Tag Archives: MIT

Richard Stallman

2 Feb

Stallman was born in 1953 in New York City. His first experience with computers was in high school at the IBM New York Scientific Center. He was hired for the summer to write a numerical analysis program in Fortran.  Stallman spent the summer after his high-school graduation writing another program, a preprocessor for the PL/I programming language on the IBM System/360.Stallman was also a volunteer laboratory assistant in the biology department at Rockefeller University.In his first year at Harvard University, Stallman was known for his strong performance in Math 55. In 1971 he became a programmer at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.He joined the group of hackers at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

As a hacker in MIT’s AI laboratory, Stallman worked on software projects like TECO, Emacs, and the Lisp machine Operating System. He would become an ardent critic of restricted computer access in the lab, which at that time was funded primarily by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

FOR WANT OF A PRINTER

Richard Stallman  is considered to be the founding father of free software. He began thinking about this while he was working in the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT. The lab used a printer that often broke down, but because the lab workers had the source code of the printer’s driver  at their disposal, they were able to modify the program so that the printer would send an error message to everyone’s workstation every time it broke down and whoever was available would go the the printer room and fix the problem. One day the lab bought a new, more reliable printer from Xerox. Unfortunately, the source code of the printer driver was not included in the package, and they were unable to put in place the same kind of maintenance set-up they had used before. Richard Stallman later heard that another scientific laboratory had a copy of the source code of the Xerox driver. When he tried to obtain it, he was told that the lab had agreed to keep the source code to themseves and not to make it available to anyone else. Stallman was quite offended by this selfish attitude, and it was then that he became aware of the dangers of a proprietary system.

THE GNU PROJECT

In 1985, Stallman published the GNU Manifesto, which outlined his motivation for creating a free operating system called GNU, which would be compatible with Unix.  The name GNU is a recursive acronym for “GNU’s Not Unix.” In 1984, Stallman started the influential GNU project to develop a free operating system called GNU.In February 1984, Stallman quit his job at MIT to work full-time on the GNU project,  so that MIT would not be able to claim the copyright on the GNU software, but the university was kind enough to let him use their computers. In 1985, Stallman founded the Free Software Foundation as a tax-exempt charity for development of free software. Knowing full well that it is impossible to use a computer without an operating system, it became clear that the first project of the foundation should be to put together a complete and free operating system,The GNU Project!!  The operating system would be compatible with Unix, yet different.

In 1989 the first program-independent GNU General Public License (GPL) was released. By then, much of the GNU system had been completed. Stallman was responsible for contributing many necessary tools, including a text editor , compiler , debugger , and a build automator . The notable exception was a kernel. In 1990, members of the GNU project began a kernel called GNU Hurd, which has yet to achieve the maturity level required for widespread usage.

PERSONAL LIFE AND ACTIVISM

Stallman has devoted the bulk of his life’s energies to political and software activism. Stallman has written many essays on software freedom and since the early 1990s. In 1999, Stallman called for development of a free on-line encyclopedia through the means of inviting the public to contribute articles.The resulting GNUPedia was eventually retired in favour of the emerging Wikipedia, which had similar aims and was enjoying greater success.

Stallman has participated in protests about software patents,DRM,and proprietary software. Protesting against proprietary software in April 2006, Stallman held a “Don’t buy from ATI, enemy of your freedom” placard at a speech by an ATI representative in the building where Stallman works, resulting in the police being called.ATI has since merged with AMD Corporation and has taken steps to make their hardware documentation available for use by the free software community. Stallman has also helped and supported the International Music Score Library Project in getting back online, after it had been taken down on October 19, 2007 following a cease and desist letter from Universal Edition.

After the death of Steve Jobs, Stallman wrote the following:

“Steve Jobs, the pioneer of the computer as a jail made cool, designed to sever fools from their freedom, has died.As Chicago Mayor Harold Washington said of the corrupt former Mayor Daley, “I’m not glad he’s dead, but I’m glad he’s gone.” Nobody deserves to have to die – not Jobs, not Mr. Bill, not even people guilty of bigger evils than theirs. But we all deserve the end of Jobs’ malign influence on people’s computing.Unfortunately, that influence continues despite his absence. We can only hope his successors, as they attempt to carry on his legacy, will be less effective.”

