The Free Software Foundation(FSF) movement started by Richard M Stallman is growing strongly and rapidly right from its inception.Its main aim is to create awareness among people about the use of free software.Free software is different from freewares
What is Free Software?
“Free software” is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of “free” as in “free speech,” not as in “free beer.”
Free software is a matter of the users’ freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. More precisely, it refers to four kinds of freedom, for the users of the software:
- The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
- The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
- The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
- The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits (freedom 3). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
FSF is the primary sponsor of GNU project.FSF is completely against software patenting and proprietary business model
What is the GNU project?
The GNU Project was launched in 1984 to develop a complete UNIX-like operating system which is free software: the GNU system. Variants of the GNU operating system, which use the kernel called Linux, are now widely used; though these systems are often referred to as “Linux”, they are more accurately called GNU/Linux systems.
GNU is a recursive acronym for “GNU’s Not UNIX”; it is pronounced guh-noo, like canoe
GNU has been leading the FOSS(Free and Opensource Software) community in releasing several quality software which are “free software” .People by and large so far have been exposed only to proprietary solutions. Its use, redistribution or modification is prohibited, or requires one to ask for a permission, or is restricted so much that you effectively can’t use it freely.They are generally based on End User License Agreement(EULA) which limits the users to just use the software,doesn’t provide any freedom.Violation of that agreement can lead to prosecution.FSF on the other hand releases software on General Public License(GPL) which gives the freedom to access code,redistribute,release with a precondition that source must be released along with the software and it should be on the same licensing scheme(GPL).
Is there a difference between OpenSource & FOSS?
Yes there is a difference between the two.In open source software, the source code is available freely but one cannot modify and redistribute it.The licensing scheme differs in Opensource software like OpenSolaris and others which are open source but don’t give freedom.FOSS on the other hand is mostly released on GPL which gives the above mentioned 4 freedoms.
Advantage in using FOSS
There are range of products in the FOSS world,everything in a proprietary world has a equivalent FOSS product which is 1000 times of higher quality.The development activity is million times faster and the Software is created by hundreds of people across the globe 24*7.The community participation makes the software efficient with sooner bug fixes than in a proprietary model which is built inside 4 walls of the corporate office and takes months to identify and fix bugs.So you get an efficient,robust software most of the time free of cost and more importantly with the “Freedoms” mentioned above.
How can one contribute to FOSS?
FOSS world welcomes everyone who wishes to move out from using proprietary softwares.Using FOSS itself is a contribution.One can participate in community development and enhance the quality of the software.Internet binds these like-minded people through mailing lists,IRC,forums.They help everyone(mostly newcomers) and don’t expect anything in return for that because they feel its thier duty to do it as they have got freedom.Adapting to a FOSS environment(read GNU/Linux here) might need an interest.Its a learning curve and once its on the up,no one can pull you down from using FOSS and involving yourself in participating in community development.
For more about FOSS philosophy visit http://www.gnu.org,
read “The Cathedral & the Bazaar” by Eric.S.Raymond for knowing about opensource model
Note:The FSF movement is not against Microsoft or any other company for that matter.Its a movement which speaks of freedom to people who use the software
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Above article was written for my symposium magazine.FOSS gurus please do comment if anything is wrongly mentioned.