Free Software an Introduction By Steve Riddett using Scribus 18.104.22.168 and Ubuntu 8.10 Contents Famous Free Software...................................................... 2 The Difference.................................................................. 3 Stallman and Torvalds.......................................................4 The Meaning of Distro......................................................5 Linux and the Holy Grail.................................................. 6 Frequently Asked Questions............................................. 7 Where to find out more..................................................... 8 2 Free Software - an Introduction Famous Free Software Firefox is a web browser similar to Microsoft's Internet Explorer but made the Free software way. The project started in 2003 from the source code of the Netscape browser which had been released when Netscape went bust. In April 2009, Firefox recorded 29% use worldwide (34% in Europe). Firefox is standards compliant and has a system of add-ons which allow innovative new features to be added by the community. OpenOffice.org is an office suite similar to Microsoft Office. It started life as Star Office. Sun Microsystems realised it was cheaper to buy out Star Office than to pay Microsoft for licence fees for MS Office. Sun then released the source code for Star Office under the name OpenOffice.org. OpenOffice.org is mostly compatible with MS Office file formats, which allows users to open .docs and .xls files in Open Office. Microsoft is working on a plug-in for MS Office that allows it to open .odf files. ODF (Open Document Format) is Open Office's default file format. Once this plug-in is complete there will 100% compatiblity between the two office suites. VLC is the VideoLAN Client. It was originally designed to allow you to watch video over the network. Today, it is used to play back all kind of video and audio media. VideoLAN was started in 1993 in Ecole Centrale, Paris. In 2001 the code was released as open source. VLC supports a huge number of formats. If you are having trouble playing back a video file, try VLC. There are many open source operating systems but Linux is the most famous, and the most complete of them. Linux will run instead of, or along side Windows on a PC. Like the other projects listed here, it will also run on a huge number of other types of hardware. Linux is currently the operating system of choice for webservers (over 50%), supercomputers (87%) and desktops and servers in animation companies (90%). On the home desktop, Microsoft estimates Linux use to be roughly the same as Mac use (about 10% each). Free Software - an Introduction 3 The Difference Proprietary software is made with an emphasis on secrecy and accountability. Within Microsoft for example, a Word developer who spotted a bug in Excel would not be able to submit a patch (a small amount of code) to the Excel team to fix the bug. Each team works on their own area of the code, and only their own area. That way, when things go wrong, the management know which "neck to choke". The source code to the programs is considered a trade secret that gives MS it's advantage over the competition. Proprietary applications compete with each other on features. In order to out- do the opposition a given company must re-create an entire application in order to add the extra features they have innovated. This leads to large applications, which have unique features. If a consumer requires all of the features available she must buy all of the competing software packages. Proprietary software companies charge money for their products. Combatting piracy is therefore a high priority for them as they tend to view each pirated copy as a lost sale. Free software is made in the spirit of scientific enquiry. Code is published early and often and participation by otherwise complete strangers is encouraged. Where faults or bugs in the software are found, the contribution of patches are warmly received. Ideas are freely transferred from one application to another allowing for the (eventual) conglomoration of the most needed ideas into one application. Free software applications are sometimes made up of many small programs linked together, following the UNIX philosophy of “do one thing, and do it well”. Copying and distribution by users is encouraged. Generally speaking Free Software is made by individual programmers who may or may not be employed to work on the code. Intel employ programmers to work full time on the Linux kernel in order to ensure that it runs optimally on their latest processors. Google sponsered the WINE project to allow Adobe Photoshop to run on Linux. A dentist has started a Free Software project (called Open Molar) to replace the proprietary software he is currently using in his practice. 4 Free Software - an Introduction Stallman and Torvalds In 1980, Richard Stallman was working as a programmer in Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Artificial Intelligence lab. He took delivery of a new laser printer. Unlike most software of the day, the new printer did not come with the source code, so Stallman and his colleagues were not able to alter it to make it function as they needed it to. This one event convinced Stallman of the idea that users should be able to modify the software they run. In 1983, Stallman started the GNU project to build a free UNIX-like operating system. In doing so, he started the Free Software movement, and in 1985 he set up the Free Software Foundation. Stallman pioneered the concept of Copyleft (where copyright laws are used to guarantee freedom, rather than restrict it) and is the main authour of the General Public Licence (GPL) which is the licence under which most Free Software is released. By 1991, the GNU system was coming along nicely, there was a compiler, a debugger and most of the tools required to build a full system. The one thing that was lacking was a kernel. This is the program that glues everything else together. Then, a Swedish speaking Finn by the name of Linus Torvalds made the following post to the Minix mailing list: "Hello everybody out there using minix - I'm doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won't be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones." Linus wanted to call his new kernel "Freax" but his friend Ari Lemmke thought that was a bad name and put it in a folder called "Linux". The name stuck and Linus accepted it. Together, GNU + Linux made the first complete Free Operating System. Torvalds and Stallman are very different people. Stallman is an idealistic crusader whereas Torvalds is a pragmatist who programs primarily because it is fun. That these two can combine their efforts to such effect without necessarily liking each other is testimony to the forced cooperation that Free Software licences impose. Free Software - an Introduction 5 The Meaning of Distro A distro (short for dis- In the Repository tribution) is a complete Free Software stack, Applications and Programs all the way up from the kernel to the