Jump to content

GNU variants

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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[edit]

Screenshot of Debian GNU/Hurd.

Hurd is one of two official kernels developed for the GNU system, and was the exclusive official kernel 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 X.org graphical user interfaces and limited hardware driver support.[9] About two thirds of the Debian packages have been ported to Hurd.[10]

Arch Hurd is a derivative work of Arch Linux, porting it to the GNU Hurd system with packages optimised for the Intel P6 architecture. Their goal is 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. Currently it provides a LiveCD for evaluation purposes and installation guides for LiveCD and conventional installation.[11][12][13]

Linux kernel[edit]

Screenshot of Parabola, a Linux-using GNU variant endorsed by the FSF as a "fully free" system.
Parabola is an example of a Linux-using GNU variant endorsed by the FSF as a "fully free" system.

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 the Linux kernel (like the Linux-libre kernel) and not the mainline Linux kernel.[14]

BSD kernels[edit]

Screenshot of Debian GNU/kFreeBSD
Debian GNU/kFreeBSD.

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,[15] 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.[16] One Debian GNU/kFreeBSD live CD is Ging, which is no longer maintained.[17]

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[18] and DEC Alpha[19] architectures, it has not seen active maintenance since 2002 and is no longer available for download.[20]

As of September 2020, the GNU Project does not recommend or endorse any BSD operating systems.[21]

OpenSolaris (Illumos) kernel[edit]

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.[22] Nexenta OS is not considered a GNU variant, due to the use of OpenSolaris libc. Multiple Illumos distributions use GNU userland by default.[23]

Darwin kernel[edit]

Windows NT kernel[edit]

GNU Bash running on Windows 10.

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.[24][25][26] 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[edit]


  1. ^ "Guix: A New Package Manager & GNU Distribution - Phoronix". www.phoronix.com. Retrieved April 2, 2018.
  2. ^ a b UG, Awesome Developers. "Source Code & GPL Open Source". www.snom.com. Archived from the original on April 9, 2018. Retrieved April 8, 2018. 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 April 2, 2018.
  4. ^ "Outreachy internships working with GNU Guix". www.outreachy.org. Retrieved April 2, 2018.
  5. ^ "13 Lightweight Linux Distributions to Give Your Old PC a New Lease of Life". MakeUseOf. Retrieved April 2, 2018.
  6. ^ Stallman, Richard (June 19, 2007). "Linux and the GNU Project". About the GNU Project. Free Software Foundation. Retrieved July 22, 2007.
  7. ^ The Debian Project (July 11, 2007). "What is Debian?". About Debian. Retrieved July 22, 2007.
  8. ^ List of potential release architektures for Debian Wheezy
  9. ^ GNU Hurd news
  10. ^ Debian Wiki: Debian GNU/Hurd
  11. ^ "Graphical livecd - Desktop packages", Arch Hurd, December 7, 2010, archived from the original on March 14, 2012, retrieved December 8, 2011
  12. ^ "A month of the Hurd: CD images.", GNU, December 31, 2010, retrieved December 8, 2011
  13. ^ Vervloesem, Koen (July 7, 2010). "The Hurd: GNU's quest for the perfect kernel". LWN.net. Hurd distributions. Retrieved December 8, 2011.
  14. ^ "Free GNU/Linux distributions". gnu.org. December 22, 2017.
  15. ^ "Debian GNU/kFreeBSD FAQ".
  16. ^ "Debian 6.0 Squeeze released".
  17. ^ "The Ging FAQ". Archived from the original on April 22, 2008. Retrieved February 22, 2008.
  18. ^ "Debian GNU/NetBSD". Debian.org. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
  19. ^ "Debian GNU/NetBSD for Alpha". Debian.org. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
  20. ^ "Debian GNU/*BSD News". Debian.org. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
  21. ^ "Explaining Why We Don't Endorse Other Systems". GNU Project. Retrieved September 2, 2020.
  22. ^ Nexenta Systems, Inc. (June 20, 2007). "Unix Portal:Nexenta OS - Nexenta OpenSolaris". Sponsors & Support. Archived from the original on July 11, 2007. Retrieved July 22, 2007. This work is initiated and sponsored by Nexenta Systems, Inc. Technical support is available from a variety of sources, including Community and Web Forums.
  23. ^ Illumos Foundation. "Distributions". Default Userland
  24. ^ "Why Microsoft Making Linux Apps Run on Windows Isn't Crazy". WIRED. Retrieved April 8, 2018.
  25. ^ scooley. "Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)". docs.microsoft.com. Retrieved April 8, 2018.
  26. ^ Rogoff, Zak (March 14, 2018). "Thoughts on GNU/kWindows — GNU programs running natively on top of the Windows kernel". Medium. Retrieved April 8, 2018.

External links[edit]