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Is it possible to install the linux kernel alone?

I had watched the documentary Revolution OS and there is a basic operating System by GNU and the kernel by Linux. Then there come distributions which are modified versions of the Linux operating system.

I want the Operating System which is the default Linux operating system and not any distribution. I have tried to look at the Linux website but there is information about distributions only.

Is the default Linux OS not available for users?

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marked as duplicate by jasonwryan, Gilles, Renan, Mat, warl0ck Nov 25 '12 at 1:10

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Why would you want that? Without the tools and applications, what would you do with such a system? –  Emanuel Berg Nov 23 '12 at 23:30
    
The main goal being, of course, to create a LAMP system that isn't GLAMP and then tell RMS to STFU? –  Full Decent May 6 at 18:40
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3 Answers 3

up vote 17 down vote accepted

Linux by itself is not very useful because there are no applications: it is purely a kernel. In fact, when the kernel finishes booting, the first thing it does is launch an application called init. If that application isn't there, you get a big error message, and you can't do anything with it*.

Distributions are so named because they distribute the Linux kernel along with a set of applications.

Likewise, the GNU utilities by themselves are not useful without a kernel. You could put them on a storage medium and turn on a computer, but there is nothing there to run those programs. Also, even if there were something that started init, init and all the other programs rely on the kernel for services. For instance, the first thing that the program that is usually called init does is open a file /etc/inittab; to open that file, it calles a function open(); that function is provided by the kernel.

Now, you can build a distribution that has no (or few) GNU applications. See Alpine Linux for an example. This is why I do not call Linux GNU/Linux; when I say Linux, I am not referring to the subset of Linux systems that have GNU utilities.

*Technically, there are some things you can do with just the kernel.

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I do not have the reputation, i would have Up voted for such a beautiful answer. –  backTangent Nov 23 '12 at 16:40
    
Hm, what do you mean by: "This is why I do not call Linux GNU/Linux; when I say Linux, I am not referring to the subset of Linux systems that have GNU utilities." ? As for me, I've never seen (and can't think of) a Linux distribution without GNU applications and tools. And, why would you treat the GNU stuff collectively (apart from, possibly, political reasons)? I mean, what's "GNU" about GNU Emacs and (GNU) ls? They are just two indispensable things you'd like on your system. –  Emanuel Berg Nov 23 '12 at 23:40
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A distribution is a compilation of mainly GNU software with the Linux kernel, customized to the desire of the people doing it. Some 'package' may be part of one distro, while not being part of another. Some distros also like to modify the place where files of different software are installed.

Maybe you should try Linux From Scratch as one of the purest linux installations you can get.

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Right. It is also custom to mention the X window system (which is not Linux, and not GNU). And... there is nothing "unpure" about a distribution with lots of applications and tools. Did you ever walk into a bicycle repair shop and found almost no tools, because the owner wanted a "pure" shop? This is technology and engineering, not art and math. (I'm sorry if I sound irritated, but I've heard that a thousand times.) –  Emanuel Berg Nov 23 '12 at 23:45
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The purest form of Linux is the Vanilla Linux. It is just the Kernel without modifications or applications. You can download it from http://www.kernel.org

Distributions are a configuration of applications running over this kernel, as far as I know most distributions make modifications to the Kernel.

Some people make the distinction between the Kernel itself and the distributions by using the name Linux only for the Kernel and GNU/Linux to distributions.

More info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU/Linux_naming_controversy

The Linux distributions that make less modifications to the Kernel are Slackware, Arch Linux, Gentoo and Linux from Scratch.

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1) There is nothing "unpure" about a distribution with lots of applications and tools. Did you ever walk into a bicycle repair shop and found almost no tools, because the owner wanted a "pure" shop? This is technology and engineering, not art and math. (I'm sorry if I sound irritated, but I've heard that a thousand times.) 2) There is much more to a distribution than just the GNU applications and tools. One notable example is the package management system, but you could think of a lot more. –  Emanuel Berg Nov 23 '12 at 23:48
    
The dilemma is what Linux is, if Linux is the kernel then my definition of purity is correct. If Linux is the generic name for the OS, then you are right and there is no pure Linux. –  fdisk Nov 24 '12 at 13:59
    
I hear what you're saying, still, in your mind that's purity, in my mind that's isolation (and uselessness). All things are components of something bigger, and they need this to have a purpose and function: if you consider this "not pure", well... –  Emanuel Berg Nov 24 '12 at 15:12
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