Richard Stallman, , believes that companies like Facebook and Google aren’t helping their users, but are in fact doing the exact opposite because of how they run their social networks. In an interview with RT, he briefly criticized both Facebook and Google+, but then underlined how the former has worse practices than the latter.“Facebook does massive surveillance,” Stallman continued. “If there is a Like button in a page, Facebook knows who visited that page. And it can get IP address of the computer visiting the page even if the person is not a Facebook user. So you visit several pages that have Like buttons and Facebook knows that you visited all of those, even if it doesn’t really know who you are.”You can watch the Stallman interview, which discusses many issues beyond Facebook and Google+, below.

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A Revolution In Software World – FOSS (Free and Open Source Software)

30 Jan

First Phase – The Dark Age/Closed Source Companies

Between 1960 – 1970’s there were no open source software program in the cyber world. Close source companies had been ruling the software world. What we aim to do in this artical is to show you  some of the important, mainframe operating systems in these years.

On April 7, 1964 IBM announced the first computer system family, the IBM System/360. Sold between 1964 and 1978, it was the first family of computers designed to cover the complete range of applications, from small to large, both commercial and scientific. The operating system used microcode to implement the instruction set, which featured 8-bit byte addressing and binary, decimal and floating-point calculations. The 360s were extremely successful in the market, allowing customers to purchase a smaller system with the knowledge they would always be able to migrate upward if their needs grew, without reprogramming of application software.

The TOPS-10 System (Timesharing / Total OPerating System) was a computer operating system from Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) for the PDP-10 (or DECsystem-10) mainframe computer launched in 1967.

RSTS is a multi-user time-sharing operating system, developed by Digital Equipment Corporation (“DEC”), (now part of Hewlett Packard) for the PDP-11 series of 16-bit minicomputers. The first version of RSTS (RSTS-11, Version 1) was implemented in 1970 by DEC software engineers that developed the TSS-8 time-sharing operating system for the PDP-8. The last version of RSTS (RSTS/E, Version 10.1) was released in September 1992. RSTS-11 and RSTS/E are usually referred to just as “RSTS” and this article will generally use the shorter form.

General Comprehensive Operating System (GCOS) is a family of operating systems oriented toward mainframe computers. The original version of GCOS was developed by General Electric from 1962; originally called GECOS (the General Electric Comprehensive Operating Supervisor). The operating system is still used today in its most recent version (GCOS on servers and mainframes produced by Honeywell and Groupe Bull, primarily through emulation, to provide continuity with legacy mainframe environments.
Between 1960-1970’s Early operating systems were very diverse, with each vendor or customer producing one or more operating systems specific to their particular mainframe computer. Every operating system, even from the same vendor, could have radically different models of commands, operating procedures, and such facilities as debugging aids. Typically, each time the manufacturer brought out a new machine, there would be a new operating system, and most applications would have to be manually adjusted, recompiled, and retested.

The Second Phase – The Unix Act

A revolutionary alteration occured in software history in 1970. Peter Neumann coined the project name Unics (Uniplexed Information and Computing Service) as a wordplay on Multics, (Multiplexing Information and Computer Services).Unics could eventually support multiple simultaneous users.
In 1974, an American multinational telecommunications corporation (AT&T) released Unix,a multitasking, multiuser computer operating system, free of charge.

The Open Group, an industry standards union owns the UNIX trademark. Only systems fully compliant with and certified according to the Single UNIX Specification are qualified to use the trademark. However, the term Unix is often used informally to denote any operating system that closely resembles the trademarked system.

The Third Phase- Bill Gates’ Open Letter To Hobbyists

The Open Letter to Hobbyists was an open letter written by Bill Gates, to early personal computer hobbyists. In his letter, Gates expresses dismay at the rampant copyright infringement taking place in the hobbyist community, particularly with regard to his company’s software. In his letter Gates asserted that “software piracy” was a crime and would contribute to the downfall of quality software.

Bill Gates,  co-founder of Microsoft , complaints in his letter about computer hobbyists “stealing software” by copying and distributing Microsoft’s version of BASIC. His accusation is quite direct. He says: ” As the majority of hobbyists must be aware, most of you steal your software”

In the same letter he adds; “Who can afford to do professional work for nothing? What hobbyist can put 3-man years into programming, finding all bugs, documenting his product and distribute for free?” 

