This book is Copyright © 2013 Russell James
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".
It's said that pattern recognition is a sign of intelligence. If true, computers are intelligent. Judging just from their ability to recognize patterns, theirs is, at least in that manner, superior to our own. It may be true they aren't (yet) as good at subtlety and nuance, it can't be denied that some of their "intellectual" abilities, like pattern recognition and numbers crunching are far greater than ours. It could be said that computers represent our attempt to recreate our own minds. Given their capacity for intelligence, controlling them is extremely important.
Computers are controlled through programming. The most powerful computing system is merely a chunk of metal without programming. The programs written to manage computers are called operating systems. An operating system is to a computer what culture is to us. It is the context that enables and/or limits their capabilities. However, computer evolution develops far more rapidly than human so there is a corresponding need to ensure that we can control these devices and their evolution.
But who is "we." Often the term is used to mean "establishment elites" or those that make the big decisions for all of us. This usually means those that have figured a way to make money from doing something. All to often this means large corporations speak for us. One thing history has taught, over and over again, is that this is never a good thing.
GNU is an operating system developed with "freedom" in mind. This ensures that the source code is available for viewing by all. Meaning anyone (with the technical ability) can read the code that is controlling our computing devices. If for no other reason, this makes it vital to understand the GNU story.
This book will attempt to tell that story, in a way, that will build upon the above to illustrate why the GNU system is so important. It won't be merely a story of software, but of the personalities involved in creating that software, as well as their passions, dreams, theories, and the battles fought to establish and/or advance them.
Ed. note: Please remember, this is a rough draft and we'd really appreciate if you'd give us feedback in the comments section below.