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Understanding Linux and the GNU System

One of the most widely used software on the GNU Project is the Linux that is a modified version of the GNU system. Many users do not realize this fact even as they continue to use the system. Linux is a kernel that is an important part of the operating system but usually useless on its own. It only operates when set up as a complete operating system and this is done by combining it with the GNU operating system. This makes it complete and is normally referred to as the GNU with Linux or simply the GNU/Linux. Some people mistakenly call the whole system “Linux”, mostly since they don’t understand the difference between the kernel and the whole system.

Though programmers know the difference between the kernel and the whole system, they have often heard the system being called after the kernel and have gone ahead to look for justification for the naming. Some tend to believe that once the kernel was written, the users looked for other free software to use with it, and they found a Unix-like system that was readily available. The GNU Project had been working to the same end since 1984, and thus what the users of the kernel found, was not by accident. The free software had been designed in line with the GNU Manifesto which aimed at developing a free system called the GNU. The plans for the GNU project had also been outlined and this drove the development of the free Unix-like system. The Linux was thus designed to complement the GNU system.

The GNU Project

The GNU Project set out the software to be an integrated system from the initial stage instead of having a collection of some programs deemed useful. The project made an analysis of the programs required to make the complete free system and these were systematically identified, written and launched. The programs included games like the GNU Chess as it figured out a complete system would need them.

Making the Linux work with the GNU was one of the hardest tasks for the project. Some components of the GNU required a complete overhaul to work with Linux. In some instances, Linux related extensions were written to make the system fully integrated. This was not a simple job and it required full support by all the stakeholders. Fortunately, the GNU Project team did not fall short of the much-needed support and this ensured that the system was fully integrated.

The GNU/Linux software has today developed into many different variants with some of them having the non-free software. Other variants have completely free software as per the GNU philosophy. Irrespective of this, it is important to stop the ambiguity associated with the Linux/GNU system with many people referring to the system just plainly as Linux. It is important to note that the Linux is the kernel and that the system as a whole is called the GNU system.