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GNU, Free Software Foundation, and open source
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D.3 GNU, Free Software Foundation, and open source
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This section discusses the GNU Project (GNU), the Free Software Foundation (FSF), and the open source movement, focusing on their importance to software developers. There are fundamental philosophical differences among these groups, reflected in their advocated licensing policies. Richard Stallman founded the GNU Project in 1984.11 The GNU Project s stated software goal is to develop a completely free UNIX-like operating system. The FSF supports the GNU Project. The following quote describes the FSF:
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The Free Software Foundation (FSF), founded in 1985, is dedicated to promoting computer users right to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and use of free (as in freedom) software particularly the GNU operating system (used widely today in its Linux variant) and free (as in freedom) documentation. The FSF also helps to spread awareness of the ethical and political issues of freedom in the use of software. (http://www.gnu.org/fsf)
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The FSF is concerned with much more than just supporting the development of free software. The FSF seeks to support and foster an environment that encourages the sharing of ideas. In this context, users of software have the freedom to examine the source code of the software programs they use, can extend them if they wish, and are obliged to share their source code additions with the community. Under this model, no one has the right to restrict the dissemination of knowledge by restricting the availability of source code.12 This movement stands in direct contrast to the commercial software industry. This industry views software as the property of the company that created it, and is therefore closed. Under this scheme, software delivered in binary form does not include its source code, or contains restrictions on the source code s use and dissemination; licensing agreements prohibit sharing the source code with the outside user community. In recent years, this view has changed as seen in Apple s adoption of many open source ideals and its use and support of the Darwin operating system.
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GNU is a recursive acronym for GNU s Not Unix (guh-NEW). The official online site is at http:// www.gnu.org. Richard Stallman is the original author of emacs and gcc; see http://www.stallman.org. 12 For another interesting point of view, see Linux Magazine 1999.
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APPENDIX D
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A brief history of UNIX
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GNU software falls under the category of open source. According to the GNU
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Project, Free software and open source describe the same category of software, more or less, but say different things about the software, and about values. The GNU Project continues to use the term free software , to express the idea that freedom, not just technology, is important (http://www.fsf.org/gnu/the-gnu-project.html). The open source movement shares many of the same ideas as the free software movement (availability of source code; the ability to freely copy, extend, and distribute a program), but it was founded on different principles and promotes different goals. Eric Raymond and Bruce Perens, founders of the open source movement, were concerned that the philosophical ideology and emphasis on freedom promoted by the free software movement were turning off traditional businesses. This factor caused Linux and free software tools to stay within the confines of research and universities and not make inroads into businesses, which they believed was preventing Linux and other free tools from growing. The principles of the open software movement are enumerated in the Open Source Definition, which was originally based on the Debian Free Software Guidelines.13 To illustrate these licensing issues, imagine that you would like to use Microsoft Word to document your programs, but its memory and disk requirements are excessively high for your machine. Because you only use a subset of Word s features, you really need a scaled-down version of the program say, Word-Lite. Under commercial software policies, you have limited options: you can upgrade your current machine by adding more disk space and memory, buy a new machine, or find another program that meets your needs. If Word were available under an open source license, it would come with its source code. You would be legally entitled to modify any code you wished, in this case creating a new version of the program that consumes less resources. If the original Word program was licensed under the GPL and you decided to distribute your program, you would be required to distribute all source code, including your additions, along with the program. If Word was licensed under a BSD -like license, you would be required to retain the original copyright notice with the program. The actual licensing agreements are far more inclusive and detailed than indicated in these examples.
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See the article The Open Source Definition (DiBona Ockman Stone, 1999) for more information on the history of open source.
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