The answers is quite obvious:

THE OPEN SOURCE COMMUNITY!

Through the open source logic and its communities, professional and hobbyist developers spend countless hours jointly programming, finding all bugs, documenting products which belong to everyone and are distributed for free.

Even back then in 1976, there was a growing community of programmers eager to share their code with each other for free and benefit from the work of others as others benefit from theirs.

You can read the whole letter in here.

The Fourth Phase-  A milestone / The Xerox and  R. Stallman

It all started with a paper jam. It was 1980 and the Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT had received an elegant new printer from Xerox. The printer, however, had an unfortunate tendency to jam, causing print jobs to pile up and nothing to get printed until someone happened to notice and fix the jam. For Richard Stallman, one of the programmers at the AI Lab, this wasn’t such a big deal. With their previous printer, Stallman had simply changed the printer driver to detect whether the printer was jammed and, if it was, to notify anyone who had sent it a print job. “If you got that message, you couldn’t assume somebody else would fix it,” Stallman later recalled. “You had to go to the printer. A minute or two after the printer got in trouble, the two or three people who got messages arrive to fix the machine. Of those two or three people, one of them, at least, would usually know how to fix the problem.” But the Xerox printer was different: Xerox hadn’t provided the lab with the source code to their printer drivers.

There was no way for Stallman to add this new functionality to the driver. When Stallman asked Xerox for the code, they refused to provide it, insisting that it was an important trade secret for their business. And when Stallman found a student at Carnegie Mellon who had been given access to the software, that student also refused to provide a copy, saying he’d signed a contract with Xerox not to share it. Stallman was outraged. Computer software was supposed to be a tool to serve people; that’s why he and his labmates spent their time writing software. And yet, through a combination of greed and legal restrictions, people were forced to suffer because they were prevented from improving these tools.Stallman wanted to ensure no one else would be forced to suffer in this way; he wanted to build a computer system based around principles of freedom. In 1984 he quit his job and announced the GNU project.

The Fifth Phase- The GNU Manifesto

The GNU Manifesto was written by Richard Stallman and published in March 1985 in Dr. Dobb’s Journal of Software Tools as an explanation and definition of the goals of the GNU Project, and to call for participation and support. It is held in high regard within the free software movement as a fundamental philosophical source. The full text is included with GNU software such as Emacs, and is available on the web.

The GNU Manifesto begins by outlining the goal of the project GNU, which stands for GNU’s Not Unix. The current contents of GNU at the time of writing are then described and detailed. Richard Stallman then goes into an explanation of why it is important that they complete this project. The reason he explains is based on Unix becoming a proprietary software. It then explains how people can contribute to the project, and also why computer users will benefit from the project. A large part of the GNU Manifesto is also focused on rebutting possible objections to GNU’s goals. Objections described here include the programmer’s need to make a living, the issue of advertising/distributing free software, and the perceived need for monetary incentive. Most of this text explains how the free software philosophy works, and why it would be a good choice for the technology industry to follow.

You can read the whole manifesto in here

The Sixth Phase- Free Software Foundation (FSF)

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is a non-profit corporation founded by Richard Stallman on 4 October 1985 to support the free software movement, a copyleft-based movement which aims to promote the universal freedom to create, distribute and modify computer software.

The free software movement was started in 1983 by computer scientist Richard M. Stallman, when he launched a project called GNU, which stands for “GNU is Not UNIX” There are now many variants or ‘distributions’ of this GNU operating system using the kernel Linux. GNU/Linux distributions that are 100% free software; in other words, entirely freedom-respecting., to provide a replacement for the UNIX operating system—a replacement that would respect the freedoms of those using it. Then in 1985, Stallman started the Free Software Foundation, a nonprofit with the mission of advocating and educating on behalf of computer users around the world.The FSF is incorporated in Massachusetts, USA.

The Seventh Phase-The Linux Act 

In the year 1991 Linus Tornvalds released Linux Kernel as freel modifiale code.The Linux kernel is released under the GNU General Public License version 2 (GPLv2), and is developed by contributors worldwide.  Linux rapidly accumulated developers and users who adapted code from other free software projects for use with the new operating system.  The Linux kernel has received contributions from thousands of programmers. Many Linux distributions have been released based upon the Linux kernel.

