SoSLUG Archive

Open source software

Floss (Free Libre Open Source Software)

What is Open Source?

Not an easy question to answer at least not for me. In 1983 Richard Stallman announced a plan for the GNU operating system which comprised of 100% free software, between then and 1991 most of the components for the GNU operating system were developed. The kernel however kept being delayed until 1991 when Linus Torvalds released his kernel providing the first free Linux operating system on an unsuspecting world, and changing the GNU General Public License in the process in 1992 forever.

Linux is about freedom, before Microsoft any mechanical or electronic equipment that required anything other than clockwork programming would require an operating system which would be supplied free of additional charge, ie note! not licensed but free. Unix gained popularity because it was given to Universities around the world free of charge this had enormous cost savings to academic institutions providing a real push towards true multi user systems rather than shared multi user systems under the Unix banner. Unix has many similarities with Linux in terms of commands, stability and function but there all similarities end.

Open Source is software usually but not always written by individuals with no commercial concerns, interest or restrictions. Profit is usually an overriding concern with most, but this is not so with Open Source Software. The primary concern is that of function not profit as a result the software is written to perform the function it was designed for, not as a means to interrogate yourself or your system. Linux as a OS rarely occupies more than 3 Giga Byte of space for any given nominal installation compare this with Microsoft and you begin to wonder just how wholesome Microsoft actually is a product.

Floss and Open Source can be used, copied, shared, modified and redistributed all with little or no restrictions, it allows for the free access to it’s source code. This has of course led to others trying to profit from what others have created. Open Source is about openness, it’s about whatever you take you give back, so for example if you obtained some code that nearly meets your needs and this was created using open source if you modify that code the source code of that modification under the terms of the licence must be given back to share with the community.

When Free Software is not Free

There are loads and loads of Free software out there but is it open and free, Open Source software is Free, free as in freedom, free as in choice, and free as in changing the code. If the software you download or obtain by other means is not all of these things it is closed source software.

Open Office is an example of Free Open Source software it is perhaps equal to it’s counterpart form Microsoft but it’s total cost of ownership is zero. If M$ office is so much better why does it take longer to install, why does it take up so much disc space and why when you have paid so much money for it are you not allowed to look at it’s source code let alone change it.

In my windows days I remember using something called Irfanview written by someone from Austria I believe so was this free software, well no although you were at least initially, free to use this software as an individual rather than a company, but the author never wanted to make his software open. Irfanview was and still is a fantastic program I wish it was available for Linux as an Open Source application. Sadly this will not happen but then this is what choice is all about.

Author: Derek Shaw - Page reference: 4262
Last modified: Peter Horwood - 2015-02-02