Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
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.
'Docs Not Cops' write that we must resist attempts to make our NHS any less universal
Louis Mendee explains the real human costs of climate change for the global south.
From climate change to automation to demographic shifts, Mathew Lawrence explains the challenges our economy will face in the coming decade.
Fifty years after the Abortion Act, women are still dying from being denied basic services, write activists from Feminist Fightback
We need to tackle the patronising ideology that lets Tory think-tanks sneer at social tenants, writes Emma Dent Coad
Acid Corbynism allows people to imagine a future beyond the paltry offerings of capitalism, writes Keir Milburn
'We wanted to use a shared love of the beautiful game to stand in solidarity with those living under occupation', writes Kate Hadley.
Priti Patel's shady deals are business as usual. Enough is enough, writes Eleanor Penny
Boris Johnson is a local disaster and a national embarrassment. He must go, writes James Clouting
The global elite have been stealing from society on an unprecedented scale, writes Tom Walker
Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism
Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists
Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson
As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win
The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution
Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.
‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition
#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny
Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke
The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana
Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth
Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company
You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild
Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University
This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback
Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein
Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up
Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement
‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic
Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden
There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright
Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones
‘Your credit score is not sufficient to enter this location’: the risks of the ‘smart city’
Jathan Sadowski explains techno-political trends of exclusion and enforcement in our cities, and how to overcome this new type of digital oppression
Why I’m standing with pregnant women and resisting NHS passport checks
Dr Joanna Dobbin says the government is making migrant women afraid to seek healthcare, increasing their chances of complications or even death
‘Committees in Defence of the Referendum’: update from Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte on developments as the Catalan people resist the Spanish state's crackdown on their independence referendum