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The aim of this report is to outline what exactly are GNU and the free software foundation.

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The aim of this report is to outline what exactly are GNU and the free software foundation.  All research has been carried out on the Internet.  The topics that will help me discuss these subjects are:

  • What are GNU and the Free Software Foundation (FSF)?
  • Brief history of GNU and the Free Software Foundation.
  • Advantages and Disadvantages of using GNU.
  • How can you contribute?


The GNU Project was launched in 1984 to develop an operating system that is similar to UNIX, but this would be free software.  GNU was created so that users can have the freedom to share and improve the software they use on their computers.  GNU is a recursive acronym for ‘GNU’s Not Unix’, it is pronounced “guh-new”.  

The goal of the GNU system was to give users freedom, so terms of distribution were used to prevent the GNU software from being turned into proprietary software.  The method used was called ‘copyleft’.  Copyleft uses the same law as copyright but instead of privatizing software it becomes a mean of keeping software free.  It gives everyone permission to run, copy, modify and distribute modified versions but not permission to add restrictions of their own.

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The term ‘free software’ is more a matter of liberty and not price.  It is more a reference to freedom.  It refers to four kinds of freedom:

  • “The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.”
  • “The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs.  Access to the source code is a precondition for this.”
  • “The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor.”
  • “The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.”  (www.gnu.org)

A program is free software if users have all these freedoms.  This means that anyone is able to redistribute copies, with or without modifications, for free or for a fee to anyone anywhere.  


The GNU project was conceived in 1983, it was thought of as a way of bringing back the cooperative spirit that prevailed in the early days of the computing industry.  This was done by removing the barriers provided by the owners of proprietary software.

In 1971 a man called Richard Stallman who worked at MIT artificial intelligence lab became part of a software sharing community.

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Learning how to use it.Converting from old system can be difficult.


There are numerous ways in which anyone can help the GNU project and the Free Software Foundation.  You can help in announcing what’s going on in free software around the world by writing or translating documents.  Also help translate their WebPages into various other languages.  Help maintain GNU packages, and also write, evaluate and use free software.  Help write documentation for GNU software.  Spread the word about the GNU project and the Free Software Foundation by informing your friends about them and also stress the importance of freedom and community.  The most obvious way to help the organisations would be to make a donation to the FSF, or order manuals, T-Shirts and CD-ROMS.  If not buying them personally convince others to do so.  Selling free software and donating a part of the profits to the FSF would also be a great contribution in helping the development.  If you or your company work supporting or developing free software in some way, you can list yourself or the company in the ‘GNU Service Directory’.  Donations of other things such as hardware or office supplies are another very useful way to help this project.  There are another number of ways to help, these ideas and where to contact if so wished are listed on www.gnu.org/help/help.html.

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