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March of the Penguins is a beautifully crafted documentary about emperor penguins and their unfaltering struggle for survival, both individually and as a species, against the elements of the coldest, windiest, driest and darkest continent on the planet, Antarctica. The march of one penguin, Tux, mascot of the Linux computer operating system ‘kernel’, is the equally impressive story of Linux’s ability to survive and prosper as a freely-available, open-source operating system, despite daunting competition from the likes of Microsoft and other multinational, mega-corporations.
To discover the roots of Linux you need to go back to 1983, when Richard Stallman, a US-based computer scientist not known for his love of ideological compromise or corporate profits, became frustrated by the fragmentation of the Unix operating-system into proprietary, incompatible dialects. He created an open-source operating system called GNU (a recursive acronym for ‘GNU’s Not Unix’).
In 1991, Linus Torvals, a 21-year old student at the University of Helsinki, utilised Stallman’s code to create the original Linux kernel – the part of the operating system that controls a computer’s hardware. Torvals also adopted the principles of Stallman’s Free Software Foundation (FSF) to govern the distribution of his creation.
Throughout the 1990s, and against the backdrop of growing frustration at the limitations imposed by proprietary software companies, the growth of the internet saw an enormous increase in collaboration among programmers who previously worked in isolation. It was fertile ground for the growth of Linux.
Multinationals including Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel and Dell saw the writing on the wall and invested heavily in making Linux an integral part of their business, but crucially the FSF guidelines under which Linux was made available to the wider world continue to guarantee that any derivative of Linux must be free for users to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve.
Experts now believe that Linux dominance of the server market is a foregone conclusion as users find it faster, easier to maintain, and more secure than its competitors. It is already the platform of choice on most of the world’s web servers, and it is also used on everything from routers, mobile phones, IBM mainframes and, increasingly, home PCs.
If you’ve already tried open-source software such as Mozilla’s Firefox browser or the competitor to Microsoft’s Office, OpenOffice, then you’ll know they’re as good, and in some cases better, than their more expensive and less politically-sound alternatives.
Linux does come in for some criticism from desktop users, who argue that it doesn’t support widely used applications such as Microsoft Office without the need for third-party software to convert files, and laptop users who complain that their peripheral devices are often incompatible.
But while many of these criticisms are valid the increasing use of Linux by individuals has seen significant progress in hardware compatibility. It is becoming increasingly common for hardware to work ‘out of the box’ with many Linux distributions.
For someone wanting to try Linux on their home PC, the best advice is to download Knoppix, a bootable live system, which contains a representative collection of GNU/Linux software, and then burn it to a CD or DVD.
Simply reboot your PC or laptop with the CD/DVD in the drive and your BIOS set to boot from the CD drive, and it will automatically detect your hardware, support most common graphics and sound cards, as well as USB devices, and allow you to use Linux without installing anything on your hard drive.
As well as Linux, Knoppix also contains a standard desktop, a media player, internet connection software, image manipulation software, network and system tools, and OpenOffice, allowing users to familiarise themselves with the ever-growing range of open-source software without having to replace their current operating system. When you remove the CD and reboot your PC or laptop, your computer will be exactly as it was before using Knoppix.
If, having tested Linux using Knoppix, you decide you want to make the march of Tux the penguin into your world a permanent one, it’s advisable to have someone with a good knowledge of IT to back up all of your files and system information before making the transition. Linux is also compatible with Macs but again obtaining advice from a professional is advisable.
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Nick Dowson looks at the new wave of co-ops and community groups where people are building their own truly affordable homes
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going
A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism
Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase
Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields
Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton
Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi
A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain
Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank
Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded
West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens
Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age
Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today
The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics
Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.
Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making
Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services
With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle
Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune
Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali
To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi
Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun
Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh
With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook