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Salon: Who controls free software?

Nov 18, 1999, 06:07 (19 Talkback[s])

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"Does Red Hat's aquisition of Cygnus give the company the final say on free software's future?"

"So Red Hat -- the leading U.S. distributor of the Linux-based operating system -- announced Monday that it will take advantage of its sky-high stock valuation to acquire Cygnus Solutions, the first company ever to make a business out of selling and creating free software. Should the rest of the nascent free-software industry start trembling in its open-source boots? Red Hat already employs the largest concentration of top echelon Linux kernel hackers. But now, in a single stroke, the company has also gobbled up a pool of programming stars who work directly on other crucial parts of the free-software infrastructure."

"Most media attention -- and public Red Hat statements -- has focused on the "synergy" created by the merger of the two companies. Red Hat assembles distributions (packages of Linux-based operating systems); Cygnus creates advanced programming tools and software aimed at the fast-growing "embedded systems" niche. But Cygnus programmers are also central to the ongoing development of at least two pieces of software -- the GNU compiler and the GNU C libraries -- that are absolutely essential to any Linux-based operating system. The compiler -- usually referred to as "gcc" -- is a tool that translates software programs into a form understandable by a computer. The C libraries contain code that is used and reused by software applications, such as graphic elements that appear in multiple applications."

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