Revolution OS

Revolution OS is a 2001 documentary film made in the United States, directed by J.T.S. Moore, which traces the twenty-year history of GNU, Linux, and the open source and free software movements. It features interviews with prominent hackers and entrepreneurs (and hackers-cum-entrepreneurs), including Richard Stallman, Michael Tiemann, Linus Torvalds, Larry Augustin, Eric S. Raymond, Bruce Perens, Frank Hecker and Brian Behlendorf.

The film begins in medias res 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. Change came soon in 1978 as Bill Gates, in his whining Open Letter to Hobbyists, pointedly prodded hobbyists to pay up. Stallman relates his struggles with closed-source 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 his, and the community's 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 vs Communism and capitalism, and development stages of GNU/Linux.

Michael Tiemann met Stallman in 1987 and got an early version of Stallman's GCC and founded Cygnus Solutions.

Larry Augustin tells of combining GNU software and a normal PC to create a UNIX-like Workstation which cost one third the price of a Sun workstation even though it was twice as powerful. 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 how he started to exchange patches for the NCSA Web-Server daemon with other developers and how this led to the release of "a patchy" webserver, Apache.

Frank Hecker of Netscape tells how it came to be that Netscape executives released 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.

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 movie was shot in Silicon Valley, and Open Source was founded there, viewers might be left with the impression that GNU and Linux were developed there, too. In fact, GNU has its roots in the MIT culture around Boston, Massachusetts, Linux was first written in Helsinki, Finland.

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.

The second DVD of the two-disc special edition from ThinkGeek, contains uncut versions of the interviews.

A write-in campaign to copyright holders of Revolution OS, Wonderview Productions, is underway to get them to donate the uncut interviews to

Critical reviews varied widely, from approval to dismissive – including Internet reviewers, the composite is neutral to negative. 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. TV Guide rated the film 3 of 4 stars: "surprisingly exciting", "fascinating" and "sharp looking" with a good soundtrack. Daily Variety saw ROS 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.

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. Internet Reviews found it "a didactic and dull documentary glorifying software anarchy. Raging against Microsoft and Sun...", lacking follow-through on Redhat and VALinux stock,(in 2007, at 2% of peak value), with "lots of talking heads". 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 operating system kernel)."

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, "we 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 Torvald or Stallman about, their equally disingenuous remarks about the "Linux" vs "GNU/Linux" naming issue.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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