Saturday, May 22, 2010

The History of GNU–Linux

Fade to 1983
Richard Stallman ( announced1 the GNU Project for creating an operating system, both kernel and system programs, and presented the GNU Manifesto, which begins as follows:

GNU, which stands for Gnu’s Not UNIX, is the name for the complete UNIX-compatible software system which I am writing so that I can give it away free to everyone who can use it.

Some years later, Stallman added a footnote to the preceding sentence when he realized that it was creating confusion:

The wording here was careless. The intention was that nobody would have to pay for *permission* to use the GNU system. But the words don’t make this clear, and people often interpret them as saying that copies of GNU should always be distributed at little or no charge. That was never the intent; later on, the manifesto mentions the possibility of companies providing the service of distribution for a profit. Subsequently I have learned to distinguish carefully between “free” in the sense of freedom and “free” in the sense of price. Free software is software that users have the freedom to distribute and change. Some users may obtain copies at no charge, while others pay to obtain copies—and if the funds help support improving the software, so much the better. The important thing is that everyone who has a copy has the freedom to cooperate with others in using it.

In the manifesto, after explaining a little about the project and what has been accomplished so far, Stallman continues:

Why I Must Write GNU
I consider that the golden rule requires that if I like a program I must share it with other people who like it. Software sellers want to divide the users and conquer them, making each user agree not to share with others. I refuse to break solidarity with other users in this way. I cannot in good conscience sign a nondisclosure agreement or a software license agreement. For years I worked within the Artificial Intelligence Lab to resist such tendencies and other inhospitalities, but eventually they had gone too far: I could not remain in an institution where such things are done for me against my will.

So that I can continue to use computers without dishonor, I have decided to put together a sufficient body of free software so that I will be able to get along without any software that is not free. I have resigned from the AI Lab to deny MIT any legal excuse to prevent me from giving GNU away.

Next Scene, 1991
The GNU Project has moved well along toward its goal. Much of the GNU operating system, except for the kernel, is complete. Richard Stallman later writes:

By the early ’90s we had put together the whole system aside from the kernel (and we were also working on a kernel, the GNU Hurd,3 which runs on top of Mach4). Developing this kernel has been a lot harder than we expected, and we are still working on finishing it.5

...[M]any believe that once Linus Torvalds finished writing the kernel, his friends looked around for other free software, and for no particular reason most everything necessary to make a UNIX-like system was already available. What they found was no accident—it was the GNU system. The available free software6 added up to a complete system because the GNU Project had been working since 1984 to make one. The GNU Manifesto had set forth the goal of developing a free UNIX-like system, called GNU. The Initial Announcement of the GNU Project also outlines some of the original plans for the GNU system. By the time Linux was written, the [GNU] system was almost finished.7

Today the GNU “operating system” runs on top of the FreeBSD ( and NetBSD ( kernels with complete Linux binary compatibility and on top of Hurd pre-releases and Darwin ( without this compatibility.

Source of Information : Prentice Hall A.Practical Guide to Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5th Edition

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