What is the GNU project?
GNU (pronounced as two syllables with a hard g, "ga new") is a recursive acronym standing for "GNU's not Unix". The first goal of the project, initiated for the Free Software Foundation by Richard Stallman, was to produce a fully functional Unix-compatible operating system completely free of copyrighted code.
Although GNU was proposed in the mid-eighties, it was not until the
early nineties that it became a reality. Before that time, many GNU
utilities (such as
Emacs) were developed, but GNU itself was not complete.
Originally, the GNU Hurd, a highly modular kernel based on
Mach, was central to the operating system. However, Hurd
was unstable and Mach itself was dependent on proprietary code.
Fortunately, GNU found a replacement in Linux, a Unix-like
kernel written from scratch by Linus Torvalds.
Because many are superior to their proprietary counterparts, GNU tools
have spread to other (frequently non-free) operating systems,
including most Unix-based systems. Popular packages include a
g++), a debugger (
gas), an editor (Emacs), a shell
bash), a PostScript-like file system
(GhostScript), a compressor (GNU Zip), an environment for the X
Window System (GNOME), most Unix file utilities, and much more.
GNU programs are free in the sense that there are no copyrights, but programs are protected by the GPL (GNU General Public License). Programs are typically available via FTP or by paying a nominal fee to the GNU project to cover duplication and postage costs.
For more information on the current status of the GNU project, visit the GNU web page at: http://www.gnu.org/
At Indiana University, for personal or departmental Linux or Unix systems support, see At IU, how do I get support for Linux or Unix?
Last modified on May 13, 2009.