applica- VLC, DeVeDe, Thunderbird, hpodder, tions. A distro comes Songbird, AcidRip, Scribus, Inkscape as a disk with the best software on it, and a repo (repository) The Internet which is a place on the Installed On Your PC internet which con- tains the rest of the Applications software. If you want to download and in- Open Office, Firefox, Totem, Evolution stall an application from the repo, you just Desktop open Add/Remove programs, tick the box Gnome / KDE / XFCE next to the program you want, and click Window Manager 'Apply'. It's very easy, Metacity (2D) / Compiz (3D) / KWin but very different from Windows. Graphical Subsystem Distros are put togeth- X.org er for many pruposes, Command Line Programs some are tiny (Tiny GNU coreutils, gcc, bash, Core Linux is 10MB), Apache, MySQL, PHP others are huge (Debi- an Lenny comes on a Libraries 25GB Blu-ray disk). GNU C Library and other libraries The best one to start with is Ubuntu which Kernel comes on a CD. Linux / BSD / Open Solaris 6 Free Software - an Introduction Linux and the Holy Grail Someday, Linux or some other Free run at home. Normal users know that Software operating system will be any program they need is just a few used on most of the computers in the clicks or a simple command away. world. It is hard to say when this Programs can accumulate features in- will happen. Some people expected stead of features accumulating pro- it to have already happened by now, grams. That means we need to learn others think it will never happen. fewer programs as end users. The Yet, it seems inevitable. Here life span of the programs we use is are some of the reasons: Free Soft- dictated by the level of interest in ware uses the internet for collabora- them rather than by the financial tion, distribution and support. These needs of software companies to make things all cost money for the propriet- you upgrade to their latest product. ary software company. Proprietary Software Free Software thrives The eventual dominance of on and encourages Free Software seems copying and sharing; inevitable. something that is a huge problem for proprietary soft- puts barriers ware companies. Free Software can between be designed by the people who are us- people by ing the software. Proprietary soft- disallowing ware is handed down from on high. them to copy, modify and share their The ramifications of all this software. If people share anyway, are hard to digest so here are some ex- they become pirates and have to hide amples of what it all means. Original their activities from the software Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), maker. Free Software encourages co- governments, research facilities, can operation customise the software for their for amongst their needs. They can collaborate users and co- with other similar bodies to produce operation software that solves common needs. with the pro- Schools can give copies of the pro- ject. This communitises the com- grams being taught for the students to munity and benefits everyone. Free Software - an Introduction 7 FAQ If anyone can see the source just want the software to exist to help code, doesn't that make it less them to run their businesses. Govern- secure? ments are also starting to sponsor Oddly, no. When we install software Free Software, it makes sense that on Windows, the only person who your governement should not require knows for sure what that software you to make purchases in order to will do is the person that wrote it. By view the documents that they are installing the software, we are trust- sending to you. ing the people that wrote it. On If it's free it must be worse that Linux, the usual way to install soft- something that's paid for, no? ware is through the repository. Soft- Some Free Software is clearly better ware in the repository has already than the proprietary alternatives. For been vetted by the example, Firefox, people that put togeth- Free Software generally VLC and Audacity are er the distribution (eg. progresses faster than often used by people Ubuntu). Because the proprietary software. who have no particular programs are open love of Free Software. source, any unwanted behaviour can Some Free Software is about the be removed by the distro team. same (which is to say that some If it's free, how do people get people prefer one, some the other) paid? such as Linux (as compared to Win- Some Free Software is written by vo- dows or Mac) or Inkscape (as com- lunteers. Writing free software is fun pared to Illustrator). Some Free and makes you part of a community. Software is slightly behind the altern- It is thrilling when millions of people atives such as Open Office (com- are using your software and you are pared to MS Office, although it is directly competing with the richest clearly better than Works, Microsoft's company on the earth (Microsoft). no-cost office suite), the GIMP (as Some Free Software is sponsored by compared to Photoshop) or Scribus companies, these could be hardware (as compared to Quark). However, companies who want to make sure unless you are a pro, these applica- the software supports their hardware tions will probably still cover your correctly, or other companies who needs. 8 Free Software - an Introduction Where to find out more Free Software in General http://www.lulu.com/content/4964815 After the Software Wars PDF. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_software A very good overview. http://www.fsf.org/ The home of the Free Software Foundation. http://www.gnu.org/ All about the GNU operating system. Free Software Projects http://www.mozilla.com/firefox/ The famous web browser. http://www.videolan.org/vlc/ VLC plays any multimedia. http://www.wikipedia.org/ The famous Free Software encyclopedia. http://www.inkscape.org/ Amazingly good vector graphics editor. http://openoffice.org/ Awesome office suite with Free file formats. http://www.gimp.org/ Very good (but badly named) image editor. http://www.getsongbird.com/ Media player, web browser combined. http://www.virtualbox.org/ Run Windows and other OSes within Linux. News Sites http://distrowatch.com/ All the latest news about Linux distros releases. http://linux.com/welcome/ A hub of Linux related activity. http://slashdot.org/ News of all things geeky. http://theregister.co.uk/ IT related news site, trashy but entertaining. Free Operating Systems http://ubuntu.com/ Ubuntu is the easiest Linux distro to start with. http://opensolaris.org/ Free UNIX based OS by Sun Microsystems. http://freebsd.org/ Free unix-like OS based directly off AT&T UNIX. http://www.reactos.org/ Aiming for 100% compatibility with Windows. http://aros.sourceforge.net/ Based on Amiga Workbench 3.1. http://haiku-os.org/ Nice looking mulitmedia OS based on BeOS. http://mikeos.berlios.de/ Tiny Free OS written entirely in assembler. Podcasts http://linuxoutlaws.com/ A cool podcast by two Linux users. http://tllts.org/ The grandaddy of Linux podcasts, 2hrs per week. http://twit.tv/FLOSS Highly polished podcast about all of Free Software.
Pages to are hidden for
"Free Software an Introduction"Please download to view full document