The open-source software movement is like Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. It's a topsy-turvy world where up is down, down is up, and the normal laws of the universe no longer apply. Free software that's as powerful and useful as commercial software? Yes! It seems incredible, ludicrous, even outrageous...but it's absolutely true. The Internet could not operate without Bind, Sendmail, or Perl--all open-source, free software. Linux, a free and open-source operating system, is making powerful contributions to science, engineering, and business. And Apache, which has a dominant share of the web server market, is also a free and open-source software package. There seems to be a mad rush from contributors around the globe to create the most useful, open, and free software, and one of the most remarkable examples of this phenomenon is the GNU Image Manipulation Program, a.k.a the GIMP.
In Lewis Carroll's story, objects marked ``READ ME,'' ``EAT ME,'' and ``DRINK ME'' were key to helping Alice during her adventures in Wonderland. As anyone who has installed open-source software knows, there is always a file in the top-level directory named README that serves exactly the same purpose. In the same spirit, this section, entitled README, provides a road map to this book and instructions on how to set up your computer to get the most out of the GIMP.
Welcome to Wonderland, and happy GIMPing!