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[Discuss] Why use Linux?

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? 
<>", "Linux and the GNU System 
<>", and "GNU/Linux FAQ by 
Richard Stallman <>".) Here 
are a few things about Linux that occur to me right off:


    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.


    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?

        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

        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." 


    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

 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 <>".  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'
    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".]

    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

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 pad here:
> I would love it if anyone has some things to add that I may have 
> overlooked.
> So far I plan to mention 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.

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