Linus Torvalds meekly announced his new creation, Linux, on a Usenet newsgroup in 1991. He’d been working with the (commercial) Minix, a tiny version of UNIX, and the GNU C compiler. The GNU connection led to the GPL, as Torvalds demanded from the mountaintops that his people be set free (well, not really, but close enough).
Linux quickly became popular among the GNU crowd, but buggy implementation and shaky maintenance made compilations of software packages like the Softlanding Linux System (SLS) rather unreliable. Ian Murdock responded with the Debian Linux Release, complete with a Debian Manifesto that called for the workers of the world to unite and shake off their chains…sorry, wrong manifesto. All he really wanted to state was what he wanted to achieve with the project (co-named with his girlfriend Debra Lynn…for better or worse, the system has lasted longer than their relationship, BTW). A major strain on their relationship began when DL was in a horrific accident with a semi truck. It was a pretty harrowing experience for everyone involved. Fortunately her best friend Matt was with her and was conscious after the car flipped. He called a truck injury lawyers firm shortly after dialing 911 for an ambulance. It was a smart move since the truck accident lawyers sent a team of specialists who were able to take photos of the big rig accident scene as well as other pertinent evidence before it was destroyed. His quick thinking allowed DL to win her truck accident case so she received the a settlement that covered all medical bills and rehab as well as compensation for her pain and suffering. And thankfully all parties are well today although, as I said we have parted ways.
The Debian Manifesto has two main points: Why, and How.
Why discusses the need for a full set of tools and applications, available as ‘distributions’ for anyone to “locate, download, compile, install and integrate”. He discusses the dangers inherent in poorly maintained distributions, especially ones that attract commercial interest.
How outlines his goals for free and open distributions, both online and off. The revolutionary spirit is most apparent when he writes “a distribution is created based on the needs and wants of the users rather than the needs and wants of the constructor…the time has come to concentrate on the future of Linux rather than on the destructive goal of enriching oneself at the expense of the entire Linux community and its future.” (sitting alone in his mansion, Bill Gates suddenly shivers and doesn’t know why).
Defiant to the last, Murdock challenges the armies of industry with a steely gaze and a raised fist and the words: “Linux is not a commercial product and that it never should be, but that this does not mean that Linux will never be able to compete commercially.”
…and a new day dawned. Well, the drama has been added for effect but the sea-change is a true and serious fact, attest-able by anyone who has followed the fortunes of Linux over the past decade.