Revolution OS

Last updated
Revolution OS
Revolution OS.jpg
Promotional poster for two disc edition of Revolution OS
Directed byJ. T. S. Moore
Written byJ. T. S. Moore
Produced byJ. T. S. Moore
Starring Richard Stallman
Linus Torvalds
Eric S. Raymond
Bruce Perens
Edited byJ. T. S. Moore
Music byChristopher Anderson-Bazzoli
Release date
Running time
85 min
CountryUnited States

Revolution OS is a 2001 documentary film that traces the twenty-year history of GNU, Linux, open source, and the free software movement.


Directed by J. T. S. Moore, the film features interviews with prominent hackers and entrepreneurs including Richard Stallman, Michael Tiemann, Linus Torvalds, Larry Augustin, Eric S. Raymond, Bruce Perens, Frank Hecker and Brian Behlendorf.


The film begins with glimpses of Raymond, a Linux IPO, Torvalds, the idea of Open Source, Perens, Stallman, then sets the historical stage in the early days of hackers and computer hobbyists when code was shared freely. It discusses how change came in 1978 as Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, in his Open Letter to Hobbyists, pointedly prodded hobbyists to pay up. Stallman relates his struggles with proprietary software vendors at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab, leading to his departure to focus on the development of free software, and the GNU Project.

Torvalds describes the development of the Linux kernel, the GNU/Linux naming controversy, Linux's further evolution, and its commercialization.

Raymond and Stallman clarify the philosophy of free software versus communism and capitalism, as well as the development stages of Linux.

Michael Tiemann discusses meeting Stallman in 1987, getting an early version of Stallman's GCC, and founding Cygnus Solutions.

Larry Augustin describes combining GNU software with a normal PC to create a Unix-like workstation at one third the price and twice the power of a Sun workstation. He relates his early dealings with venture capitalists, the eventual capitalization and commodification of Linux for his own company, VA Linux, and its IPO.

Brian Behlendorf, one of the original developers of the Apache HTTP Server, explains that he started to exchange patches for the NCSA web server daemon HTTPd with other developers, which led to the release of "a patchy" web server, dubbed Apache.

Frank Hecker of Netscape discusses the events leading up to Netscape's executives releasing the source code for Netscape's browser, one of the signal events which made open source a force to be reckoned with by business executives, the mainstream media, and the public at large. [1] This point was validated further after the film's release as the Netscape source code eventually became the Firefox web browser, reclaiming a large percentage of market share from Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

The film also documents the scope of the first full-scale LinuxWorld Summit conference, with appearances by Linus Torvalds and Larry Augustin on the keynote stage.

Much of the footage for the film was shot in Silicon Valley.


The film appeared in several film festivals including South by Southwest, the Atlanta Film and Video Festival, Boston Film Festival, and Denver International Film Festival; it won Best Documentary at both the Savannah Film and Video Festival and the Kudzu Film Festival.


I bumped into him (Craig Mundie of Microsoft) in an elevator. I looked at his badge and said, "Ah, I see you work for Microsoft."

He looked back at me and said, “Oh yeah, and what do you do?”

And I thought he seemed just some sort of a tad dismissive, I mean here is the archetypal guy in a suit looking at a scruffy hacker. . . so I gave him the thousand yard stare and said, "I'm your worst nightmare."

Giving the Linus Torvalds award to the Free Software Foundation is sort of like giving the Han Solo award to the Rebel Fleet.

. . . and I realised he (Steve Ballmer) had read my document and understood it, and was now telling the press about this. Now, if you're like just a guy on the net who's not doing this for a job at all and you sort of write a manifesto and it spreads out through the world, and a year later the Vice President of Microsoft is talking about that, you'd think you were on drugs, wouldn't you? But that's what really happened.

Bruce Perens

Think of Richard Stallman as the great philosopher and think of me as the engineer.


Every review noted the historical significance of the information, and those that noticed found the production values high, but the presentation of history mainly too dry, even resembling a lecture. Ron Wells of Film Threat found the film important, worthwhile, and well thought out for explaining the principles of the free software and open source concepts. Noting its failure to represent on camera any debate with representatives of the proprietary software camp, Wells gave the film 4 of 5 stars. [2] TV Guide rated the film 3 of 4 stars: "surprisingly exciting", "fascinating" and "sharp looking" with a good soundtrack. [3] Daily Variety saw the film as "targeted equally at the techno-illiterate and the savvy-hacker crowd;" educating and patting one group on the head, and canonizing the other, but strong enough for an "enjoyable" recommendation. [4]

