Welcome to Linux, or as many knowledgeable people prefer, GNU/Linux. While free software itself dates back to the beginnings of computing, the Free Software Movement began in the mid-eighties with a licensing revolution. From humble beginnings, GNU and the GNU General Public License codified a spirit of generosity and neighborliness which contrasts sharply with the traditional restrictions and monopolies created by copyright. “Copyleft” turned copyright inside out, using its principles to empower users and protect their freedoms to study, share, modify, distribute, and use software in previously unimagined ways. Three decades later, this movement has spawned hundreds of general, permissive licenses – each its own variation on the theme of free software as originally envisaged by GNU. Most of these licenses are compatible with GNU principles but a few are not. Today some prefer the similar term “Open Source,” rather than Free Software, in order to embrace all of these licenses. Still others prefer the term FLOSS (Free/Libre Open Source Software) to combine both perspectives. But regardless of the term, the principles of neighbourliness and generosity remain central to GNU/Linux.

In thirty years, our digital lives have come to be dominated by GNU/Linux. Google, Amazon, E-Bay, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, the London Stock Exchange, the Tokyo Stock Exchange, the New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ, the movie FX industry, Airbus, the US FAA, air traffic control, CERN, nuclear reactors, Japan’s bullet trains, Toyota, Cisco, the US Department of Defense, the US Navy Submarine Fleet, NASA, Wikipedia, and the White House all choose Linux. 97% of the world’s supercomputers run Linux and it is extremely successful in the mainframe community as well. In fact, Linux runs on at least thirty different hardware platforms, far more than any other system. These cornerstones of computing all recognize that GNU/Linux is not only a viable alternative to proprietary software, but better all round – more secure, more cost-effective, more reliable, more efficient, more flexible and more portable.

And Open Source rules the World Wide Web too. Of nearly 900 million websites, 60% run either the Apache or nginx web servers – more than double the nearest competitor. And if we limit our gaze to the million busiest sites on the net – that number rises to 70%.

If most aspects of the server space today are dominated by GNU/Linux, it has made serious inroads into the personal space too – Android and Nokia cell phones, tablets, routers, firewalls, PDAs, TVs, TIVOs, household appliances of all kinds, medical devices – life everywhere depends upon Linux.

With desktops, Linux embraces diversity. We recognize that a single desktop can’t suit everyone, and so we have many. GNOME offers full powered functionality with a clean simplicity and elegance, KDE implements bells and whistles on a grand scale, Unity is a leading edge desktop creating a new kind of user experience, LXDE and Xfce are small scale desktops useful for breathing new life into older, “obsolete” hardware, Cinnamon and Mate provide traditional user experiences. One size does not fit everyone and GNU/Linux is a celebration of choice and the joy of discovery.

Nearly two decades ago, VanLug was started by a diverse group of academics, enthusiasts, consultants and professionals with an interest in Free Software, the GNU General Public License and GNU/Linux. From the beginning, VanLug rested upon four pillars: technical assistance, education, community expansion and outreach to the larger community. We have always run a mailing list to help members solve their technical problems, organized lectures to educate members about the Linux ecology, sought to bring new members into VanLug and tried to promote VanLug and Linux at various exhibitions like Comdex, LinuxFest and LinuxCon.

During its lifetime VanLug has evolved considerably. At our various events, we continue to bring the GNU/Linux community together. It is always satisfying to chat with friends and collegues about timely topics. But given the success of Linux, we realize that it has become much more than a hobbiest’s passion, and we accept the larger mandate of building and organizing the FLOSS community here in Vancouver. GNU/Linux has become a career path for many professionals and they need to self-educate, update their skills, acquire various certifications, and stay on top of a rapidly developing ecology. One person cannot do it alone and our community is our greatest strength.

It’s actually an exciting time at VanLug. Over the past several years we have been thinking about how to repurpose VanLug in a number of ways. We’ve finally begun to redevelop our website, with the aim of providing additional services for members, as well as the public. We’re expanding our mailing lists. But most importantly we’re planning LinuxFaire – a conference and exhibition of all things Linux – here in Vancouver. It’s a great time to get involved with VanLug, to join the Board of Directors, purchase a membership or just sign up for our mailing lists. The future of GNU/Linux is very bright indeed. Come join us on our journey to create community here in Vancouver.

Bill McGrath
April 2015

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