Gnu-Linux is Free as in Libre/Liberty.
* GPL’d software such as GNU-Linux is primarily about digital rights, an extension of human rights issues
* Why is this a rights issue? This is complex, but for the end user the proprietary model pushes onto its consumers a position of empowerment/disempowerment, rather than an equal footing. To clarify, proprietary (closed) software holds the source code (instructions for building the software) secret, thus the user can never be sure if there are hidden agendas behind closed software. The closed commercial model asks the consumer to trust them but does not allow itself to trust the customer to use their software ‘fairly’ (ie., making backup copies). Restrictive electronic licensing agreements are evidence of this. Furthermore, Free OSes do not hold updates/fixes ransom, meaning that needed updates/fixes for buggy software are not dispensed to only those who can afford them. Nor do they actively seek to create a dependence on closed source by keeping hardware specs secret as Apple/Broadcom does with Airport Extreme. Currently, iBook owners who wish to use the Airport Extreme wireless card must reboot into Apple’s OS (Operating System). Owners are boxed in, and thus their freedom impinged.
For information on GPL see <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/licenses.html#GPL>.
Gnu-Linux and BSDs are Inherently more Secure than Closed Source because …
* Community driven software benefits from peer review whereas the innate secrecy within proprietary puts the end user in potential danger coming from unseen security holes due to the lesser number of peers/developers, and hidden agendas (spy-ware). The peer review element allows for open debate, productive critique that avoids these pitfalls and consequently benefits end users. The impetus for this environment is one of meritocracy. Its community driven inertia allows for quick response to security issues. Free OSes respond quicker to security holes than commercial OSes.
Free Source OSes:
* are less buggy than commercial OSes.
* suffer from less virii, spy-ware, and trojan horses, things that accumulate easily on the leading desktop OS.
See <http://www.informit.com/articles/article.asp?p=30697&rl=1> for information on virii installed with M$ programs.
* Community driven software means that security patches are dispensed as the community needs them, not how and when a profit driven company believes they can maximize profit. Customer need and profit incentive may not coincide, and therefore customer needs may not be addressed in a timely fashion by the closed model. This disjuncture is not unheard of in business, as publicly traded companies often find the pressure (from share owners) to make a quick return is not beneficial for the companies long term vision.
* Governments, schools, and institutions are converting to Gnu-Linux. It saves startup costs, saves buying multi-licenses because Free software is often available free of charge. This frees one from the cost of installing onto multiple computers. One only need pay for technical support if necessary as there are multitudes of help forums, and chat rooms (IRC [#ubuntu, #debian, #debian-ppc, #lsd, and #netbsd on freenode.net]). A popular IRC client commonly available is X-Chat.
Community driven software is not accustomed to ‘gouging’ its users for payware-fixes for security issues for which they are responsible in the first place (their software is buggy and/or allows for exploits). Apple’s Disk Utility, to this date, still does not burn some Gnu-Linux install isos (on the early 2004 iBook) even though updates are up to 10.3.9 (pay-ware update/upgrade 10.4 is out). It’s reported that 10.4 is fixed. Is one expected to pay for 10.4 just to get a properly functioning Disk Utility.
Free OSes also salvage old computers that are too slow for contemporary commercial OSes. Free OSes commonly run on lesser processor intensive hardware. ie., BSDs run with a desktop environment on Pentium 1 and more than meet everyday user requirements such as internet browsing, word processing, email, etc. These old computers can be put to good use as internet consoles, print servers, file servers, firewalls, or (as previously stated) plain work stations handling emails and simple word processing. It’s not only astounding that all this can be accomplished on older hardware but that it can be done with contemporary software.
* Gnu-Linuxes such as Debian and Ubuntu do not require expensive upgrades. They upgrade easily with front-end apps (‘gui’-based, no DOS-like command). ie., Synaptic (available for both Debian and Ubuntu). You need not even see a DOS-like text console. Others prefer to login in a text console and evoke a windows-like environment with the ‘startx’ command, and reboot or shutdown with the ‘reboot’ and ‘halt’ commands. Flexibility is the keyword.
Questions and Uncertainties:
1) I agree it may be a better system but there is no breadth of free software.
Debian, Gentoo, and FreeBSD offer over 10 000-12 000 applications to suit a wide range of necessities ranging from the professional to the home user. The BSDs have the extra advantage of being able to run Gnu-Linux applications on a running BSD system. Thus if you can’t find a native FreeBSD application, you might run the Gnu-Linux version of the application on BSD. BSDs also make it very easy to create your own native build.
2) I use Apple software therefore I feel secure from viruses, and trojans.
Despite differences in spyware and survellience-ware, commercial software to this end is available for the mac OSes. It has been available for the mac for some time (on OS 9 and on OS X). One expects that as Apple computers become more popular, reported cases of tojans and virii will become common. Community driven software responds to these concerns because its source code is freely available, thus exposing malicious code. Therefore, the open model is not conducive to producing malicious code such as spy-ware.
