Thursday, July 23, 2009

WHAT IS FREE AND OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE?

This is a question that I am asked time and again by my friends and colleagues both at home and in the office . So today I intend talking a little about what the concept of Free Software means. This is in no way an exhaustive post, neither am I an Open Source Expert. I am only sharing with you my knowledge and experience of FOSS and will provide appropriate links to relevant sites as much as possible.

So what does Free and Open Source Software mean?
The concept of Free and Open Source software refers to the right of the end user to modify a FOSS software however they want without any restriction provided the output will also be made available freely to other users.
So if you are Muslim, you can choose to modify an operating system like Ubuntu as the guys here have done. Christians can also check out what is here, also a derivative of Ubuntu. There are hundreds of softwares that are are available free of any restriction for you to use.

Free as in free beer or as in free speech?
Both. There are thousands of Foss softwares that are available both free as in free beer and free speech. From full fledged operating systems, office suites, graphics softwares , just name it. All you have to do is download them and use them. No licensing fees, no product keys, nothing. Just download and use. Simple as that.
Then there are those that are available as for free only as in free speech but have to be paid for to use them. So you would have to pay to use the software but can modify it as you wish.

Why should i use FOSS?
Simple. Aside from it being free, you can be assured of very quality and up to date products. This because almost anyone can contribute to the development of FOSS and thus people from all over the world help to develop any given software which enriches the diversity and flavor that go into it. Also, because open source softwares have their source code in the public eye, it makes it nigh impossible to add any malicious line of code without it being detected and eliminated quickly. This makes open source softwares more secure than their closed counterparts.

Do i need a particular OS in order to use FOSS?
No. There are FOSS softwares for almost all OS platforms around today. There are softwares for Windows, Mac OS and Linux. Just search for the softaware relating to your OS.

So what makes FOSS unique from other softwares?
In my opinion, what makes FOSS unique is the massive, dedicated community that you can choose to become part of when you use FOSS. An OS like Ubuntu has a very loving, dedicated and superb community that is just willing to help you with every single problem you may encounter with the OS and there hundreds like the Ubuntu Forums that to me, make FOSS such a joy to use.

OK. I want to try some out. Where do i begin?
I will just make a small list of some great FOSS that you can try out for yourself. You will be happy you did.

Web browser try Firefox if you are not already using it.
Image editor try Gimp. Also a free alternative to Photoshop.
Multi media player, try VLC.
I also suggest you try Ubuntu, a free, powerful and fully customizable OS.
You can also visit OSALT for all the free softwares you can think of.

Check out the video below. Enjoy using FOSS and I hope to see you on one of the really great FOSS forums around. Let me know what you think about open source.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 1 comment

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