Tux is a penguin character and the official brand character of the Linux kernel. Originally created as an entry to a Linux logo competition, Tux is the most commonly used icon for Linux, although different Linux distributions depict Tux in various styles. The character is used in many other Linux programs and as a general symbol of Linux.
The concept of the Linux brand character being a penguin came from Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux. According to Jeff Ayers, Linus Torvalds had a "fixation for flightless, fat waterfowl" and Torvalds claims to have contracted "penguinitis" after being nibbled by a little penguin on a visit to the National Zoo & Aquarium, Canberra, Australia, joking that the disease "makes you stay awake at nights just thinking about penguins and feeling great love towards them". In an interview Linus commented on the penguin bite:
I've been to Australia several times, these days mostly for Linux.Conf.Au. But my first trip—and the one when I was bitten by a ferocious fairy penguin: you really should keep those things locked up!—was in 93 or so, talking about Linux for the Australian Unix Users Group.
At Canberra zoo a sign said in 2009 that staff believed the "original Tux" was still resident in the penguin enclosure.
Linus Torvalds' "favourite penguin picture", used as inspiration for Tux
Torvalds was looking for something fun and sympathetic to associate with Linux, and he felt that a slightly fat penguin sitting down after having eaten a great meal perfectly fit the bill.
The final and original design was a submission for a Linux logo contest by Larry Ewing using the first publicly released version (0.54) of GIMP, a free software graphics package. It was released by him under the following condition:
Permission to use and/or modify this image is granted provided you acknowledge me email@example.com and The GIMP if someone asks.
Since Tux won none of the three competitions that were held Tux is formally known as the Linux brand character and not the logo.
The first person to call the penguin "Tux" was James Hughes, who said that it stood for "(T)orvalds (U)ni(X)". However, tux is also an abbreviation of tuxedo, the outfit which bears resemblance in appearance to a penguin.
The image was designed by Andrew McGown and recreated as an SVG using Inkscape by Josh Bush, and released under the CC BY-SA license.
Linux for Workgroups 2013
Tux logo in the "Linux for Workgroups" release (2013)
For the Linux 3.11-rc1 release, Linus Torvalds changed the code name from "Unicycling Gorilla" to "Linux for Workgroups" and modified the logo that some systems display when booting to depict a Tux holding a flag with a symbol that is reminiscent of the logo of Windows for Workgroups 3.11, which was released in 1993.
Uses and reception
In some Linux distributions, for example Gentoo, Tux greets the user during booting with multi-processor systems displaying multiple images of Tux, one for each processor core.
Some games that star Tux also include explicitly female penguin characters, allowing the players to play as one of those characters instead of Tux. One such female penguin is Tux's friend "Gown". Gown is variously depicted as being a pink version of Tux (XTux) or as having a somewhat less fat appearance and wearing items of clothing such as a red and white short skirt and a hair bow (e.g. TuxKart and A Quest for Herring).
In SuperTux and SuperTuxKart, there is a different female penguin called "Penny" who is purple and white (SuperTuxKart once had Gown and still has a map called "Gown's Bow"). In the arcade game Tux 2 there is a female penguin called "Trixi", and in FreeCiv the female leader name for the Antarctican civilization is "Tuxette".
Tux in popular culture
In a Froot Loops advertisement, Tux appears as a squeaky toy, the "secret weapon" to distract a pack of dogs pulling a sled containing the villain.
In the comics Hellblazer, in issue 234 "Joyride, part 1", a Tux plush toy makes an appearance, set on the side of the road where a little girl was killed in a hit-and-run accident.
Tux appeared as a character during one arc in the webcomicUser Friendly.
In April 2016, Tux was adapted to a designer toy called a Gwin and was distributed by October Toys. The toy was redesigned by different artists and sold in short collectible runs through the October Toys website and other collectable vinyl toy sites. October Toys has since ceased operations.