What is GNU?
GNU is a free operating system (OS), whose name is a recursive acronym meaning: ‘GNU’s Not Unix!’. While GNU is based on UNIX’s software principles it deviates from its distribution model by being available without any cost to the user. All the components of the GNU OS are distributed under the four principles of ‘free software’:
• liberty to execute the software
• liberty to modify the software’s code
• liberty to freely share the software with other users
• liberty to change the software with a view of sharing it as an improved version
Windows is an OS owned by American multi-national company: Microsoft Incorporated. Introduced in the mid 1980s, it went on to be the defacto leader of the personal computer (PC) market, a position that it has maintained up to date.
The Mac OS is known in full as the Macintosh. It is an OS that is created by another giant American technology company: Apple Incorporated. Mac was introduced into the market in the same decade as Windows. Unlike Windows, Mac is packaged as a full operating environment that runs on its own hardware. It is the second most used OS in the world.
Why Should I Use GNU?
The major reason that a user would prefer GNU over Windows or Mac is the price factor. To use Windows, one would acquire the hardware then procure the OS. A mid-priced PC will set you back at least $600 and the Windows Software: $80. That adds to $680. If you want to use a Mac, you should be ready to spend around $1,500. When it comes to using the GNU, you will first start with the hardware (the PC): $600. Then the OS: Depending on your internet carrier, can be downloaded at a very low bandwidth charge. This adds up to around $610. If we assume that you are migrating from Windows to GNU, you will have saved on the $600 hardware charge. This will translate to only $10 upfront cost.
Now that a user has chosen an OS. The computer is still needs components, tools and applications to be usable. A user would typically require an office suite, a graphics program, an internet browser, and an email client. If you are a Windows or Mac user, you need to purchase these tools. Compared to GNU, these applications have a replacement that is free of charge. The purchase of all the components adds up to a considerable amount of money. So, even before the computer is producing value, a Windows or Mac user is lagging behind a GNU user who is all set up at minimal component cost.
GNU software and its components enforce no restriction whatsoever on the user concerning the software utilization. That is why, setting up software only requires the user to agree to terms of licenses that govern free software. For example, the General Public License (GPL) and the Apache Commons License. However, Windows and Mac are proprietary, whose components are also proprietary. The nature of Windows and Mac software is such that the user buys a license to use the software. The user does not buy the software in its entirety.
GNU’s source code is open. This means that anyone has the access to how the software was written. This is contrary to both Windows and Mac, whose source code is closed. As a result Windows and Mac do not provide their source code to their paying customers. It is a mandatory requirement for a user to accept the terms of these companies’ licenses. A common example is the Windows requirement of: ‘You may not reverse engineer, decompile, or disassemble the software.’ What this means in essence, is that it is only Windows or Mac software developers that have a clue about the inner workings of their products. This scenario locks the market in a one-size-fits-all software model. GNU’s source code has always been open and is declared as to always remain open. Users with the right know-how have the chance to tweak, re-engineer and modify the GNU code to fit their business needs without the fear of looming legal action.
GNU has very limited security flaws when compared to both Windows and Mac. After a new release of either Windows or Mac editions, hackers and cyber-exploiters analyze them with a fine tooth-comb. This is due to several phenomena: One, these two operating systems power the majority of the world’s computers. Two, only a handful of people actually know what goes on behind the graphical user interfaces (GUI). What results from the combination of closed-source software and limited code-base familiarity is that once an attack is launched, businesses are like sitting ducks. Businesses cannot deploy their in-house specialists to counter digital attacks. It is left to either Microsoft or Apple to remedy the security vulnerabilities. In classic terms, these software companies play a hand in introducing disease in-order to sell the antidote. GNU has always been relied upon to power critical systems whose security cannot be entrusted to a few individuals.
Some Limitations With GNU
On the flip-side, Both Windows and Mac are more user friendly than GNU. GNU has the reputation of utilizing computing technologies that are ahead of the curve. The problem with this is that many GNU components have to installed, compiled or updated via the command line. Users that are used to the Windows and Mac GUI paradigms are taken aback by how complex running a GNU seems to be. Most of them will rarely achieve a complete installation of a GNU system due to its user-unfriendly GUI.