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Lesson 3Introduction to Red Hat Linux and the General Public License
ObjectiveExplain the origin of Red Hat Linux and the Open Source Software Movement

Red Hat Linux and the General Public License

In order to fully appreciate Linux and your developing capabilities as a Linux administrator, it is important you know where and how Linux relates to other operating systems. For this reason, this lesson focuses on the potential of Linux, how Red Hat came to be, and why the role of the Free Software Foundation, Open Source Software(OSS), and the GNU General Public License (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.
Linus 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 Linus' 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 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.


(Open Source Software) 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. They believe that the free discourse of ideas holds the greatest potential for business and human development.
Red Hat introduced their 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 ISPs 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, they act 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 nontechnical users. This has been accomplished with both the GNOME and KDE desktop environment efforts. These projects make the Linux desktop more easily configurable, 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 for this course will be discussed.