3) Will I be able to read emails from friends if I run Gnu-Linux or a BSD?
Yes. Email protocols are standardized as POP and IMAP. As a benefit, you’ll most likely be immune to email proliferated virii because these exploit security holes in M$ email programs and companion word editors.
4) Can I play video games on Gnu-Linux?
Despite the fact that game consoles exist explicitly for this purpose, yes, you can play video games on Gnu-Linux.
The following is a sample:
- Civilization 2 – FreeCiv
- Dance Dance Revolution – StepMania
- Descent, Descent 2 – D2X Project
- Duke Nukem 3D – Duke3D
- Quake – QuakeForge, Tenebrae
- Quake II – Quake2Forge
- Quake III – Quake III
- Sim City – Lin City
- Solitaire – PySol
- Wesnoth – Wesnoth
5) Is there fax capability (for office/home use)?
Yes. There is fax capability especially for hard (fax) modems (common on old computers). Efax (and its front end efax-gtk) is/are great fax utility/ies.
6) What equivalents are there for the proprietary software programs to which I have become accustomed?
A sample of equivalents follow:
- Outlook Express – Evolution, KMail, Mozilla Thunderbird
- Word – Open Office, Abiword
- Powerpoint -OpenOffice Impress, KPresenter
- IE – Mozilla or Firefox. Mozilla is one of the most standards complaint browser giving a superior surfing experience.
- Safari – Konqueror
- Palm Desktop – K-Pilot, gnome-pilot, J-Pilot
- MSN Messenger – AMSN, Gaim, Kopete
- Toast/Easy Media Creator, Nero – XCDRoast, Nautilus-cd-burner, K3b
- PDF Reader – XPDF
- Photoshop – Gimp, OpenOffice Draw, Krita
- Corel Draw, Illustrator – Karbon(14), Sodipodi, Skencil, Inkscape, OpenOffice Draw, Scribus
- Adobe Streamline – Delineate
- WMA/WMP – VLC, Mplayer, Kaffenie, Totem
- Winamp – xmms, KPlayer, Noatun
- itunes – Rythmbox
- Desktop – Gnome, KDE
- Winzip – Ark, File Roller, zip, gzi[, bzip2, tar, unrar
- Scanning Software – Xsane/sane, Kooka
- Viseo/OmniGraffe (for Flowcharts) – Dia, Kivio
- Matlab (interactive mathematical computing language) – Octave
Often, various ‘clones’ exist. Therefore, one is free to try various applications at no cost. The Free model allows that the developers of software that works for ‘you’ receive your money, if you should choose to support monetarily. The proprietary model often offers a ‘no refunds’ policy, regardless of how and/or if the application meets consumer’s expectations. The Free model is meritocracy in action. It is true that educating oneself on a product before purchasing may avoid paying for useless products, but overzealous (or even misleading) advertising confounds the issue. At other times, the commercial software simply does not work and is beyond the ability of the customer no matter how educated they are on the product.
7) Doesn’t one have to be excessively knowledgeable to run Gnu-Linux or FreeBSD?
Not anymore. OSes such as Ubuntu make it easier than ever to install. Once installed, one runs ‘desktop environments’ such as KDE or Gnome that provide an experience contemporary everyday users expect. You need not ‘live’ a DOS-like experience.
8) Why care about ‘big brother’/spy-ware? I have nothing to hide.
This sort of answer is astounding. One would not tolerate having ease-dropping devices within one’s home (ie., tapped phones, hidden micro-phones, cameras). Stalking is an offense, is it not? Why then do people put up with electronic stalking? Security is a legitimate issue, and one that boils over to rights to privacy, (as well as stability). As internet banking becomes normative (and confidential information is kept electronically), identity theft will surely continue to rise at an alarming rate bringing this issue to light. As it stands, privacy is an issue at the time of writing this article.
9) Gnu-Linux and BSDs have no hardware/technology support from large companies.
Far from true.
a) ATI provides specs Free software providing video acceleration.
b) IBM – supports Linux monetarily (millions of dollars to date) and is developing/ed their own Gnu-Linux.
c) Apple, although using their restricting Apple Public Source License, attempts to benefit from both sides of the game by making Darwin somewhat free (somewhat=not Free, as my English prof would say [like saying one is ”kinda pregnant’]) but closing their Aqua interface. To their credit, they have provided GCC optimizations, although their contribution to Konqueror leaves a lot to be desired. <http://www.kdedevelopers.org/node/1001>
Nvidia and Broadcom refuse to help the Free Source community (specs for community written acceleration support, and Free Airport Extreme drivers). We ask that you respect their wishes and not purchase their equipment.
All proprietary brand names are the property of their respective owners.
LEFT TO DO:
Gnu-Linux, as noted from leaked M$ memos, stands to replace M$ as a commercial grade alternative.
BSD are of a university lineage and thus benefit from years of research and real world use.
What is Gnu?
What is Linux?
What is Gnu-Linux
What is BSD? FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, DragonFlyBSD, MirBSD?
What is GPL? BSD license?
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