What is GNU?
The GNU Project was launched in 1984 to develop the GNU operating system, a complete Unix-like operating system which is free software—software which respects your freedom.Unix-like operating systems are built from a software collection of applications, libraries, and developer tools—plus a program to allocate resources and talk to the hardware, known as a kernel.GNU is often used with a kernel called Linux, and here is a list of ready-to-install GNU/Linux distributions which are entirely free software. The Hurd, GNU’s kernel, is actively developed, but is still some way from being ready for daily use.The combination of GNU and Linux is the GNU/Linux operating system, now used by millions and sometimes incorrectly called simply “Linux”.The name “GNU” is a recursive acronym for “GNU’s Not Unix!”; it is pronounced g-noo, as one syllable with no vowel sound between the g and the n.
(Info courtesy of gnu.org)
A Brief History of GNU
The Linux operating system started as a project by a computer science student in Finland named Linus Torvalds. He wanted to study the C programming language and Unix. Torvalds used a tiny Unix system called Minux to get work done. Minux was great for students because it worked on cheap Intel hardware and was free.But he wasn’t quite satisfied with Minux. So in his spare time he started coding his own version of Unix, hoping to create something like Minux, but better. The result of his work was Linux. Torvalds released Linux on the internet for free.Now at this point, Linux was just the kernel, that part of the operating system that runs the show in the background. The kernel is responsible for memory management, process and file management and input/output. These are the super low-level things that most people don’t really notice.Other programmers began writing code for Linux. Little by little Linux began to work on more hardware. New device drivers, video drivers, etc., were added to the mix.Once Linux had reached a certain point, developers began coding Linux versions of the standard Unix tools. Then the GNU Project, who’d been creating a Unix alternative themselves since 1984, was set on top of Linus’s kernel, and GNU/Linux really took off. The GNU Project had most of the pieces in place, but they lacked a kernel. So it was a nice fit.Linux is called Linux, but could just as easily be called GNU, or GNU/Linux, because the GNU Project’s contribution was huge. Some steadfastly refer to Linux as GNU/Linux.Recently Linux has become one of the top web server platforms for most major ISPs. And Linux is slowly increasing its share of the desktop. Ubuntu Linux has really matured of late on the desktop and support is being offered by a number of companies. Large corporations can now deploy Linux workstations at a fraction of the cost of competing OS vendors and feel safe knowing that business class support is available 24/7.
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