The Linux kernel was initially created as a hobby by a young student, Linus Torvalds, at the University of Helsinki in Finland. Linus had an interest in Minix, a small UNIX system, and decided to develop a system that exceeded the Minix standards. He began his work in 1991 when he released version 0.02 and worked steadily until 1994 when version 1.0 of the Linux Kernel was released. The current full-featured version is 2.4 (released January 2001) and development continues. Attaching the Free Software Foundations famous GNU utilities to the Linux kernel makes the operating system commonly known as Linux. (GNU/Linux for the purists)
Linux is developed under the GNU General Public License and its source code is freely available to everyone. This however, doesn't mean that Linux and its assorted distributions are free -- companies and developers may charge money for it as long as the source code remains available. Linux may be used for a wide variety of purposes including networking, software development, and as an end-user platform. Linux is often considered an excellent, low-cost alternative to other more expensive operating systems.
Due to the very nature of Linux's functionality and availability, it has become quite popular worldwide and a vast number of software programmers have taken Linux's source code and adapted it to meet their individual needs. At this time, there are dozens of ongoing projects for porting Linux to various hardware configurations and purposes.
Although many variations of the word Linux exist, it is most often pronounced with a short " i " and with the first syllable stressed, as in LIH-nucks.