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The FLOSS Issue

The FLOSS Issue

Welcome to the Free Software/Open Source focus issue of LinuxWorld Magazine! In this issue our goal is to give you a perspective and understanding of the amazing reach and accomplishments of what is becoming known as the Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) social movement.

Many people who are learning about Linux get concerned when they hear that volunteers who aren't paid for their efforts are the ones developing it. In fact, this stereotype is no longer true. A great deal of current work on FLOSS applications (including Linux) is actually done by employees at major corporations such as IBM, Sun Microsystems, Oracle, Computer Associates, and SGI. These companies see it as a cost-effective way to provide applications that are much better than they could build internally on their own as well as a great way to sell more hardware, software, and services to their customers.

Plus, by having employees that are on the development teams for these applications, it allows them a place at the table during the discussions regarding the future directions of the applications. In other words, if IBM developers are contributing to the next generation of Linux, then those developers become members of the team that helps determine what Linux will become.

For more on how and why this development model works, I'd recommend getting a copy of The Cathedral and the Bazaar, by Eric Raymond. In it, Eric provides a simple but effective description of the dynamics behind why this development model works so well.

This issue was originally conceived as a tribute to the 20th anniversary of the founding of the GNU Project by Richard Stallman. Richard was (and still is) motivated by an intense desire for software to be "Free, as in Freedom." The primary issue for Richard is liberty - not price. Richard is a passionate individual whose impact on the landscape of the software industry goes far beyond what most people realize. Among other things, Richard was the original author of both the Emacs editor and the GNU General Public License (or GPL). The GPL is the software license that ensures Linux must remain free software. We were very fortunate to get an interview with Richard for this issue in which he discusses a broad range of topics on the history and future of free software.

We were also extremely fortunate to interview two other people for this issue who have both had a major impact on the FLOSS movement. The first is Tim O'Reilly, who most people know as the founder of O'Reilly & Associates - the computer book publisher with the cool animals on all their book covers. It is arguable that O'Reilly's dedication to publishing books on FLOSS applications such as Linux and Perl is one of the primary reasons that this movement grew out of its infancy. Tim spoke to us about the history of this movement (in which he was a participant in many important events) as well as its future. Tim likes to use the quote, "The future is already here; it's just not evenly distributed" - this interview gives us glimpses into Tim's ideas on how this movement has impacted society and business today as well as what changes it may make possible in the future.

The other interview in this issue is with Eben Moglen, professor of law and legal history at Columbia Law School. Professor Moglen has been general counsel for the Free Software Foundation (which Richard Stallman founded) for many years. As such, Professor Moglen has been deeply involved in many legal aspects related to free software and Linux over the years. In this interview he discusses his opinions on the SCO case as well on the history and future of free software.

We are also proud to showcase a number of other important FLOSS applications and technologies in order to show the breadth and impact they are having across the entire software industry. A great example of this is the article on graphics technologies written by Simon Hayhurst from SGI. SGI is pioneering some serious next-generation graphics applications that are driven by high-end clustered Linux servers. Simon does a great job of showing what an important role FLOSS applications are playing in this ground-breaking work.

LinuxWorld Magazine's own MC Brown (author of over 10 books on Perl, PHP, Python, and other Linux-related topics) also came in this month with a great article summarizing a recent study analyzing the readiness of MySQL for critical, production applications. I think the results here will surprise you.

We hope you'll enjoy and get a lot of value from this issue. We sure had a lot of fun piecing it together. And, as always, thanks for reading!

More Stories By Kevin Bedell

Kevin Bedell, one of the founding editors of Linux.SYS-CON.com, writes and speaks frequently on Linux and open source. He is the director of consulting and training for Black Duck Software.

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