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Linux is a portable operating system. While the Linux kernel was originally designed only for Intel 80386 microprocessors, it now runs on a more diverse range of computer architectures than any other operating system— from the hand-held ARM-based iPAQ to the mainframe IBM System z9, in devices ranging from supercomputers to mobile phones. Specialized distributions exist for less mainstream architectures. The ELKS kernel fork can run on Intel 8086 or Intel 80286 16-bit microprocessors, while the µClinux kernel may run on systems without a memory management unit including the Apple iPod. The kernel also runs on architectures that were only ever intended to use a manufacturer-created operating system, such as the iMac and PowerBook, Palm PDAs, GameCube, Xbox and even the Playstation Portable.
The primary difference between Linux and other contemporary operating systems is that the Linux kernel and other components are open source software. Linux is not the only such operating system, although it is the most well-known and widely used one. Some open source licenses are based on the principle of copyleft, a kind of reciprocity: any work derived from a copyleft piece of software must also be copyleft itself. The most common free software license is used for the Linux kernel itself: the GNU GPL written by Richard Stallman.