There have been two directly opposing movements since the dawn of human civilization. The first movement felt that any information should be openly shared with the general community. The continuous development of tools and machinery is a direct result of this sharing. On the other side are the believers in ownership of ideas, and “intellectual property rights”. While honors have been more or less equally shared between the two camps, it must be admitted that the believers in proprietary rights have made most money. But the battle between the two concepts has plagued many of our best inventions, by impeding progress. History seems to be repeating itself, in the world of digital computing. Open Source Operating Systems versus Proprietary Operating Systems is the subject of discussion in this review.


The FSM (Free Source Movement) was not necessarily a movement to make Operating Systems “free” of any cost or price, though that was also a part of it. The main battle was the search for an “Open Source” computing/programming language, which would disclose the code to users to make any changes they needed to make to achieve their objectives. In 1971, young Richard Stallman joined the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab, aiming to make significant contribution to the development of computing platforms. But by the early 80’s, the bunch of gifted developers and scientists who were at the Lab had left for greener pastures in the private industry, and the Lab was extinct. But Stallman persisted in his dream, and in 1984, started his GNU Project. In 1985, the FSF (Free Software Foundation) was launched. FSF declared its aim as giving the Users the freedom to do the following:

  • Change or modify software as they, the Users, desire or need.
  • Update copies, free of charge or for a token price.
  • Have the freedom to distribute the versions created by them, for the benefit of the whole Community.
  • Duplicate UNIX OS such that a new system would allow them to have total control of the project.

Stallman, by the 90’s, had introduced the concept of “copyleft”, which was a follow up on “copyright”. In this format, the program was first copyrighted, then terms added to make distribution, reuse, change and modification, free. This he called “copyleft”, and to this we owe the genesis of Open Source Operating Systems.

The Open Source

In 1998, Netscape released the Mozilla Project. Eric Raymond led a group of free-thinking scientists and programmers in Palo Alto to choose a suitably apt name for the Movement and its free product. Long discussions ensued, until finally Christine Peterson suggested “Open Source”, which was universally accepted. Then, finally, the first truly Open Source computing language was launched. The great Finnish American inventor Linus Torvalds came up with Linux.


In 1999, the young Linus Torvalds and Red Hat released Linux, the first successful Open Source Operating System, after years of dedicated research. It was to be the parent and progenitor of the triumphant marchers of Freedom in the Digital world. While still a student at the University of Helsinki, Torvalds had started developing Linux, a system similar to MINIX, a UNIX operating system. The Industry now began to take interest in the Open Source project, with IBM investing US$1 Billion in Linux. In 2000, Microsystems developed, and disclosed the source code of its latest platform, StarOffice Suite. The Open Source Movement was on its way.

At the heart of Linux is the Kernel. The Linux Kernel is at the core on the Linux Operating System. It is the layer that interfaces the Applications with the Hardware. In other words it acts as the intermediary. But other components are also necessary, in addition to the Kernel, to create a useful and effective OS. These components may include Graphical User Interfaces, System Libraries, Web Browsers, Email Utilities and other Programs. When Torvalds wanted to install the UNIX OS on his computer (that was the research tool at universities in those days), he found that the least expensive UNIX available was for about US$5000. This research led to the development of the Linux and Linux Kernel. Working with over a hundred developers, Linus introduced Version 1.0 of the Linux Kernel in March 1994. Linux is not an UNIX derivative, and it was written from scratch. Since then, Linux distributions have become the most numerous OSs in the world. It is at the heart of some of the most popular Linux distributions, such as, Debian, UBUNTU, Fedora, FLES (SuSE Linux Enterprise Server), OpenSuSE, and Linux Mint.

The most popular OS for Smart Phones is Android. Apart from iOS, which it leaves far behind, Android has no other competitor in the Smart Phone world (even Microsoft Windows). Android is fully derived from Linux, and is an Open Source Operating Systems.…