The Eight Base- Liberty or Death
By 1990, it was becoming apparent that a less restrictive license would be strategically useful for the C library and for software libraries that essentially did the job of existing proprietary ones; when version 2 of the GPL (GPLv2) was released in June 1991, therefore, a second license — the Library General Public License — was introduced at the same time and numbered with version 2 to show that both were complementary. The version numbers diverged in 1999 when version 2.1 of the LGPL was released, which renamed it the GNU Lesser General Public License to reflect its place in the philosophy.
According to Richard Stallman, the major change in GPLv2 was the “Liberty or Death” clause. By this he means that, if somebody has restrictions imposed that prevent him or her from distributing GPL-covered software in a way that respects other users’  freedom (for example, if a legal ruling states that he or she can only distribute the software in binary form), he or she cannot distribute it at all. The hope is, that this will make it less tempting for companies to use patent threats to require a fee from the free software developers.
The Ninth Base-VA Linux Founded
VA Research was founded in November 1993 by Stanford graduate student Larry Augustin and James Vera. Augustin was a Stanford colleague of Jerry Yang and David Filo, the founders of Yahoo. VA Research built and sold personal computer systems with the Linux operating system installed, as an alternative to more expensive Unix workstations available at the time. Atthe time they started operations,  they were one of the first computer vendors to offer Linux as a pre-installed operating system. VA began porting Linux to the new IA-64 processor architecture in earnest. VA had also begun to make plans to change its name to VA Linux Systems and conduct an initial public offering of its stock.
The Tenth Base-The Apache Plan
The Apache Software Foundation is a decentralized community of developers. The software they produce is distributed under the terms of theApache License and is therefore free and open source software (FOSS)Apache is developed and maintained by an open community of developers under the auspices of the Apache Software Foundation. The application is available for a wide variety of operating systems, including Unix, FreeBSD, Linux, Solaris, Novell NetWare, AmigaOS, Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, OS/2, TPF, and eComStation. Released under the Apache License, Apache is open-source software. Apache was originally based on NCSA HTTPd code. The NCSA code has since been removed from Apache, due to a rewrite. Since April 1996 Apache has been the most popular HTTP server software in use. As of May 2011 Apache was estimated to serve 63% of allwebsites and 66% of the million busiest.
The Eleventh Phase-The Shot Heard Round The World
In 1997, Eric Raymond released the book, The Cathedral and The Bazaar on why the Linux model works.  The essay’s central thesis is Raymond’s proposition that “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow” (which he terms Linus’ Law): the more widely available the source code is for public testing, scrutiny, and experimentation, the more rapidly all forms of bugs will be discovered. In contrast, Raymond claims that an inordinate amount of time and energy must be spent hunting for bugs in the Cathedral model, since the working version of the code is available only to a few developers.
You can find a Pdf  version of the book at the “Pdf” category in this blog.

The Twelfth Phase- Open Source Revolution

In 1998, Christine Peterson and a group of individuals advocated that the term free software should be replaced by open source software (OSS) as an expression which is less ambiguous and more comfortable for the corporate world. Software developers may want to publish their software with an open source license, so that anybody may also develop the same software or understand its internal functioning.

The Thirteenth Phase-The Hallowen Papers

The first Halloween document, requested by senior vice-president James Allchin for the attention of senior vice-president Paul Maritz and written by Microsoft program manager Vinod Valloppillil, was leaked to Eric Raymond in October 1998, who immediately published an annotated version on his web site. The document contained references to a second memorandum specifically dealing with Linux, and that document, authored by Vinod Valloppillil and Josh Cohen at Microsoft, was also obtained, annotated and published by Raymond. Microsoft has since admitted the documents’ authenticity.

The Fourteenth Phase-The Open Source Revolution

This could be one war that will maybe never end. One that always looks at providing software solutions to business enterprises at the lowest costs possible or at no cost at all — Open Source Software; and there is another which promises the provision of the best-in-the-business software solutions to large organizations and also the promise of a brand name, but at a higher cost (which is considered worth-it, by many firms) – Proprietary Software.

This trend in turn has led to a new debate, says 451 Group analyst Jay Lyman.

“Today’s open source vs. proprietary software debates typically center not on which model is better, as I think there is some general agreement that both have their place,” he says. “Instead, today’s discussion centers on what is open source or not.”