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penguin Tux, the Linux Mascot

Linux is a free and open-source kernel for unix-like operating systems. It was first developed in 1991 by Linus Torvalds.


  • Some people have told me they don't think a fat penguin really embodies the grace of Linux, which just tells me they have never seen an angry penguin charging at them in excess of 100mph. They'd be a lot more careful about what they say if they had.
  • …the Linux philosophy is 'laugh in the face of danger'. Oops. Wrong one. 'Do it yourself'. That's it.
  • Note that nobody reads every post in linux-kernel. In fact, nobody who expects to have time left over to actually do any real kernel work will read even half. Except Alan Cox, but he's actually not human, but about a thousand gnomes working in under-ground caves in Swansea. None of the individual gnomes read all the postings either, they just work together really well.
  • 2.6.<odd>: still a stable kernel, but accept bigger changes leading up to it (timeframe: a month or two).
    2.<odd>.x: aim for big changes that may destabilize the kernel for several releases (timeframe: a year or two)
    <odd>.x.x: Linus went crazy, broke absolutely _everything_, and rewrote the kernel to be a microkernel using a special message-passing version of Visual Basic. (timeframe: "we expect that he will be released from the mental institution in a decade or two").
  • One of the reasons that basic research is advanced most by not resorting to intellectual property is that while doing so would have questionable benefits, the costs are apparent. [...] Interestingly, even in software, this system of open collaboration has worked. Today we have the Linux computer operating system, which is also based on the principle of open architecture.
  • I used to [look at the Linux source code], for Plan 9. They were always ahead of us—they just had massively more resources to deal with hardware. So when we'd run across a piece of hardware, I'd look at the Linux drivers for it and write Plan 9 drivers for it. Now I have no reason to look at it. I run Linux.
    • Ken Thompson; cited in Seibel, Peter (2009). Coders At Work. p. 479. 
  • Everything [in Unix] was small... and my heart sinks for Linux when I see the size of it. [...] The manual page, which really used to be a manual page, is now a small volume, with a thousand options... We used to sit around in the Unix Room saying, 'What can we throw out? Why is there this option?' It's often because there is some deficiency in the basic design — you didn't really hit the right design point. Instead of adding an option, think about what was forcing you to add that option.
  • I don't know the counts of Unix and Linux servers. I do know that my heart sinks whenever I look under the hood in Linux. It is has been so overfed by loving hands. Over 240 system calls! Gigabytes of source! A C compiler with a 250-page user manual (not counting the language definition)! A simple page turner, 'less,' has over 40 options and 60 commands! It's proof that open-source can breed monsters just like the commercial pros. Miraculously, though, this monster works.

See also

  • Encyclopedic article on Linux on Wikipedia
  • The dictionary definition of Linux on Wiktionary