Too often the mistake is made of calling Linux the GNU / Linux operating system and its distributions, so that both terms get confused. This can be a problem when referring to operating systems like Android, which although based on Linux has nothing to do with GNU / Linux distributions.
This is a recurring error, and the normal explanation of saying that Linux is just the kernel is not always easy to understand for someone who does not even know what a kernel is. That is why today we are going to try to solve this doubt by explaining in the easiest way possible all the terms.
What exactly is Linux?
To understand what Linux is first you have to know what a kernel is. The Kernel or Core is a fundamental piece in any operating system. Whether you have Windows, MacOS or GNU / Linux, they all have their own kernel that makes software and hardware on any computer work together.
The Kernel manages the memory used by processes and applications running on your computer. It also manages and uses the drivers it has, so that applications and programs can properly use the physical components of the computer such as the processor or graphics card.
The kernel itself can not function as an operating system if you do not add tools and applications .This is where the differences arise, because while Google uses its own resources other developers use the GNU project to complete a functional operating system.
Linux was born in 1991, and owes its name to its creator: Linus Torvalds. It started as a hobby, but little by little it has been gaining worldwide repercussion. This core is now used by distributions like Debian, Ubuntu, Arch Linux or Red Hat, and you can also find it inside the Android of your mobile. In addition, in the last Top 500 list with the 500 most powerful supercomputers in the world only two did not use a system that had this nucleus.
The reason it reaches so many sites is that while Apple or Microsoft work with exclusive Kernels on their operating systems, Linux is open and uses the GNU General Public License (GPL). This means that anyone can pick it up and use it on their own operating systems, which is precisely what companies like Google do.
What exactly is GNU / Linux?
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Although the kernel is a fundamental part of any operating system, as we have said, it needs other components. To make it functional, in its beginnings to the Linux Kernel was added programs and tools that were written by or for the GNU project developed by Richard Stallman.
GNU sought to be a complete free operating system, but without having to develop all the components themselves. In this context, Linux came as a thumbs-down, and the GNU community went out of business with both of them , being therefore a key point for the rapid growth of the Torvalds Kernel.
To recognize the importance of this project the distribution Yggdrasil Linux adopted in 1992 the name of “Linux / GNU / X”. This was followed in 1994 by Debian, who started to call themselves a GNU / Linux project. By the way, you do not have to lock your tongue because GNU is pronounced ñu, and GNU / Linux is read “Ñu with Linux” .
Therefore, we can say that GNU / Linux is the name of an operating system that uses the Linux Kernel with components inherited from GNU. This system in turn has a family of distributions or operating system versions, which have matured to become quite different from each other , but keeping this union as common ground ..
Why Android is not GNU / Linux?
Linux is a free and open Kernel, so any developer can take it to create their operating system, which does not have to have GNU tools. Android is an example of this, Google decided to use the Kernel and incorporate its tools and libraries. This causes it to contain Linux without being GNU / Linux.
Therefore, and although Android and GNU / Linux share a small part of their code, the kernel, are totally different operating systems.Their libraries are different, which means that the applications of both systems develop in a totally different way, and that therefore those of one are not compatible with the other.
These differences are not without debate. For example, while for the Linux Foundation Android is just another Linux distribution , from the developer sector closer to GNU prefer to mark the distances. This is one of the reasons why today there are still confusion and points of view found.