The Man Behind the GNU Project
In the early 1980s, Richard Stallman, then working in Artificial Intelligence Lab (AI labs) at Massachusetts Institute of Technology(MIT), started the GNU project (GNUs not UNIX), intending to create an entirely free and open UNIX-like operating system. It all started when the MIT lab received a new printer; that machine’s license restricted his ability to modify its code. He had hacked early printers and programmed it to send signals to the user when the printing is complete, and notifying other users when the printer is free to use. At the same time, He founded the Free Software Foundation(FSF) and started a movement. Since then, he has campaigned for people to control the software they use. According to him, when a program respects one’s freedom and community, it’s called free software. By the early 1990s, the GNU project already had thousands and hundreds of software to create a new Operating System; however, their kernel, the GNU Hurd is not yet complete.
GNU General Public License
So how can the author of the software be protected if it is free? Richard Stallman wrote the General Public License(GPL) to prevent free software into proprietary software. He used a copyleft; the copyleft idea is its copyright flipped over. The software is copyrighted, but the authors permit the users to redistribute copies, change the software, and add some new features. In this manner, all the users will also have the freedom to cooperate with other people if he wants to. Until now, the GPL is still widely used in terms of making free/open-source software such as known authors included, MySQL, WordPress, and even the Linux Kernel.
The Birth of Linux
At that same time, during the 1990s, Linus Torvalds set out a hobby project to developing a UNIX-like kernel named Linux. He used GNU software such as the ‘GNU C-compiler’ to do it. While using the only kernel is useless. He decided to include GNU software with the kernel to release an Operating System. When Richard Stallman had heard about the new Operating System, His foundation, The Free Software Foundation(FSF), donated and sponsored a group called Debian. He asked the group to make and release a GNU/Linux distribution entirely open for people to use and contribute. Over the years, Debian grew from a small group of free software foundation hackers into an enormous community known today.
What is a Linux Distribution
The GNU/Linux Distributions, often called Linux Distros, is a software package that makes the complete and working Operating System for you. These distributions will take all the code from the open-source projects, compile it, and combine it into a single file. They also include desktop environments, internet browser, and other software so that users don’t need to do anything after installing the distros. Suppose you want to install new software or update the latest versions. In that case, the Linux distros will provide you the package via their Software Center.
Examples of Linux Distros are Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSuse, Arch Linux, Elementary OS, CentOS, Lubuntu, Raspberry, and thousands more. Each Linux Distros has its philosophy and unique set of special features for particular uses. From home use to robotics, Linux distros can support. For beginners, Elementary OS, Linux Mint, and Ubuntu is the best suggestion.
So, where is Linux now? The year 2020
Since many distros depend on technical needs, many Distros focus on Desktop environments like Linux Mint, Ubuntu, and Elementary OS, which became famous as an alternative to Windows and macOS. Android OS also uses the Linux Kernel, which runs 85% of the world’s smartphones. It is also in supercomputers and cloud servers. They focus on security; this made Linux extremely popular for servers and other super technical applications. Gaming in Linux has also developed over the last few years, Because Steam also runs and supports Linux and can run almost 1000 games, like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive(CS: GO), DotA 2, The Witcher 3, The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, DOOM series, and much more.
Some companies are focusing on using Linux on robotics, like Arduino, Adafruit, Raspberry Pi, check out our post about open-hardware for more info!
Even ordinary consumers up to big corporations use free software throughout the world because they are either accessible or affordable. As a free software enthusiast, I believe that everyone should have access to the software they use. Nowadays, there are issues about software spying on users, which violates our right to privacy as a customer since most of our personal information on our computers. Furthermore, free software gives you the freedom to study and modify your computer by retrieving the source code, writing additional code, and the privilege to share it with other people. Therefore, you can even design and develop software on your own and help others make one as well. Aside from that, it has a cheaper value than other proprietary software. In particular, small businesses and students who cannot spend thousands of pesos would want to use reliable software and, most of all, budget-friendly. Especially now, classes and work are being held at home—particularly employees and students who have spent their money buying computers and laptops. Indeed it would be of great help to them if the software they use is free.
Additionally, you can choose over 6,500 free software available today. You can choose what works for you best and the needs of your company. Hence, it will avoid big corporations monopolizing the market. Initially, the free software movement argues that it is wrong to restrict the public to computers when it can be a useful tool for positive change in society. On the whole, there are more complex things we don’t know yet, and we have to discover for ourselves. But with the use of technology, I believe we can change the course of the universe.