What's GNU

This month's column discusses groff, the GNU version of troff.

GNU troff, groff is a powerful, complete implementation of the troff software suite. If you will be doing anything with troff, it is definitely the version to get. It generates PostScript by default, will find bugs in your documents, and supports all popular macro packages. The source code is available on prep.ai.mit.edu in /pub/gnu, in the file groff-1.09.tar.gz. It should be found on all GNU mirror sites as well.


Every once in a while, it is a worthwhile exercise to step back and stop and think about the free software you use with Linux, day in and day out. The Linux kernel is only one part of it. There are literally hundreds of utility programs, the majority of which were produced by Free Software Foundation staff and volunteers. The GNU General Public License, whose terms cover the utilities and the Linux kernel, came from the FSF. Linux is testimony to the idea that freely distributable software can be usable, and of high quality. Linux would have never happened if it had it *not* been free, and had there not been the GNU utilities to complete the picture.

Free Software Foundation Information

It is only good sportsmanship and fair play to “give something back” to the organization that has done so much for you: the FSF. You can help further the cause of the FSF in a number of ways, both directly and indirectly.

If you are a programmer or a writer, or both, the FSF has software *and* documentation that needs to be written. Serious volunteers are always welcome.

If you want to help support the FSF monetarily, you can do that too. You can buy software and/or documentation from them. The FSF sells tape and CD-ROMs with their software on it. You probably already have most of the software, but you may wish to have the printed documentation that goes with it. The GNU manuals are nicely printed and bound, and are not that expensive. Buying software and manuals directly contributes to the production of more, high quality, free software.

In the U.S., you can make tax-deductible donations to the FSF. It is considered a non-profit organization under U.S. law. This also helps.

Indirectly, you can choose to buy your Linux distributions from resellers who state that they give a percentage to the FSF. If your favorite distributor does not do this, then ask them *why* they don't, and encourage them to do so.

Consider what you can do to help the FSF, and then do it!

Arnold Robbins is a professional programmer and semi-professional author. He has been doing volunteer work for the GNU project since 1987 and working with Unix and Unix-like systems since 1981.