The culture of free software

If you want to repackage and resell Linux software, the original GNU agreement must be maintained with the software, as outlined in this book excerpt.

I would be remiss to not say something about the culture of free software development from which Linux has thrived and will continue to thrive. The copyright for Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux systems is covered under the GNU public license. That license, which most free software falls under, provides the following:

  • Author rights -- The original author retains the rights to his or her software.

  • Free distribution -- People can use the GNU software in their own software, changing and redistributing it as they please. They do, however, have to include the source code with their distribution (or make it easily available).

  • Copyright maintained -- Even if you were to repackage and resell the software, the original GNU agreement must be maintained with the software. This means that all future recipients of the software must have the opportunity to change the source code, just as you did.

It is important to remember that there is no warranty on GNU software. If something goes wrong, the original developer of the software has no obligation to fix the problem. However, the Linux culture has provided resources for that event. Experts on the Internet can help you iron out your problems, or you can access one of the many Linux newsgroups or forums to read how others have dealt with their problems and to post your own questions about how to fix yours. Chances are that someone will know what to do -- maybe even going so far as to provide the software or configuration file you need.

NOTE: The GNU project uses the term free software to describe the software that is covered by the GNU license. Many Linux proponents tend to use the term open source software to describe software. Although source code availability is part of the GNU license, the GNU project claims that software defined as open source is not the same as free software because it can encompass semi-free programs and even some proprietary programs. See for a description of open-source software.


Linux is a free computer operating system that was created by Linus Torvalds in 1991 and has grown from contributions from software developers all over the world. Fedora Core and Red Hat Enterprise versions of Red Hat Linux are distributions of Linux that package together the software needed to run Linux and make it easier to install and use.

This book specifically describes Fedora Core 5, a complete version of which is included on the DVD that comes with this book, as well as Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4. Fedora Core includes cutting-edge Linux technology that is slated for inclusion in commercial Red Hat Linux systems. Features in Fedora Core 5 include a simplified installation procedure, RPM Package Management (RPM) tools for managing the software, and easy-to-use GNOME and KDE desktop environments. You can get Fedora Core from the Internet or from distributions that come with books such as this one.

Linux is based on a culture of free exchange of software. Linux's roots are based in the UNIX operating system. UNIX provided most of the framework that was used to create Linux. That framework came from the POSIX standard, the System V Interface Definition, and the Berkeley Software Distribution, pieces of which have all found their way into Linux. Now the Linux Standard Base creates the standards to provide consistency among Linux distributions.

Chapter table of contents

This is an excerpt from Chapter 1, 'An Overview of Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux,' from the book Fedora 5 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 Bible by Christopher Negus and courtesy of Wiley.

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