Stephen Fry kicks off GNU's 25th birthday party

Summary:The actor has thrown his weight behind the 25th anniversary celebrations for the free software-based operating system

The Free Software Foundation is beginning celebrations of 25 years of GNU with the release of a video presented by actor and comedian Stephen Fry.

The short film, Happy Birthday to GNU, gives the basics of the history of GNU's Not Unix (GNU). Fry describes how Richard Stallman announced a plan in September 1983 to develop a free-software, Unix-like operating system called GNU, and adds that the Linux kernel was re-released under the GNU GPL in 1992. The GNU/Linux combination provided the first completely non-proprietary way for people to run a PC.

Peter Brown, the Free Software Foundation's executive director, said that the video should act not only as a reminder of GNU's history but as a "rallying call for the work that still needs to be done".

"We intend for the 25th anniversary to be more than just a reflection on the history of the free-software movement, because, despite all of the success brought about by the GNU system and other free-software projects, we still need a determined effort to replace or eliminate the proprietary applications, platforms, drivers and firmware that many users still run," Brown said in a statement.

The FSF plans further releases as part of the month-long anniversary celebrations, with announcements timed for Software Freedom Day on 20 September and for the GNU anniversary itself on 27 September.

In the video, available for download at GNU.org, Fry says that proprietary operating systems are akin to "bad science", as unofficial modifications to the operating system are prohibited.

"You can't really fiddle with your operating system, and you certainly can't share any ideas you have about your operating system with other people, because Apple and Microsoft, who run the two most popular operating systems, are very firm about the fact that they own that," Fry says.

The actor goes on to say that, for many people, it is natural not to be able to make modifications, but Fry asks why making modifications should be illegal.

"All knowledge is free and all knowledge is shared in good science. If it isn't, it's bad science, and really a kind of tyranny," he says.

Topics: Apps, Software Development

About

Tom is a technology reporter for ZDNet.com, writing about all manner of security and open-source issues.Tom had various jobs after leaving university, including working for a company that hired out computers as props for films and television, and a role turning the entire back catalogue of a publisher into e-books.Tom eventually found tha... Full Bio

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