The Linux Information Project (LINFO) was launched in early 2004 by Bellevue Linux Users Group (BELUG) for the purposes of (1) promoting an interest in and the use of Linux and other free software and (2) making such software easier to use by providing high quality, comprehensive and easily accessible information about it in a single location.

LINFO was begun in response to the somewhat startling discovery that relatively few people were well informed about the advantages of Linux and other free software, even in areas where the level of knowledge and use of computers is relatively high (such as Seattle, WA and vicinity). Moreover, although many computer users in such areas have heard the word Linux, most were only vaguely aware of what it was, and few believed that something that is free could be as good as, or even better than, an operating system that costs hundreds of dollars.

This lack of awareness of the alternatives has been very wasteful for society as a whole. For example, it has resulted in vast amounts of unnecessary expenditures by individuals, businesses, schools, government agencies and other organizations. It has also resulted in a great deal of frustration and lost productivity because of the inferior security and stability that is characteristic of much proprietary (i.e., commercial) software.

This situation is in large part due to the fact that vendors of commercial software have massive budgets (measured in the hundreds of millions of dollars) for promoting their products through a variety of means and for making sure that they are preinstalled on almost all new personal computers prior to purchase. Awareness of free software, in contrast, has spread mainly by word of mouth and by articles in technical publications and on the Web.

Free software is software that is free both in a monetary sense and in that anyone may use it for any purpose, including to study, modify, improve, extend, copy, give away and even sell for a profit1. Linux, also referred to as GNU/Linux, is probably the most widely known example free software. It is a high performance and increasingly successful Unix-like operating system that was started in 1991 by Linus Torvalds while a student at the University of Helsinki in Finland. (The word Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds2.)

Another major feature of Linux is that, likewise in sharp contrast to proprietary operating systems (such as the Microsoft Windows systems), there are no secrets, and thus it is possible to document every aspect of it. Such documentation is a major part of The Linux Information Project.

LINFO's emphasis on high quality means that each article is written in a manner that is as useful, accurate, clear, consistent and interesting as possible. This is attained in large part through the use of highly experienced writers and editors to produce publication-quality articles.

Comprehensive means attempting to cover all aspects of Linux and other free software rather than just a collection of how-to articles. This includes not only the technical aspects, but also the economic, legal, philosophical, historical and other aspects. An extensive selection of original articles about general computer hardware and software topics is also provided as background material.

Easily accessible means a number of things. One is that (1) all of the information is available anywhere in the world that an Internet connection is available at no monetary cost and without any requirement for registration. It also means (2) freedom from annoying banner ads, pop-up ads and other distractions. In addition, each individual page as well as the site as a whole are designed to be as useful as possible for the widest possible audience, including people having (3) little or no Linux (or computer) knowledge or experience, (4) older, low speed computers and/or slow connections to the Internet, (5) little or no access to computer books, (6) English as a secondary language and (7) visual impairments or other disabilities3.

The project has made tremendous progress despite some obstacles and setbacks. For example, as of the end of 2006 it contained approximately six hundred pages, most of which are original articles about Linux and related computer topics. However, a great deal remains to be done, and any assistance that can be provided (both editorial and financial) by users of the project as well as by developers and vendors of free software and related products and services will be greatly appreciated4.

For additional information about LINFO, please see The Linux Information Project FAQ.

1The term open source software is commonly used interchangeably with the term free software. However, although most open source software is also free software, it does not necessarily have to be. Open source has a narrower meaning because it only implies that the source code is available for inspection and study and not that everyone has the right to modify and redistribute it.

2In contrast to most trademarks, the purpose of this one is not to make a profit. Rather, it was registered only out of necessity in order to protect Linux from commercial exploitation, including from threats by some unscrupulous individuals to register it and charge Linux developers a fee for using it.

3Among the techniques that are used to help achieve this broadly defined accessibility are (1) making each article as self explanatory as possible, (2) maintaining a consistency of style both within individual pages and throughout the site as a whole, (3) designing pages to minimize downloading time, (4) providing historical and other background material where practical and (5) carefully explaining each topic so that it can be easily understood without the need for images.

4Editorial assistance is currently wanted mainly in the form of suggestions for improvements to individual articles. To provide financial assistance, please visit the page How to Donate to LINFO.

Created January 19, 2005. Last updated January 9, 2007.
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