The Linux kernel is an open source, free, modular, multitasking, and scalable, multihued, inter-functional, free monolithic, operating system kernel. It was developed and released by Linus Torvalds as a Unix-like system for his own iMachines computer at the University of British Columbia in Canada. It was used for testing hardware and to prove the feasibility of virtualization. Later, it was used to run a cluster of computers on a remote computer, collectively forming the Linux cloud computing. It has become popular in the information technology world for its reliability, performance, and cost effectiveness.
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The Linux kernel can be loaded with different modules to run different operating systems. The user does not have to install any software or hardware for using this kernel. Instead, the Linux kernel works on top of an application server, providing security, reliability, scalability, and functionality. Users may load additional software and add on modules that are needed for their specific needs, while avoiding the hassle of installing and configuring the operating system.
Since the inception of the Linux system, various open source operating systems have also been developed. The Linux kernel and userland resources are available under free licenses. It is based on the Unix platform and has an easy configuration and installation process. Unlike other free OS, it can support a wide variety of hardware devices such as desktops, computers, servers, video cards, printers, keyboards, Ethernet cards, and network adapters.
Many companies prefer to use the Linux operating system because it requires minimal system resources. Compared to a shared user computer, the Linux system is much faster. With a small amount of configuration changes, the system can easily adjust to the latest hardware and software advancements. Linux also provides a higher level of security, since the root user has total control over the system. It also provides superior portability, since running the system is as simple as placing a CD in the optical drive.
Up until recently, the Linux kernel was available only from major computer manufacturers like Dell, Toshiba, HP, and Sony. Manufacturers must pay licensing fees to the relevant Linux distributors and provide the computers used in manufacturing to the end users. For these reasons, the users of Linux-based systems had to buy a proprietary operating system to get access to the manufacturer's support facilities and pre-installed software. Linux could only be used by large companies, if the manufacturer had signed a licensing agreement with the open source community. In addition, the users were prevented from modifying or distributing the Linux system to other parties.
Due to its restrictions, the Linux system has become more expensive over the years. This has resulted in a drastic reduction in the number of computers that are designed and sold with Linux as an operating system. Moreover, the lack of widespread support for the Linux kernel means that a wide range of devices is unable to run on this form of system. Manufacturers of netbooks, optical media readers, compact disc players, and media players that use the Linux operating system have all made attempts to create devices compatible with the Linux kernel but to date these devices have not been able to bridge the differences between the Linux kernel and the regular Microsoft Windows operating systems.
This means that, in most cases, it is not possible for someone to install the Linux operating system on their computer. The Linux distributors charge a considerable fee to make modifications and improvements to the Linux kernel and distribute the various drivers and scripts necessary to run the Linux operating system. This means that, without advanced knowledge of computer programming languages, it is not possible to build a working Linux system from the ground up. Even the most experienced Linux computer enthusiast will find it difficult to build a working Linux system from scratch, since there are so many intricate programming interfaces that must be understood and lines of code written for each function.
For these reasons, most Linux distributions, at the present time, provide pre-compiled kernels that are available for download from the main distribution's website. These kernels are produced by major corporations with millions of lines of code intact, which ensures that the Linux kernel can be used without restriction. For users, however, it is not possible to obtain and install a working Linux system from the main distribution. These free, open source operating systems are the closest thing to a Linux operating system that exists on the desktop today.