1.1 Fundamentally, why Linux?

If you truly enjoy working with computers, Linux is the operating system of your dreams. It is more fun than any other computer operating system around. Linux is a computer hobbyist's paradise.

However, the reason why Linux is truly revolutionary is that it is Open Software. Our science and technology work owing to the free availability of information, peer review, and the capabilities to pick up ideas and modify or extend. Open Software is an implementation of the scientific method into the field of software development. The freedom to pick-up, modify and extend, that comes with the Linux licence, offers a promise that the software development under Linux licence will continue in the way that science does.

The making of horseshoes, good glass, or measuring time were once closely guarded trade secrets. Science and technology exploded 500 years ago thanks to the sharing of knowledge by the means of printing, and thus breaking the monopoly of the few on the know-how. Why were the science and technology relatively stagnant before the printing era? Because the "trade secret" approach to growth has its limits: the development continues until the rate of learning equals the rate of forgetting. Moving the know-how to the public domain (printed on paper) shifted the position of the equilibrium to a higher level, which, after 500 years of turbulent development, we are still to achieve. For interested, I can present equations, borrowed from chemical equilibrium field, that describe this in a more formal way. The main point is that printing increased the audience, and allowed passing information across space and time.

In the early days of printing, many of those who dared to share were assassinated for revealing "trade secrets." Linux is for the computer age what Gutenberg was for writing. Hopefully there will be no assassinations this time :-) . Linux does clash, violently at times, with those who claim the "ownership" of information, trying to push time back 500 years.

Open Source Linux has also implications for computer security. Imagine a plane based on secret "scientific laws", built to an unreviewed design, a plane at internals of which nobody but the manufacturer could inspect. Would you believe that this unique, completely proprietary plane, obviously built by clever and well-financed marketers in their basement, is any safer than one built in the open world, under the eyes of thousands of critical engineers and curious hobbyists with no association to the manufacturer? Then why would you trust a secret computer program? Open-source Linux is ideally suited for a mission-critical application--its security and power are based on robust solutions which are reviewed with no restrictions whatsoever, and continuously improved upon.



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