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[Discuss] Why use Linux?
- Subject: [Discuss] Why use Linux?
- From: mbr at arlsoft.com (MBR)
- Date: Tue, 11 Feb 2014 04:47:02 -0500
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Hi Micky. If you're going to mention Linux and the FSF, it might be best if you were to call it "GNU/Linux" rather than "Linux" and explain why the FSF (and Stallman in particular) prefers "GNU/Linux" to simply "Linux". (See "What's in a Name? <https://www.gnu.org/gnu/why-gnu-linux.html>", "Linux and the GNU System <https://www.gnu.org/gnu/linux-and-gnu.html>", and "GNU/Linux FAQ by Richard Stallman <https://www.gnu.org/gnu/gnu-linux-faq.html>".) Here are a few things about Linux that occur to me right off: 1. The most obvious point to make is that Linux is a Free operating system(That's "free" as in freedom, not "free" as in free beer), unlike the other major contenders: Windows and Mac OS-X. Linux is released under the GPL, the original Free Software license. 2. The essence of Free Software, as articulated by RMS (Richard M. Stallman) who invented the concept and founded the FSF, is the following (from his article "What is free software? <https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html>"): We campaign for these freedoms because everyone deserves them. With these freedoms, the users (both individually and collectively) control the program and what it does for them. When users don't control the program, we call it a "nonfree" or "proprietary" program. The nonfree program controls the users, and the developer controls the program; this makes the program an instrument of unjust power <https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-software-even-more-important.html>. A program is free software if the program's users have the four essential freedoms: * The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0). * The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this. * The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2). * The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3). By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this. NOTE: To those in the Drupal community who are used to programming in PHP, freedom #1 may not seem like a very big deal. That's because Drupal is written in PHP which is an interpreted language, not a compiled language, so you can't distribute a runnable version of a program without distributing the program's source code. But both for reasons of efficiency as well as for historical reasons, operating systems are written in languages that get compiled to machine code, so proprietary vendors can seize total control of how you use their software by distributing only binaries and not the source code. And they do! Proprietary software vendors generally force you to agree to a restrictive EULA (End User License Agreement) which prohibits even trying to figure out how the code works. Microsoft's EULA explicitly states the following (note that Apple's license is no better.): "Recipient may not reverse engineer, decompile or disassemble any portion of the Software, except and only to the extent that this limitation is expressly prohibited by applicable law notwithstanding this limitation." 3. Since most non-programmers who know of the concept of collaboratively-developed software know the term "Open Source", you really ought to familiarize yourself with Stallman's article "Why Open Source misses the point of Free Software <https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/open-source-misses-the-point.html>". 4. Since GNU/Linux source code is studied by hundreds of thousands of people all over the world, it's much harder to hide malware inside it. And since it's Free Software, if malware were found, anyone in the world would have the right to redistribute a version with the malware removed. On the other hand, the Windows source code can only be seen by a relatively small number of programmers who are either working for Microsoft or gagged by a restrictive contract before they're allowed to see the source code. So, if Microsoft's OS contains nasty code they don't want you to know about, they can silence anyone who might know enough to inform you. If it's reporting your every keystroke and mouse-click to the NSA, you'll never know. In the Apple world, the OS' license is approved as a free software license by the FSF, but Apple's GUI (Graphical User Interface) code is only distributed under a proprietary license. Since all human interaction with the computer must pass through the GUI, they too could be doing evil stuff with your keystrokes and mouse-clicks behind your back. [Note however that even having the source code is not an absolute guarantee that you can figure out what the compiled code does. Ken Thompson (one of the original Unix developers) addressed this in his classic presentation "Reflections on Trusting Trust <http://cm.bell-labs.com/who/ken/trust.html>". If someone can corrupt the compiler, none of the executables it generates can be trusted. In the past, I've considered this an unlikely scenario, but since Snowden's revelations about the NSA it no longer seems unlikely. Also, see the reports of Linus Torvalds' response <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/09/19/linux_backdoor_intrigue/> at a conference when asked if he'd been approached by the U.S. government to insert backdoors into Linux. According to the article, Torvalds emphatically said "no" while nodding his head "yes".] 5. In a proprietary software model, versions tend to get released on a rigid schedule. In the free software development model, versions tend to get released when features are ready. I'm sure I'll think of other points after I send this, but that's what occurs to me right off. Mark Rosenthal mbr at arlsoft.com On 2/10/2014 9:21 PM, Micky Metts wrote: > I have a request for the group - > > I am speaking at the GLADcamp Drupal conference in Los Angeles next > month and wish to have part of my talk cover the benefits of Linux. I > have started a riseup.net pad here: > https://pad.riseup.net/p/linux > > I would love it if anyone has some things to add that I may have > overlooked. > So far I plan to mention fsf.org and the groups on meetup. If you have > any wisdom to add, please do share! > > Thanks for all of your help with this and with inspiring me to teach > others how to install Linux locally. >
- [Discuss] Why use Linux?
- From: micky at drupalconnection.com (Micky Metts)
- [Discuss] Why use Linux?