Monday, March 30, 2009

Linux - Who deserves the credit?

Is there one cell that can take full credit for you being alive? Some people may say, YES! The fertilized cell that started the entire process in your mother's womb. It is this analogy that I use to explain the relationship between Linus Torvalds and Linux. Once Linus Torvalds GPL licensed his kernel it allow thousands of kernel developers to build a mature Linux kernel. Today, you can't single out one developer as having the greatest impact. The kernel is developed by hundreds of talented people each experts in their field of development. So not just one developer can be singled out as the main contributor.

Take a step back from the Linux Kernel and realize that this is the case for all open source projects. The most successful ones comes from projects that have hundreds of developers. It is this team work, sharing of the code and battles between developers that makes Linux/GNU software so dynamic and flexible. I have never seen anything so chaotic at a personal level and yet so ordered in its final release code. It is something that a company would quickly repel and summarize as impossible to control. Maybe it is the elimination of control that brings so much beauty to the open source community. It maybe something deeply embedded in nature which makes a community function so efficiently.

Linux is not the majority of the code in a distribution. It is only 2-4MB in size. The rest of the code is the GNU software. The software is what user interact with in a computer. No one interacts with the operating system. The operating system is just a way of managing computer resources like video display, memory modules, SATA harddrive, sound system, etc.. Applications speak to the kernel and ask for the resources it needs. So why is Linux the word used to symbolize everything and not GNU software. I believe that Linux is the only part that can't be removed from the distribution. For example, you can take away Firefox or any group of other application from Linux distribution and it will still be Linux. However, you can't take away Linux from the distributions and still call it Linux. Linux is what binds all the software together.

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