Linux (commonly pronounced /ˈlɪnəks/) is a generic term referring to Unix-like computer operating systems based on the Linux kernel. Their development is one of the most prominent examples of free and open source software collaboration; typically all the underlying source code can be used, freely modified, and redistributed by anyone under the terms of the GNU GNL and other free software licences.
Linux is predominantly known for its use in servers, although it is installed on a wide variety of computer hardware, ranging from embedded devices and mobile phones to supercomputers. Linux distributions, installed on both desktop and laptop computers, have become increasingly commonplace in recent years, partly owing to the popular Ubuntu distribution and the emergence of netbooks.
The name "Linux" (Linus-linux.ogg listen (help·info)) comes from the Linux kernel, originally written in 1991 by Linus Torvalds. The rest of the system usually comprises components such as the Apache HTTP Server, the X Window System, the GNOME and KDE desktop environments, and utilities and libraries from the GNU Project (announced in 1983 by Richard Stallman). Commonly-used applications with desktop Linux systems include the Mozilla Firefox web-browser and the OpenOffice.org office application suite. The GNU contribution is the basis for the Free Software Foundation's preferred name GNU/Linux.
The popularity of Linux on standard desktops (and laptops) has been increasing over the years. Currently most distributions include a graphical user environment. The two most popular such environments GNOME and KDE, both of which are mature, and support a wide variety of languages.
In the past, the performance of Linux on the desktop has been a controversial topic; for example in 2007 Con Kolivas accused the Linux community of favoring performance on servers. He quit Linux kernel development because he was frustrated with this lack of focus on the desktop, and then gave a "tell all" interview on the topic. However since then significant effort has been expended improving the desktop experience. For example, projects such as upstart aim for a faster boot time. In the field of gaming, the Linux desktop still lags behind Windows, however there are several companies that do port their own or other companies' games to Linux.