Sunday, August 24, 2008

Free Software, Open Source and Linux

The essence of the free software and open source movement is that the users are treated like co-developers and therefore have access to the source code of the software. Furthermore users are encouraged to submit additions to the software, code fixes for the software, bug reports, documentation etc. