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Lesson 3 Introduction to Red Hat Linux and the GPL
ObjectiveOrigin of Red Hat Linux and Open Source Software movement.

Introduction to Red Hat Linux and the GPL

Explain the origin of Red Hat Linux and the Open Source Software movement

You will find out more about the origins of Linux later on in the course. For now, we will discuss how Red Hat came to be, and why the role of the Free Software Foundation, OSS (lOpen Source Software), and the GNU GPL are so important to the Linux community.

Origins of Linux

As you may know, Linux was first introduced by Linus Torvalds in 1991 as a "free" operating system. Torvalds began development of the Linux kernel while he was a student at Helsinki University, and he continues to maintain it today. Red Hat Software distributes Torvalds' version of the Linux kernel.

GNU General Public License

OSS can be freely seen, modified, and improved by anyone who uses it. Linux was created this way. So was the Internet a technology owned by no one, and to which everyone can contribute. Linux is considered free software, but it is not in the public domain. It adheres to the GNU General Public License (GPL), which says that it can be freely distributed or even sold, but it must always be accompanied by its source code as well as the GNU GPL.


The concepts of free software that costs nothing and free software whose source code everyone can view are often confused. OSS is a more recent phenomenon than free software. As it is currently defined by the GNU GPL, "free" software does not mean it costs nothing. On the contrary, if you sell software covered by this license, you have to make the source code available to the buyer for free (or for the cost of the materials it is shipped on).

How the GPL works

The GPL allows anyone to modify the source code covered by the license, and to distribute derived products as long as the original source is made available. OSS gives users the ability to modify the code to suit their own needs, which is not possible with proprietary software code.
OSS is the reason behind the amazing speed at which Linux development occurs. OSS is extremely flexible. Depending on how it is used, there are zero licensing costs, it has fast bug fixes, and it is rich with feature enhancements.

What is Red Hat Linux?

Red Hat is the largest Open Source company in the world. It believes that the free discourse of ideas holds the greatest potential for business and human development.
Red Hat introduced its comprehensive package-based distribution of Linux and Linux resources in 1994. Since then, Red Hat Linux has grown to be the most popular and widely used Linux distribution. Red Hat Linux and the Apache Web server are especially popular with Internet Service Providers and for other network resources and roles.

The Red Hat distribution

The current Red Hat distribution includes installation and configuration software, the latest version of the Linux kernel, and common utilities and applications.
The Red Hat distribution adds tremendous value to the base Linux components and offers good technical support. Also, because of the large install base of Red Hat Linux systems around the world, Red Hat acts as a standardizing force in the diverse Linux community.
The Red Hat Linux package is available on CD-ROM, and comes with a free copy of the Red Hat Installation Guide. Although Red Hat distributes the same software free via FTP from mirror sites around the globe, the download is extremely time consuming, so most people elect to purchase the CD-ROM.

Linux for the desktop

Recently, there has been a focus on making Linux more functional for non-technical users. This has been accomplished with desktop environment efforts for GNOME and KDE, two easy-to-configure graphical environments available in Linux. These projects make the Linux desktop more accessible, allowing someone who has little experience outside of the Microsoft Windows setting to be comfortable in the Linux environment.
In the next lesson, the prerequisites will be discussed.