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Some final thoughts

Linux is obsolete.

Andrew Tanenbaum

Portability

One of the many reasons why Linux has been successful is that it could use the massive code base of well written Unix tools and applications, such as the FSF's GNU tools, MIT's X-11, BSD software, Knuth's TeX and Larry Wall's Perl.

I would argue that Linux developers have a responsibility to maintain that tradition of well-written code that is easy to port to new platforms.

This helps developers and users on other Unix systems, such as FreeBSD and GNU Hurd, and also ensures the lifespan of software well after Linux has become obsolete, replaced by some other whizbang operating system.

Yes! It is true... Linux will be obsolete one day. Sorry to rain on your parade.

Taking portability into account from the start of the software cycle makes it far easier to implement than a retro-fit months or years later, and porting tools such as autoconf makes it so simple and straightforward to create readily-ported source, that it should be a crime to not make software portable!


Licences

All software is covered by some form of licensing agreement between the author and the user, detailing the rights of both the author and the user of the software.

The licence may be released into the public domain, where by the author has basically relinquished all rights to the source, or it may be commercially licenced, or released under some form of "open source" licence, such as the GPL, LGPL, BSD, MIT, XFree, Artistic, Qt or NPL licences.

Each licence has particular merits and applications, with most code being released under the GPL or BSD licences. It is important that authors understand the licences available and make the appropriate selection (or modification) of a licence.

The key differences

Is it possible to list the key differences in some of the more relevant licences in one sentence?

Be warned - the following is meant as a very simplistic guide...

The public domain
You can do anything you want with the source code - the original author has placed no restrictions upon usage

BSD
Preserve the copyright and you can use the code commercially without requiring any disclosure of your source code

GPL
You can use the code commercially, but the source must be available

LGPL
You can link against the library code without requiring the disclosure of your source code

Artistic
Perl's licence - "a kinder and gentler" GNU licence that is less restrictive of commercial use

Helping the free software movement

Don't make the mistake of thinking that you can only contribute to Linux and other free software projects by writing some stunning new program. There are vast numbers of people around the world who contribute by:


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