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When we talk about free software, we usually refer to the free software licenses. We also need relief from software patents, so our freedom is not restricted by them. But there is a third type of freedom we need, and that's user freedom.

Expert users don't take a system as it is. They like to change the configuration, and they want to run the software that works best for them. That includes window managers as well as your favourite text editor. But even on a GNU/Linux system consisting only of free software, you can not easily use the filesystem format, network protocol or binary format you want without special privileges. In traditional Unix systems, user freedom is severly restricted by the system administrator.

The Hurd is built on top of CMU's Mach 3.0 kernel and uses Mach's virtual memory management and message-passing facilities. The GNU C Library will provide the Unix system call interface, and will call the Hurd for needed services it can't provide itself. The design and implementation of the Hurd is being lead by Michael Bushnell, with assistance from Richard Stallman, Roland McGrath, Jan Brittenson, and others.

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