Can someone please explain the GNU Project in Layman's terms please?
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In short, Richard M. Stallman, frustrated by the inflexible, fractured, proprietary nature of Unix (and other) software at that time, set out in 1984 to create a completely free alternative. He also created a new licensing system to ensure that the code for this system will always be free according to his standards: the GPL.
Over the next decade he and his followers had managed to recreate just about everything necessary for a unix-like system, all the basic system operating tools, filesystems, etc ... except for a working kernel. But in 1991, Finnish computer student Linus Torvalds, likewise frustrated by the costly nature of Unix, set out to create his own version of the Unix kernel, which he released under the GPL.
The subsequent merger of the GNU system tools and Linus' kernel became what we know today as Linux.
MINIX, a Unix-like system intended for academic use, was released by Andrew S. Tanenbaum in 1987. While source code for the system was available, modification and redistribution were restricted. In addition, MINIX's 16-bit design was not well adapted to the 32-bit features of the increasingly cheap and popular Intel 386 architecture for personal computers.
These factors and the lack of a widely-adopted, free kernel provided the impetus for Torvalds's starting his project. He has stated that if either the GNU or 386BSD kernels were available at the time, he likely would not have written his own.
I had always read that the high cost of obtaining a true Unix kernel was one of the main reasons why Linus started to write his own, but according to this, the design and restrictions on Minix were also a big factor.
And yes, I know all about free vs. FREE. No need to preach to the converted. Sorry if I didn't make the distinction clear enough in my last post.