Understanding Free and Open Source Software


There are many misconceptions floating around about free and open source software (foss). The purpose of this article is to address them and to better inform people.

The first response I seem to get when I discuss ‘free software’ is, oh but you have to pay for quality, or maybe, well how can developers afford to give away software for nothing. Well in the first instance, free refers to liberty rather than cost. Freedom to copy, change and modify software and indeed you may actually pay for access to free software, although this is generally not the case. Software code is like any other type of knowledge; it should not be hidden from the user.

Another frustrating and misleading idea is that foss kills innovation. If anything free software is the key to innovative creation, we only need to look at Firefox web browser or WordPress blogs to see non-proprietary software flourishing.

So you may ask why do we need to concern ourselves with free software if proprietary software works and can offer stability? In modern society computers, televisions and mobile phones are commonplace; indeed we have come to rely upon them. The software controls and transmits our sensitive information; we should be in control of this software and have a better understanding of how it works in order to maintain our liberty and control.

Other frustrating misconceptions about foss include political aspects. People at times assume that foss is akin to communism; this is a falsity. You can indeed have private ownership over free software, you can modify at will and can reap the rewards of its use. A free software licence only requires that if you do redistribute the software, that you must keep it free; allowing others to modify and redistribute. Or if you wish to keep your modifications private, you must ensure that the original free software is kept separate and that your addition does not contain the original work. The free software license is simply a legal and ethical contract between the programmer and the end-user.

I feel that whilst this information is relatively basic it is all to often taken for granted or misunderstood, so if this sounds repetitive then humour me please. Oh and Happy New Year!

End Software Patents Australia

Recently I received an email Ciarán O’Riordan about his work on FSF’s End Software Patents campaign. I think its wonderful that we have people working on that and helping us in Australia. For people who care about this issue please make contact with Ciarán O’Riordan and check out the wiki. Thanks for allowing me to publish the email below.


I found your email address from groups.fsf.org/wiki/User:Chrismo (and a bit
of searching 🙂

I’m working on FSF’s End Software Patents campaign and am building a wiki
for anti-software-patent campaigns:

Gathering local info is pretty hard though. This week I’m focussing on
Australia, so if you know of any info/websites/stories about what’s
happening or what’s happened there, it’d be great if you could add it here:

I’ve found two interesting organisations digital.org.au and EFA, but if you
could point me towards other active (or potentially active) groups that care
about digital freedom or SMEs or software market competition, that would be
very useful so I could get in contact with them.


Ciarán O’Riordan, +32 487 64 17 54, http://ciaran.compsoc.com/

Software patents wiki: http://en.swpat.org/
End Software Patents: http://www.EndSoftwarePatents.org/

Donate: http://endsoftwarepatents.org/donate
List: http://campaigns.fsf.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/esp-action-alert

Cloud computing trap

Richard Stallman has spoken out about cloud computing and what he believes is a trap aimed at forcing people to buy into proprietary systems.

Cloud computing is basically where you store data online or run your servers via remote. Millions of people now upload personal data such as emails, photographs and, increasingly, their work, to sites owned by companies such as Google.

Stallman sees cloud computing as nothing more than a sales ploy;

“It’s stupidity. It’s worse than stupidity: it’s a marketing hype campaign,”

“One reason you should not use web applications to do your computing is that you lose control,” he said. “It’s just as bad as using a proprietary program. Do your own computing on your own computer with your copy of a freedom-respecting program. If you use a proprietary program or somebody else’s web server, you’re defenceless. You’re putty in the hands of whoever developed that software.”

                                                                                                                     The Guardian
If we choose to store data online we have to accept that we could lose it at anytime, either through a mistake, hacking or some other disaster.
Insightful and thought provoking stuff from Stallman.

FSF Helps Launch Autonomo.us To Focus On Freedom In Network Services

From Slashdot:

mako writes “The FSF just announced the results of a meeting it held on software freedom and network services. They are hailing the launch of a new group called Autonomo.us to follow up on these issues and the publication of the Franklin Street Statement on Freedom and Network Services which lays out a set of recommendations and guidelines for protecting freedom for software as a service.”

More from Mako on his blog:Autonomo.us and the Franklin Street Statement.

Though I first saw info about this on Evan Prodromou’s journal when he was talking about his work on identica.

Evan Profromou

Wonder if this WordIdentica wordpress plugin will work.

Really enjoying identica 😀