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GNU Project

The GNU logo, by Etienne Suvasa

The GNU Project is a free software, mass collaboration project, announced on September 27, 1983, by Richard Stallman at MIT. It initiated the GNU operating system, software development for which began in January 1984. The founding goal of the project was, in the words of its initial announcement, to develop "a sufficient body of free software [...] to get along without any software that is not free."[1] GNU is meant to be free and unrestricted by other distributors. Any programmer is allowed to have access to the code and projects created using GNU.

To make this happen, the GNU Project began working on an operating system called GNU ("GNU" is a recursive acronym that stands for "GNU's Not Unix"). This goal of making a free software operating system was achieved in 1992 when the last gap in the GNU system, a kernel, was filled by a third-party Unix-like kernel called "Linux" being released as Free Software, under version 2 of the GNU GPL.

Current work of the GNU Project includes software development, awareness building, political campaigning and sharing of the new material.


[edit] Origins of the project

When the GNU project first started they, "had an Emacs text editor with Lisp for writing editor commands, a source level debugger, a yacc-compatible parser generator, and a linker"[2]. They had an initial kernel that needed more updates. Once the kernel and the compiler were finished GNU was able to be used for program development. The main goal was to create many other applications to be like the Unix system. GNU was able to run Unix programs but was not identical to it. GNU incorporated longer file names, file version numbers, and a crashproof file system. The GNU Manifesto was written to gain support and participation from others for the project. Programmers were encouraged to take part in any aspect of the project that interested them. People could donate funds, computer parts, or even their own time to write code and programs for the project.

[edit] The GNU Manifesto

The GNU Manifesto was written by Richard Stallman to gain support and participation in the GNU Project. He lays out why he is creating GNU and answers questions participants and supporters may have about the project. The manifesto starts with why and how GNU will be available along with answers to objections some may have to the outcome of the GNU project.[3]

[edit] Philosophy and activism

Although most of the GNU Project's output is technical in nature, it was launched as a social, ethical, and political initiative. As well as producing software and licenses, the GNU Project has published a large number of philosophical writings,[4] the majority of which were authored by Richard Stallman.

[edit] Participation

The GNU projects allows other programmers to get involved with the process of creating free software. A list of projects are laid out on the GNU website and each project has specifics for what type of developer is able to perform the task needed for a certain piece of the GNU project. The skill level ranges from project to project but anyone with background knowledge in programming is encouraged to support the project.[5]

[edit] Free software

The GNU project uses free software which refers to the way that it is free for users to copy, edit, and distribute. Free refers to the freedom that the user has with the ability to use, distribute, study, and modify the software, rather than the price of the software. It is not always free in cost but it is free in the sense that one can change the software to however it fits one's needs. The way programmers obtain the free software depends on where they are getting it from. The software could be provided to the programmer from friends or over the internet, or the company a programmer works for may purchase the software. This purchase may then go back and support the GNU project further. GNU has four kinds of freedom for the software:

  • Freedom to run the program
  • Freedom to access the code
  • Freedom to redistribute the program to anyone
  • Freedom to improve the software[6]

[edit] Copyleft

Copyleft is what helps maintain the free use of this software among other programmers. Copyleft is intended to give legal rights to everyone to use, edit, and redistribute programs or program's code as long as the distribution terms do not change. Copyleft allows for the freedom to remain in the way that programmers may create new code and programs.

[edit] Operating system development

gNewSense is an example of a GNU/Linux based distribution

The first goal of the GNU project was to create a whole free-software operating system. By 1992, the GNU project had completed all of the major operating system components except for their kernel, GNU Hurd. The Linux kernel, started independently by Linus Torvalds in 1991 filled the last gap, and Linux version 0.12 was released under the GPL in 1992. Together, Linux and GNU formed the first completely free-software operating system. Though the Linux kernel is not part of the GNU project, it was developed using GCC and other GNU programming tools.[7]

[edit] Strategic projects

From the mid-1990s onward, with many companies investing in free software development, the Free Software Foundation redirected its funds toward the legal and political support of free software development. Software development from that point on focused on maintaining existing projects, and starting new projects only when there was an acute threat to the free software community; see High Priority Free Software Projects. One of the most notable projects of the GNU Project is the GNU C compiler, which has been adopted as the standard compiler on almost all UNIX and UNIX-like systems, including Apple's iPhone and iPod.

[edit] GNOME

One example is the GNOME desktop. This development effort was launched by the GNU Project because another desktop system, KDE, was becoming popular but required users to install certain proprietary software. To prevent people from being tempted to install that proprietary software, the GNU Project simultaneously launched two projects. One was the Harmony toolkit. This was an attempt to make a free software replacement for the proprietary software that KDE depended on. Had this project been successful, the problem with KDE would have been solved. The second project was GNOME, which tackled the same issue from a different angle. It aimed to make a replacement for KDE which didn't have any dependencies on proprietary software. The Harmony project didn't make much progress, but GNOME developed very well. Eventually, the proprietary component that KDE depended on (Qt) was released as free software.[8]

[edit] Gnash

Another example is Gnash, software able to play content distributed in the Adobe Flash format. This has been marked as a priority project by GNU because it was seen that many people were installing a free software operating system and using a free software web-browser, but were then also installing the proprietary software plug-in from Adobe.

[edit] Recognition

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ "The GNU Manifesto". Free Software Foundation. 2007-07-21. http://www.gnu.org/gnu/manifesto.html. Retrieved 2007-11-10. 
  2. ^ Wardrip-Fruin, Noah, and Nick Montfort. "The GNU Manifesto." The NewMediaReader. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT, 2003. 545-550. Print.
  3. ^ Wardrip-Fruin, Noah, and Nick Montfort. "The GNU Manifesto." The NewMediaReader. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT, 2003. 545-550. Print.
  4. ^ Philosophy of the GNU Project
  5. ^ http://www.gnu.org/help/help.html
  6. ^ http://www.gnu.org/
  7. ^ What would you like to see most in minix? Linus Benedict Torvalds (Aug 26 1991, 2:12 am) - comp.os.minix | Google Groups
  8. ^ Richard Stallman (2000-09-05). "Stallman on Qt, the GPL, KDE, and GNOME". http://linuxtoday.com/news_story.php3?ltsn=2000-09-05-001-21-OP-LF-KE. Retrieved 2005-09-09. 
  9. ^ "USENIX Lifetime Achievement Award ("The Flame")". http://www.usenix.org/directory/flame.html. Retrieved 2007-12-05. "Awarded for the ubiquity, breadth, and quality of its freely available redistributable and modifiable software, which has enabled a generation of research and commercial development." 

[edit] External links

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