Although GNU-Darwin can be viewed as a standalone OS for x86 and PowerPC architectures, it is also a source of free software to Apple users. The FreeBSD ports system was used to build over 15,000 software packages for Darwin and Mac OS X users. The ports system is a natural fit with Darwin and Mac OS X, because it orginates from the FreeBSD project. Standards compliance is very high in the ports system, which means that most of the packages build with little or no modification, and users get a familiar Unix-style installation. We GPL all of our original code, and most of the software which we distribute is GPL. We distribute an enhanced Darwin OS, and we provide a free software overlay which can be used by Darwin and Mac OS X users alike. It can also be used instead of Apple's proprietary overlay, Mac OS X, if the users chooses that. GNU-Darwin has brought many thousands of free software titles to Darwin and Mac OS X, so that Apple users can experience the benefits of free software.
From the beginning, GNU-Darwin has been about much more than merely publishing OS X compatible binaries. We are trying to bring Apple users the _full_ benefits of free software. Software freedom depends on the values of openness, sharing, integrity, and liberty which are at the foundation of the internet and the scientific endeavor from which it sprang. We
in the Adobe boycott, Free Dmitry, Stakeholder 7/17, and many other actions, so that users could see the real meaning of software freedom.
Our anti-DMCA and free software activism has been the
source of some misunderstanding,
especially with respect to Apple and our "Free Darwin!" campaign. We consider the DMCA to be a corrupt law, and we oppose any action based on it. Such laws are at odds with the value of software freedom, and they should be repealed so that no one else will be subjected to their draconian clauses. Correspondingly, until Darwin appeared, Apple users were long besieged by entrenched proprietary interests, who cared only for keeping them on the treadmill. Apple has apparently shifted their orientation somewhat with respect to that entrenchment, and we are using the opportunity to effect a change. Any user who crosses over to freedom is a victory for us, and that often means "graduating" users to FreeBSD or GNU/Linux. Until Darwin is freed, activists such as myself will be leading users away from it instead of toward it.
This antagonism towards Apple in the free software community has been aggravated by Apple's
For example, Slashdot coverage of Apple has soured considerably since that time. We added the caveat to our Darwin distribution CD's soon after that. It is unfortunate that Apple has found it necessary to enter into agreements which block the release of certain codes, but those codes are not a part of Darwin anyway. Apple can repudiate the DMCA, free Darwin, and still keep the critical proprietary parts secret as required by law. As a scientist, I find such secrecy to be contrary to the basic principles of the endeavor, and as an activist I find it distasteful and wrong, but under the current circumstances it may unfortunately be required. I hope that Apple will reconsider the necessity of entering into such agreements in the future.
Even GNU Project recognizes that only a tiny step is required in order for Apple to free Darwin. Apple now appears to be committed to "open source" development and contributing back to the community. Our
action is to help them maintain progress, and disovow the DMCA, and to publicize the desirability of a free Darwin OS sponsored by Apple. It should be reiterated that we are not necessarily asking Apple to GPL Darwin. The GPL is clearly the ideal for many of us, but it would be sufficient to modify the APSL so that it met the standard free software definition to the satisfaction of GNU Project. It is a step that Apple should take for their own benefit as well as that of their users.
The GNU-Darwin x86 installer
have consistently been our most popular offering, and our Intel and AMD user base is comparable to the size of our PowerPC user base, but there is little reason for an x86 Linux or FreeBSD user to migrate to Darwin. First of all, FreeBSD and GNU/Linux are free operating systems, but Darwin is not. Darwin certainly has interesting technical qualities, such as the IOKit, NetInfo, the real time kernel, and the potential for parallel processing. Darwin is at the center of capitalization for the whole Apple community, which is a great space for innovation and growth, but we should not discard the value of software freedom for mere technical merit, monetary gain, or convenience, which are secondary values. If free software developers are interested in the unique capabilities of Darwin, then it would be better to implement them under Linux or Hurd. If activists are interested in assisting GNU-Darwin with our project goals, then that might be a reason to migrate to Darwin-x86. As compared to Apple computers, it is an inexpensive way to get underway with Darwin
Apple users may say that they are
no stranger to freedom,
because their software does what they expect it to do, and it "just works". This argument has unfortunately been too readily dismissed in the free software community, and only recently is the software becoming easier to use. Based on our own experience in the Apple users community, GNU-Darwin is working carefully with Apple users so that they can see a rational path to obtain the benefits of GNU-stye software freedom.
We have everything in place that is required to challenge Microsoft in their
This is not wishful thinking but rather a proposal, and Microsoft users should be encouraged to migrate to Darwin, or better yet to FreeBSD or GNU/Linux. There is Open Office, Mozilla, GNOME desktop, and much more, which will make the transition easier for them, and our email forums are useful for those who have questions, or if they need help getting started. Apple's release of the Safari web browser, based on an LGPL rendering engine, is yet another validation of this strategy.
GNU-Darwin packages and software distribution system
is now usable by anyone who is willing to learn the Unix command line, and we encourage everyone to do so. They are compatible with Mac OS 10.2 and Apple's new
This system together with GNU-Darwin OS itself is an impactful force in the industry, and our project is popular, influential, and widely watched. It is clear that as a major distribution we will continue build and grow our many sub-projects, such as internet services, the ports, x86 hardware support, and our CDRs and other hard media offerings. Once again, many thanks to Cornell University, the worldwide free software development collective, Darwin contributors, SourceForge, Prime Time Freeware, the *BSD trinity, Apple, and everyone else who helped us to get to this point. In this rich context we have become 1.0, but we are just getting started, and it is going to be a wild ride and a compelling journey. Join us now.