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The Free Software Foundation has released software that puts a friendly face on the Linux computer operating system, the flagship of the “open source” software movement. The new software, GNOME (pronounced guh-NOME), is the culmination of a two-year effort by volunteer programmers around the world to make Linux accessible to everyday computer users.

Although hailed in some quarters as a Windows alternative that could end Microsoft’s operating system monopoly, Linux has so far gained only a limited following.One reason: its demand that users learn arcane commands.GNOME could change that by providing Linux with a graphical, point-and-click interface that users can customize as they choose-giving it a Windows feel, or a Mac feel, or something completely different.

Red Hat, the leading Linux distributor, will include GNOME in its next release of the system. GNOME is also available for free downloading at www.gnome.org.

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