GNU Rules!

The goal of the GNU project is to promote the development of free software - software that users are allowed to "run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve." This is in stark contrast to proprietary software, whose "use, redistribution or modification is prohibited, or requires you to ask for permission, or is restricted so much that you effectively can't do it freely." Since Richard Stallman, the founder of the GNU project, expresses these ideas far more eloquently than I (or almost anyone else) could ever hope to, please check out the GNU website for more information and a fascinating history of free software and the GNU project.

The GNU Project's free Unix-like operating system became a reality in the early 90's with the addition of the Linux kernel developed independently by a Finnish computer science student named Linus Torvalds (see my Linus page for details). GNU has managed to attract more than its fair share of controversy, however, mainly as a result of Stallman's aggressive promotion of free software strictly on the basis of its moral superiority over proprietary software. Stallman's uncompromising attitude has rubbed many fellow hackers and potential allies of the free software community the wrong way. As a result, in 1998 several influential members of the hacker community launched the Open Source Initiative as an alternative to Stallman-led GNU. Headed by Eric Raymond, one of the most articulate spokesmen for the pragmatic wing of the free software movement, OSI seeks to promote free, or "open source code", software solely on the basis of its superior reliability compared to closed source software. It was Raymond's essay " The Cathedral and the Bazaar" that influenced Netscape to release of the source code for its Navigator 5.0 web browser. Unfortunately, for various reasons, the open community hasn't embraced the Netscape code as readily as OSI might have hoped (see this article for more details).

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Eric Hayashi <ehayashi@uvastro.phys.uvic.ca>
Last modified: Wed Jan 24 17:27:58 2001