The Culture of Free Software

The Culture of Free Software

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 Red Hat Linux 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 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.


The GNU project uses the term free software to describe the software that is covered by the GNU license. On occasion, you may see the term open-source software being used to describe software. Though 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.

Part IV: Red Hat Linux Network and Server Setup