The GNU Operating System
GNU Operating System
I especially promote the GNU Operating System, which began to be developed by the GNU Project since 1985. GNU is a recursive acroynm which stands for "GNU's Not Unix", a product of the mind of its founder Richard Stallman. He wanted to create a free operating system which would serve as a replacement for Unix, a proprietary operating system. A free system would let people copy it, modify it, change it, and redistribute it or sold in original or modified form. This is the operating system I use, but without a component of the GNU system called the GNU Hurd, the kernel. I use instead a more developed and supported kernel called Linux.
Linux is the kernel being developed by the Linux Foundation, and began to be written in 1991 by Linus Torvalds, who released it under the GNU General Public License v. 2.0. Thanks to his kernel, the last missing part of the GNU system was filled. This created the GNU/Linux Operating System, which too many times has been misnamed "Linux".
Due to the fact that the current Linux kernel has proprietary blobs in it for it to interact with certain hardware, those who promote a completely free Linux version for a GNU/Linux operating system have created Linux Libre, a completely free kernel available under the GNU General Public License v. 2.0.
Completely Free GNU/Linux Distributions
gNewSense: This is a GNU/Linux distribution sponsored by the Free Software Foundation, and is true to creating a free operating system, excluding any kind of proprietary software, which sometimes can be found in other GNU/Linux distributions. It is based on Ubuntu and Debian GNU/Linux. Like Knoppix, it also has a live CD available for people who do not wish to install it, but want to explore it. This live CD also offers people the opportunity to install it if they wish to do so. They also provide the means so that other people can create their own GNU/Linux distributions. It uses Linux Libre as its default kernel.
|Kongoni: This is a completely free GNU/Linux distribution, approved by the Free Software Foundation, based on Slackware. The word "Kongoni" is the Shona word for "Gnu", and its purpose is to provide a completely free operating system. It includes an installer, a KISS (Kongoni Integrated Setup System) which is an easy tool for configuration tasks, and PIG (Post Installation GUI) which is their tool for installing and managing programs. They only provide software whose licenses are approved by the Free Software Foundation. All of their releases are named after great philosophers: Aristotle, Nietzsche, and so on. Since many of the software patents used in codecs currently used in video and audio do not apply to the Zaire, they do provide these codecs. It only uses Linux Libre as their kernel.|
Other 100% Free GNU/Linux Distributions:
Other GNU/Linux Distributions
|Linux Mint: Even when this GNU/Linux distribution is derived from Ubuntu, it is increasingly becoming more popular. The reason for its popularity has to do with the fact that it tries to be very user-friendly. It is beautiful, attractive, and even more practical than Ubuntu in many aspects. For instance, its GNOME version includes an advanced Mint Menu, which contains the favorite programs the user most like. It can be easily customizable, and it is practically compatible with Ubuntu packages, even to the point of being able to add Ubuntu's PPAs. If you are a beginner, this is the GNU/Linux distribution I recommend you.|
|Ubuntu: This is perhaps the most popular GNU/Linux distribution to date. It is based on Debian GNU/Linux, and it is developed by a company called Canonical Limited. This is the operating system that I recommend for beginners. It is very well made, it is attractive, highly reliable, and user-friendly. I prefer the Ubuntu based distribution, Kubuntu, in my computer. Recently, Canonical created Unity as its default desktop environment, which I like very much. I do not recommend it yet, since it is in the very early stages; I agree with many reviewers regarding the fact that it is still beta quality. Thank goodness, though, you can choose "Ubuntu Classic" when logging in, and use GNOME as your default environment.|
|Fedora: After Ubuntu, this is the most popular GNU/Linux distribution to date. Its code began to be developed as the very renowned and popular Red Hat distribution. Today, the code is being developed by the Fedora community, sponsored by Red Hat, Inc. It uses RPM (Red Hat-Package-Manager) as their way to install binaries of software available to its system. This is another GNU/Linux distribution I recommend for beginners. It is attractive, and generally user-friendly.|
|Knoppix: This is a very popular GNU/Linux distribution, based on Debian GNU/Linux, which has the peculiarity of being the operating system that is completely loaded from the CD or DVD. It needs not be installed in the hard drive (and I don't recommend doing so). Knoppix is excellent for two things: (1) for people to experiment with GNU/Linux and explore it without having to install it in the hard drive; (2) it can be used as a very powerful tool to access the hard drives, or problem-solving without loading from the hard drive. It uses LXDE as its basic desktop interface.|
*BSD Operating Systems
|FreeBSD is, after GNU/Linux, the most popular Unix-like free operating system, which was developed in 1993 from the original BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution). Unlike GNU/Linux, it is not an operating system with a kernel external to the project. Although it uses much of GNU components and other popular programs, it can be considered wholly as an operating system. FreeBSD is very stable, some argue that it is even much better and more reliable than GNU/Linux, and it uses much of the programs created for GNU/Linux. What has made this operating system so great is the use of the FreeBSD Ports, a package management system that lets FreeBSD download and install in its system. Its downside is that it does not have as much support as many GNU/Linux distributions.|
|PC-BSD is a user-friendly version of FreeBSD. Unlike other BSD systems, it is easy to install and to use. It's default desktop environment is KDE SC. If you really wish to get into BSD systems, you should install this operating system. The only disadvantage is that unlike GNU/Linux systems, if you try to use other desktop environments such as GNOME or Xfce, it does not work as well, because it is built with KDE in mind.|
Other *BSD Systems:
Other Cool Operating Systems
Rockbox is a free operating system that was designed for digital audio players (DAPs), and it is released under the GNU General Public License. it was first implemented on the Archos Studio DAP, and it gradually evolved so that it was implemented in iPods and other hard ware. It does not uninstall the previous operating system, nor does it delete the songs already present in the DAP. Instead, it operates above the proprietary software system. The proprietary system won't play any role whatsoever in the interaction with the hardware. It plays MP3s, AAC, OggVorbis (my preferred format), WAV, AC3, FLAC, among others. It is easier to uninstall than it is to install, so if for any reason you don't like it, you won't have any problems taking it out of your DAP. Rockbox has much support among the free software community, and looks very promising.
|Recently, I've been surprised at the degree that people do not know that Android is free and open source software. This is the operating system currently developed by Google for portable phones. First, it uses Linux as its kernel in a modified manner. The rest of the code has been released under the Apache 2.0 license, which is a free license. It has been amazingly successful in the market, and millions of people around the world use it. Its browser also uses WebKit layout engine, which has become very popular among web browsers today, which also happens to be free software. It also supports open media formats such as WebM, OggVorbis, and PNG. This is the reason why I feel that phones with this operating system are far more attractive in terms of diversity of formats its supports, than the case of the iPhones or those phones which use a version of Microsoft's Windows. The only downside of Android (and my personal concern) is that 80% of the apps available for it are proprietary.|