On the negative side, The New York Times faulted the film's one-sidedness, found its reliance on jargon "fairly dense going", and gave no recommendation. [5] Internet Reviews found it "a didactic and dull documentary glorifying software anarchy. Raging against Microsoft and Sun. . .", lacking follow-through on Red Hat and VALinux stock (in 2007, at 2% of peak value), with "lots of talking heads". [6] noted "Revolution OS blatantly serves as infomercial and propaganda. Bearded throwback to the sixties, hacker Richard Stallman serves as the movement's spiritual leader while Scandinavian Linus Torvalds acts as its mild mannered chief engineer (as developer of the Linux kernel)." [7]

To Tim Lord, reviewing for Slashdot , the film is interesting and worthy of viewing, with some misgivings: it is "about the growth of the free software movement, and its eventual co-option by the open source movement. . . it was supposed to be about Linux and its battle about Microsoft, but the movie is quickly hijacked by its participants." The film "lacks the staple of documentaries: scenes with multiple people that are later analyzed individually by each of the participants" (or indeed, much back-and-forth at all). Linux itself and its benefits are notably missing, and, "[w]e are never shown anyone using Linux, except for unhappy users at an Installfest." The debate over Linux VS Windows is missing, showing the origin of the OS only as a response to proprietary and expensive Sun and DEC software and hardware, and its growth solely due to the Apache web server. And Lord notes that the film shows, but does not challenge Torvalds or Stallman about their equally disingenuous remarks about the "Linux" vs "GNU/Linux" naming issue. [8]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bruce Perens</span>

Bruce Perens is an American computer programmer and advocate in the free software movement. He created The Open Source Definition and published the first formal announcement and manifesto of open source. He co-founded the Open Source Initiative (OSI) with Eric S. Raymond. Today, he is a partner at OSS Capital.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Eric S. Raymond</span> American computer programmer, author, and advocate for the open source movement

Eric Steven Raymond, often referred to as ESR, is an American software developer, open-source software advocate, and author of the 1997 essay and 1999 book The Cathedral and the Bazaar. He wrote a guidebook for the Roguelike game NetHack. In the 1990s, he edited and updated the Jargon File, published as The New Hacker's Dictionary.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Free software</span> Software licensed to preserve user freedoms

Free software or libre software, infrequently known as freedom-respecting software, is computer software distributed under terms that allow users to run the software for any purpose as well as to study, change, and distribute it and any adapted versions. Free software is a matter of liberty, not price; all users are legally free to do what they want with their copies of a free software regardless of how much is paid to obtain the program. Computer programs are deemed "free" if they give end-users ultimate control over the software and, subsequently, over their devices.

The free software movement is a social movement with the goal of obtaining and guaranteeing certain freedoms for software users, namely the freedoms to run the software, to study the software, to modify the software, and to share copies of the software. Software which meets these requirements, The Four Essential Freedoms of Free Software, is termed free software.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Linus Torvalds</span> Creator and lead developer of the Linux kernel (born 1969)

Linus Benedict Torvalds is a Finnish-American software engineer who is the creator and, historically, the main developer of the Linux kernel, used by Linux distributions and other operating systems such as Android. He also created the distributed version control system Git.

<i>The Cathedral and the Bazaar</i> Book by Eric S. Raymond

The Cathedral and the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary is an essay, and later a book, by Eric S. Raymond on software engineering methods, based on his observations of the Linux kernel development process and his experiences managing an open source project, fetchmail. It examines the struggle between top-down and bottom-up design. The essay was first presented by the author at the Linux Kongress on May 27, 1997 in Würzburg (Germany) and was published as the second chapter of the same‑titled book in 1999.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">GNU Project</span> Free software project

The GNU Project is a free software, mass collaboration project announced by Richard Stallman on September 27, 1983. Its goal is to give computer users freedom and control in their use of their computers and computing devices by collaboratively developing and publishing software that gives everyone the rights to freely run the software, copy and distribute it, study it, and modify it. GNU software grants these rights in its license.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Open-source software</span> Software licensed to ensure source code usage rights

Open-source software (OSS) is computer software that is released under a license in which the copyright holder grants users the rights to use, study, change, and distribute the software and its source code to anyone and for any purpose. Open-source software may be developed in a collaborative public manner. Open-source software is a prominent example of open collaboration, meaning any capable user is able to participate online in development, making the number of possible contributors indefinite. The ability to examine the code facilitates public trust in the software.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">GNU/Linux naming controversy</span> Issues of what to call a system with the GNU toolchain and the Linux kernel

Within the free software and the open-source software communities there is controversy over whether to refer to computer operating systems that use a combination of GNU software and the Linux kernel as "GNU/Linux" or "Linux" systems.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Free and open-source software</span> Software whose source code is available and which is permissively licensed

Free and open-source software (FOSS) is a term used to refer to groups of software consisting of both free software and open-source software where anyone is freely licensed to use, copy, study, and change the software in any way, and the source code is openly shared so that people are encouraged to voluntarily improve the design of the software. This is in contrast to proprietary software, where the software is under restrictive copyright licensing and the source code is usually hidden from the users.

