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The Linux kernel is an example of software licensed under GNU (GNU is an acronym that stands for GNU's not Unix). The GNU Project actually began in 1984 to develop an open source operating system, with the result being Linux. The GNU licensing strategy means that no one actually owns Linux (or more appropriately GNU/Linux), but anyone can use the source code to develop his own distributions and tools (as already discussed). The GNU Project's key sponsor is the Free Software Foundation (FSF).
GNU software is not restricted to the Linux platform. Another example of GNU licensed software is OpenOffice.org, which is a productivity suite similar to Microsoft Office. OpenOffice.org is available for the Linux platform, but it is also available for other platforms. There is actually a version that runs in the Windows environment. We will discuss OpenOffice.org in more detail in later chapters in this book.
Other tools available for the Linux environment, such as the GNOME desktop and the Mozilla Firefox web browser, are also licensed under GNU. The possibilities provided by GNU have led to the creation of many applications and other tools that are readily available to users worldwide. It has also helped to build an operating system platform that has great promise and flexibility as developers expand and fine-tune the software available for Linux systems.
Because Linux and many software programs that run in the Linux environment are licensed under GNU, it appears that Linux is really freeware. But that depends on the distribution. You can download many Linux distributions for free. However, to take advantage of proprietary software tools and other services, such as easy system updates, software media (receiving the distribution on CD or DVD), and support, it is necessary to purchase a particular distribution such as NLD. For more about GNU and the Free Software Foundation see http://www.GNU.org.
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