A Free Software UNIX-like Operating System, originally for the PC but now running on scads of different sorts of hardware (not as many as Net BSD?, though!). The principal alternative to Microsoft Windows? on the PC.
Because Lin Ux is free, it is particularly attractive to cash-starved organisations such a charities. The Samaritans?, for example, are using it: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/2543173.stm>.
Lin Ux is actually not an Operating System, it's an Operating System Kernel?. A kernel is a big chunk of code which provides the main features think of as being part of the OS?: managing memory, processes and hardware, networking, protecting programs from each other, etc. To get a complete Operating System, it is necessary to add a suite of essential tools, a window system, and various other bits and bobs.
The collection of tools and whatnot invariably used with Lin Ux is the GNU system. However, since these are two quite separate bits of software, there is more than one 'right' way to put them together. Thus, there are many different 'distributions' (aka 'distros') of Lin Ux, each of which is a complete, fully-prepared Operating System - the thing you want on a CD if you're going to install Lin Ux.
There are hundreds of distros: see <dmoz:Computers/Software/Operating_Systems/Linux/Distributions> for full listings. However, a small number dominate the market (at least on PC hardware):
Lin Ux is not a popular Operating System on the Apple Mac?; this is due to the fact that it historically hasn't been as capable on Mac hardware as on PC. It is unlikely to make significant inroads now that Mac OSX? is here.
The insignia of Lin Ux is a penguin; there is, of course, a reason for this, explained at <http://www.linux.org/info/penguin.html>. The penguin's name is Tux. See also <http://www.isc.tamu.edu/~lewing/linux/> for some more pictures.
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