GNU variants

GNU variants (also called GNU distributions or distros for short) are operating systems based upon the GNU operating system[1][2][3][4][5] (the Hurd kernel, the GNU C library, system libraries and application software like GNU coreutils, bash, GNOME, the Guix package manager etc.). According to the GNU project and others, these also include most operating systems using the Linux kernel and a few others using BSD-based kernels.[6][7][2]

GNU users usually obtain their operating system by downloading GNU distributions, which are available for a wide variety of systems ranging from embedded devices (for example, LibreCMC) and personal computers (for example, Debian GNU/Hurd) to powerful supercomputers (for example, Rocks Cluster Distribution).

Hurd kernel

Hurd is the official kernel developed for the GNU system (before Linux-libre also became an official GNU package). Debian GNU/Hurd was discussed for a release as technology preview with Debian 7.0 Wheezy, however these plans were discarded due to the immature state of the system.[8] However the maintainers of Debian GNU/Hurd decided to publish an unofficial release on the release date of Debian 7.0. Debian GNU/Hurd is not considered yet to provide the performance and stability expected from a production system. Among the open issues are incomplete implementation of Java and graphical user interfaces and limited hardware driver support.[9] About two thirds of the Debian packages have been ported to Hurd.[10]

Arch Hurd was a derivative work of Arch Linux, porting it to the GNU Hurd system with packages optimised for the Intel P6 architecture. The goal was to provide an Arch-like user environment (BSD-style init scripts, pacman package manager, rolling releases, and a simple set up) on the GNU Hurd, which is stable enough for at least occasional use. Although abandoned as of 2018, the project produced a LiveCD for evaluation purposes and installations guides for LiveCD and conventional installation.

Linux kernel

The term GNU/Linux or GNU+Linux is used by the FSF and its supporters to refer to an operating system where the Linux kernel is distributed with a GNU system software. Such distributions are the primary installed base of GNU packages and programs and also of Linux. The most notable official use of this term for a distribution is Debian GNU/Linux.

As of 2018, the only GNU variants recommended by the GNU project for regular use are Linux distributions committed to the Free System Distribution Guidelines; most of which refer to themselves as "GNU/Linux" (like Debian), and actually use a deblobbed version of Linux (like Linux-libre) and not Linux per se.[11]

BSD kernels

Debian GNU/kFreeBSD is an operating system for IA-32 and x86-64 computer architectures. It is a distribution of GNU with Debian package management and the kernel of FreeBSD. The k in kFreeBSD is an abbreviation for kernel of,[12] and reflects the fact that only the kernel of the complete FreeBSD operating system is used. The operating system was officially released with Debian Squeeze (6.0) on February 6, 2011.[13] One Debian GNU/kFreeBSD live CD is Ging, which is no longer maintained.[14]

Debian GNU/NetBSD was an experimental port of GNU user-land applications to NetBSD kernel. No official release of this operating system was made; although work was conducted on ports for the IA-32[15] and DEC Alpha[16] architectures, it has not seen active maintenance since 2002 and is no longer available for download.[17]

OpenSolaris (Illumos) kernel

Nexenta OS is the first distribution that combines the GNU userland (with the exception of libc; OpenSolaris' libc is used) and Debian's packaging and organisation with the OpenSolaris kernel. Nexenta OS is available for IA-32 and x86-64 based systems. Nexenta Systems, Inc initiated the project and sponsors its continued development.[18] Nexenta OS is not considered a GNU variant, due to the use of OpenSolaris libc. Multiple Illumos distributions use GNU userland by default.[19]

Darwin kernel

Windows kernel

The Cygwin project is an actively-developed compatibility layer in the form of a C library providing a substantial part of the POSIX API functionality for Windows, as well as a distribution of GNU and other Unix-like programs for such an ecosystem. It was first released in 1995 by Cygnus Solutions (now Red Hat).

In 2016 Microsoft and Canonical added an official compatibility layer to Windows 10 that translates Linux kernel calls into Windows NT ones, the reverse of what Wine does. This allows ELF executables to run unmodified on Windows, and is intended to provide web developers with the more familiar GNU userland on top of the Windows kernel.[20][21][22] The combination has been dubbed "Linux for Windows", even though Linux (i.e. the operating system family defined by its common use of the Linux kernel) is absent.

See also


  1. "Guix: A New Package Manager & GNU Distribution - Phoronix". Retrieved 2018-04-02.
  2. UG, Awesome Developers. "Source Code & GPL Open Source". Retrieved 2018-04-08. Variants of the GNU operating system, which use the kernel Linux, are now widely used; though these systems are often referred to as "Linux", they are more accurately called "GNU/Linux systems".
  3. "The GNU Operating System". LinuxReviews. Retrieved 2018-04-02.
  4. "Outreachy internships working with GNU Guix". Retrieved 2018-04-02.
  5. "13 Lightweight Linux Distributions to Give Your Old PC a New Lease of Life". MakeUseOf. Retrieved 2018-04-02.
  6. Stallman, Richard (2007-06-19). "Linux and the GNU Project". About the GNU Project. Free Software Foundation. Retrieved 2007-07-22.
  7. The Debian Project (2007-07-11). "What is Debian?". About Debian. Retrieved 2007-07-22.
  8. List of potential release architektures for Debian Wheezy
  9. GNU Hurd news
  10. Debian Wiki: Debian GNU/Hurd
  11. "Free GNU/Linux distributions". 2017-12-22.
  12. "Debian GNU/kFreeBSD FAQ".
  13. "Debian 6.0 Squeeze released".
  14. "The Ging FAQ". Archived from the original on 2008-04-22. Retrieved 2008-02-22.
  15. "Debian GNU/NetBSD". Retrieved 2012-07-20.
  16. "Debian GNU/NetBSD for Alpha". Retrieved 2012-07-20.
  17. "Debian GNU/*BSD News". Retrieved 2012-07-20.
  18. Nexenta Systems, Inc. (2007-06-20). "Unix Portal:Nexenta OS - Nexenta OpenSolaris". Sponsors & Support. Archived from the original on 2007-07-11. Retrieved 2007-07-22. This work is initiated and sponsored by Nexenta Systems, Inc. Technical support is available from a variety of sources, including Community and Web Forums.
  19. Illumos Foundation. "Distributions". Distributions. Default Userland
  20. "Why Microsoft Making Linux Apps Run on Windows Isn't Crazy". WIRED. Retrieved 2018-04-08.
  21. scooley. "Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)". Retrieved 2018-04-08.
  22. Rogoff, Zak (2018-03-14). "Thoughts on GNU/kWindows — GNU programs running natively on top of the Windows kernel". Medium. Retrieved 2018-04-08.
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