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Free as a bird

Yes, we really have installed and tested fifty different distributions for this issue’s main feature. And yet, it feels like we’ve only scratched the surface. The diversity we found in each distribution is incredible, whether for security, size, design or community support, plus any number of other unique features. Linux is unique. Just look at how many successful distributions they are, all thriving alongside one another. This diversity is a testament to both the ingenuity of the teams responsible and the rights enshrined within the GPL. But more than anything else, it’s the ‘freedom’ found in the licence that has made Linux what it is today – an operating system found in the smallest and largest of devices; underground, underwater, in your hand, in space, at school, at the office – everywhere.

What other area of technology lets you hone your skills on a tiny Raspberry Pi that can be directly applied to virtual machines propagating through the cloud? Or take commands that were first typed into a 1970s UNIX terminal and get the same output, albeit faster, from a modern machine? If we were dealing with a competing operating system, that passage of time, or a change in the scale of hardware, would be used to fund new technological ecosystems and business models. Whether that’s being coerced into upgrading your office suite or needing a different licence because you want to do something else with the operating system; you never own the operating system, you merely license its use on your hardware. This will never happen with open source. Microsoft’s slogan for Windows Server 2012 is ‘Built from the Cloud Up’. It’s easy to say, but Linux is built on much more solid foundations.

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