Updated April 5, 2023
Definition of GNU in Linux
GNU in Linux is defined as a comprehensive collection of software that is distributed with terms and conditions that user is capable of using the same for any ethical purpose in addition to study, modify or even distribute either the same or an adapted version of the software. The full collection can be used as a standalone operating system or can be used in bits and pieces along with other operating systems. The completed GNU tools built together formed the operating system family known as Linux. There are various components of GNU which constitutes the basic operating system. Some of the well-known and famous utilities are GNU Compiler Collection, GNU Core Utilities, GNU Debugger etc. even some of the GNU components are ported to other operating system including the proprietary ones like windows and even macOS. For a trivia, there are total 1089 (as of June 2021 and including decommissioned ones) GNU components.
How GNU Works in Linux?
User those use computers that incorporates Linux distribution run the GNU system without many users who use them knowing about it. GNU operating system is the Unix-like operating system. In the earlier days GNU Hurd was the kernel that was used with all the official GNU packages, but there was lack of some important features for users to use. This gave rise to the GNU/Linux system where systems with Linux as a kernel uses the GNU operating system. As soon as it was launched it went through a lot of success and this made a point to all the users and distributors that GNU can be used also by selecting packages or programs as per the need and desires of the system that is being built. This resulted in a different variant of the GNU system and that is what in today’s world we call Linux (Linux kernel running a GNU system).
There are different components that constitutes the GNU. All these components work together with the Linux kernel to provide the experience of a complete operating system. Let us understand the components one by one so that putting them together will make the picture much clearer about the working of GNU in Linux. Linux acts like a wrapper (known as kernel) that provides a clean interface for these GNU components discussed to run in that interface by bundling all of them together in an efficient way with the hardware architecture.
- GNU Compiler Collection: Compiler collection is that category of the compiler that optimizes the attributes of the executable computer program. This collection supports programming languages of various types, various hardware architectures and operating systems. This component acts as the key feature of the toolchain that comprises of programming tools and the compiler for the Linux kernel. When Linux kernel gets the input of the programming language, it is passed to the GNU Compiler where the translation from source code to executable instruction file is done.
- GNU C Library: This component is the standard library for C programming language. Even though the name mentions C Library it does support C++ and other programming languages as well. these provides type definitions and functions that enables the compiler to get details from the functions or type definitions when the code refers to them. Only when the functions or utilities are imported, the executable file is successfully built.
- GNU Core Utilities: Core utilities in GNU are packages that contains the basic tools’ viz. cat, ls, rm etc. implementation that is a key for any command that gets executed in the bash. This component supports the Double hyphen-minuses feature to be used for parameter input to the commands that gets executed in the Bash. In a Linux kernel when one sees that a command has been entered, the core utilities is referred, and the corresponding action is executed post the call.
- GNU Debugger: GNU Debugger is a portable debugging tool that enables users to test and debug the programs that are written within the Linux kernel. GNU debugger runs the target program under known conditions so that the progress can be monitored, and output can be compared against the actual.
- GNU Binutils: This contains the set of programming tools that creates and manages the binary program, object files, assembly source code, profile data for the compiler programs that are built by the compiler. some of these utils can also be a conjunction of the compiler, build tools and the GNU debugger.
- GNU Bash: This component is the unix shell that allows users to execute commands on the Linux kernel. The commands given here in the shell of the Linux kernel either looks at core utilities to solve complete the task or may require the compiler to compile the program and execute the executable file created. This is by far the most popular shell in Linux kernel
Examples of GNU in Linux
Some of the examples of the GNU packages that are widely used are:
- GNU Accounting Utils
- GNU ddrescue
- GNU Emacs
- GNU dbm (GDBM)
- GNU Ferret
- GNU Multi-Precision Library (GMP)
- GNU Octave
- GNU Scientific Library
- GNU Anubis
- GNU FM
- GNU Mailman
- GNU MediaGoblin
Some of advantages are given below:
- Since GNU is a free to use tool, hence the Linux distribution is low cost or even free.
- Open source packages are installed, so one need to think about licensing hassles.
- Stability is one of the key factors of any GNU led Linux distribution.
- One can use different configurations as per the usability to make their custom-built operating system.
Some of disadvantages are given below:
- Since Linux is not that widely used, people who are used to windows might find it difficult to get adapted to the GNU’s working as this was initially developed for developers to use.
- Administration in GNU based Linux distribution is a challenge.
- Few peripheral hardware is not compatible, and availability of drivers is a challenge and not extensively built as it is done for Windows.
In this article we tried to understand how Linux acts as a clean method of implementing GNU and presenting it to the users for their respective tasks. Though it is known that each product has their own advantages and disadvantages, the one listed here will fulfill the ask of any reader to look through them and decide what suits the best for the use case!
This is a guide to GNU in Linux. Here we also discuss the definition and how GNU works in linux? along with advantages and disadvantages. you may also have a look at the following articles to learn more –