Alternative terms for free software, such as open source, FOSS, and FLOSS, have been a controversial issue among free and open-source software users from the late 1990s onwards. These terms share almost identical licence criteria and development practices.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Richard Stallman</span> American free software activist, and founder of GNU Project

Richard Matthew Stallman, also known by his initials, rms, is an American free software movement activist and programmer. He campaigns for software to be distributed in such a manner that its users have the freedom to use, study, distribute, and modify that software. Software that ensures these freedoms is termed free software. Stallman launched the GNU Project, founded the Free Software Foundation in October 1985, developed the GNU Compiler Collection and GNU Emacs, and wrote the GNU General Public License.

Tivoization is the practice of designing hardware that incorporates software under the terms of a copyleft software license like the GNU General Public License, but uses hardware restrictions or digital rights management (DRM) to prevent users from running modified versions of the software on that hardware. Richard Stallman coined the term in reference to TiVo's use of GNU GPL licensed software on the TiVo brand digital video recorders (DVR), which actively blocks users from running modified software on its hardware by design. Stallman believes this practice denies users some of the freedom that the GNU GPL was designed to protect. The Free Software Foundation refers to tivoized hardware as "tyrant devices".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tanenbaum–Torvalds debate</span> 1990s debate regarding the Linux kernel

The Tanenbaum–Torvalds debate was a written debate between Andrew S. Tanenbaum and Linus Torvalds, regarding the Linux kernel and kernel architecture in general. Tanenbaum, the creator of Minix, began the debate in 1992 on the Usenet discussion group comp.os.minix, arguing that microkernels are superior to monolithic kernels and therefore Linux was, even in 1992, obsolete. The debate has sometimes been considered a flame war.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Linux</span> Family of Unix-like operating systems

Linux is an open-source Unix-like operating system based on the Linux kernel, an operating system kernel first released on September 17, 1991, by Linus Torvalds. Linux is typically packaged as a Linux distribution.

The Code is an English-language Finnish documentary about Linux from 2001, featuring some of the most influential people of the free software movement.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of free and open-source software</span> Aspect of history

In the 1950s and 1960s, computer operating software and compilers were delivered as a part of hardware purchases without separate fees. At the time, source code, the human-readable form of software, was generally distributed with the software providing the ability to fix bugs or add new functions. Universities were early adopters of computing technology. Many of the modifications developed by universities were openly shared, in keeping with the academic principles of sharing knowledge, and organizations sprung up to facilitate sharing. As large-scale operating systems matured, fewer organizations allowed modifications to the operating software, and eventually such operating systems were closed to modification. However, utilities and other added-function applications are still shared and new organizations have been formed to promote the sharing of software.

Opposition to software patents is widespread in the free software community. In response, various mechanisms have been tried to defuse the perceived problem.

Linux began in 1991 as a personal project by Finnish student Linus Torvalds: to create a new free operating system kernel. The resulting Linux kernel has been marked by constant growth throughout its history. Since the initial release of its source code in 1991, it has grown from a small number of C files under a license prohibiting commercial distribution to the 4.15 version in 2018 with more than 23.3 million lines of source code, not counting comments, under the GNU General Public License v2.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to free software and the free software movement:


  1. Community Articles: Interview: Frank Hecker Louis Suárez-Potts, May 1, 2001. Retrieved 2007-04-22.
  2. Revolution OS Film Threat . Ron Wells, February 21, 2002. Retrieved 2007-04-23.
  3. Review - Revolution OS TV 2002. Retrieved 2007-04-22.
  4. Revolution OS Review. Daily Variety . Scott Foundas, March 1, 2002. Retrieved 2007-04-22.
  5. Heroes and Villains on a Cyberbattlefield New York Times . Stephen Holden, February 22, 2002. Retrieved 2007-04-22
  6. Revolution OS (2001) Steve Rhodes. Retrieved 2007-04-22.
  7. Introduction to Linux 101 John Nesbit, April 07, 2004. Retrieved 2007-04-22.
  8. Revolution OS Review Tim Lord (timothy), April 19, 2002. Retrieved 2007-04-22.