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Linux,like Windows or Mac OS X, is an operating system for computers. It was created by the Finnish programmer Linus Torvalds with the assistance of developers from around the globe. Linux resembles Unix, an earlier operating system, but unlike Unix, Linux is both Free Software and open source software -- that is, you can not only download and run it on your computer, but also download all the source code the programmers created to build the operating system. You can then modify or extend the code to meet your needs. Linux runs on a wide variety of hardware platforms, from huge mainframes to desktop PCs to cell phones. It is licensed under the Free Software Foundation's GNU Project's GNU General Public License, version 2, which lets users modify and redistribute the software. You can think of Linux as having two parts -- a kernel, which is the basic interface between the hardware and other system software, and the functions that run on top of it, such as a graphical user interface (GUI) and application programs. No single company sells Linux. Because it's open source software, anyone can package Linux with some programs and utilities and distribute it. The different "flavors" of Linux are called distributions. Many Linux distributions are designed to be installed on your computer's hard drive, either as a sole operating system, or in a dual boot configuration with another OS, which lets you choose which operating system to run every time you start your computer. Others are designed to run as live CDs that boot from removable media -- typically CDs, but there are also live DVD distributions, and even ones that boot from diskettes and USB storage media. Live distributions can be useful because they let you run a different operating system without affecting any of the contents of your hard drive.



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