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The GNU Project and This Book

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the production and distribution of freely distributable software. It was founded by Richard M. Stallman, the author of the original Emacs editor. GNU Emacs is the most widely used version of Emacs today.

The GNU project is an on-going effort on the part of the Free Software Foundation to create a complete, freely distributable, POSIX compliant computing environment. (GNU stands for "GNU's not Unix".) The FSF uses the "GNU General Public License" (or GPL) to ensure that source code for their software is always available to the end user. A copy of the GPL is included for your reference (see section GNU GENERAL PUBLIC LICENSE). The GPL applies to the C language source code for gawk.

A shell, an editor (Emacs), highly portable optimizing C, C++, and Objective-C compilers, a symbolic debugger, and dozens of large and small utilities (such as gawk), have all been completed and are freely available. As of this writing (early 1997), the GNU operating system kernel (the HURD), has been released, but is still in an early stage of development.

Until the GNU operating system is more fully developed, you should consider using Linux, a freely distributable, Unix-like operating system for 80386, DEC Alpha, Sun SPARC and other systems. There are many books on Linux. One freely available one is Linux Installation and Getting Started, by Matt Welsh. Many Linux distributions are available, often in computer stores or bundled on CD-ROM with books about Linux. (There are three other freely available, Unix-like operating systems for 80386 and other systems, NetBSD, FreeBSD,and OpenBSD. All are based on the 4.4-Lite Berkeley Software Distribution, and they use recent versions of gawk for their versions of awk.)

This book you are reading now is actually free. The information in it is freely available to anyone, the machine readable source code for the book comes with gawk, and anyone may take this book to a copying machine and make as many copies of it as they like. (Take a moment to check the copying permissions on the Copyright page.)

If you paid money for this book, what you actually paid for was the book's nice printing and binding, and the publisher's associated costs to produce it. We have made an effort to keep these costs reasonable; most people would prefer a bound book to over 330 pages of photo-copied text that would then have to be held in a loose-leaf binder (not to mention the time and labor involved in doing the copying). The same is true of producing this book from the machine readable source; the retail price is only slightly more than the cost per page of printing it on a laser printer.

This book itself has gone through several previous, preliminary editions. I started working on a preliminary draft of The GAWK Manual, by Diane Close, Paul Rubin, and Richard Stallman in the fall of 1988. It was around 90 pages long, and barely described the original, "old" version of awk. After substantial revision, the first version of the The GAWK Manual to be released was Edition 0.11 Beta in October of 1989. The manual then underwent more substantial revision for Edition 0.13 of December 1991. David Trueman, Pat Rankin, and Michal Jaegermann contributed sections of the manual for Edition 0.13. That edition was published by the FSF as a bound book early in 1992. Since then there have been several minor revisions, notably Edition 0.14 of November 1992 that was published by the FSF in January of 1993, and Edition 0.16 of August 1993.

Edition 1.0 of Effective AWK Programming represents a significant re-working of The GAWK Manual, with much additional material. The FSF and I agree that I am now the primary author. I also felt that it needed a more descriptive title.

Effective AWK Programming will undoubtedly continue to evolve. An electronic version comes with the gawk distribution from the FSF. If you find an error in this book, please report it! See section Reporting Problems and Bugs, for information on submitting problem reports electronically, or write to me in care of the FSF.

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