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Linux is a Unix-like and POSIX-compliant computer operating system assembled under the model of free and open source software development and distribution.
It was initially developed by Linus Torvalds, a Finish American software engineer around 1991. It was based on MINIX developed by Andrew Tanenbaum for educational purposes.
It initially ran on IBM PC compatible computers.

There are currently many variations of Linux (Red Hat, ubuntu, OpenSUSE, Fedora, Debian, Linus Torvalds

Running Linix (best overview)
Linux Distributions
Linux Mint is based on ubuntu but has a different user interface, is a little faster, more device drivers. Mint is considered better for tech savvy beginners according to lifehacker
ubuntu (Most popular as of Spring 2008)
openSUSE (personal version of Novel SUSE)
Fedora (personal version of Red Hat)

10 of the Most Popular Linux Distributions Compared
Ubuntu vs. Mint: Which Linux Distro Is Better for Beginners?