At the time of writing this book, Linux is a little over 13 years old. It has gone from a hobbyist project maintained by just one man to a professional and corporate-sponsored solution for virtually every level of computer user.
Linux has also gone from being a server operating system, designed for central computers that hand out files and other computer resources to other computers, to becoming a full-fledged graphical desktop operating system like Windows. In fact, it's gone even further. Today, it's very likely that you'll find Linux running your digital video recorder and other computerized household gadgets.
Getting technical for a moment, Linux is a 32-bit and 64-bit, multitasking, multiuser operating system. This is a complicated way of saying that it's pretty darn powerful. Linux is as capable of running supercomputers as it is of running a desktop PC. Linux builds on the foundation laid by Unix, which itself was based on Multics, which was one of the first modern computer operating systems. It's not an exaggeration to say that Linux can trace its family tree all the way back to the pioneering days of computing.
What most people refer to as the Linux operating system takes its name from the kernel program, one of its most important system components. This, in turn, was named after its creator, Linus Torvalds.
The name Linus is commonly pronounced "Lie-nus" in many English-speaking countries, but Torvalds speaks Swedish. He pronounces his name "Leen-us" (imagine this spoken with a gentle Scandinavian lilt, and you've got it about right).
Because of this, he pronounces Linux as "Lin-ux" and most people copy this pronunciation. You can hear this spoken by Torvalds himself by visiting www.paul.sladen.org/pronunciation/.
Some people refer to the Linux operating system by its full title of GNU/Linux. In this case, GNU is pronounced as in the name of the animal, with a hard G: "G-noo." The full pronunciation is therefore "G-noo Lin-ux." Finally, the DVD that comes with this book includes a version of Linux called SUSE Linux. SUSE is a German acronym and is normally pronounced "Sooz-eh."