with Unix, and both Linux and GNU project emulate Unix. Therefore, Linux itself is no
t an Operating System, and the GNU project withouth a Kernel is not an Operating System. They both together are
the GNU / Linux Operating Sytem.

Last edited on: April 14th, 2013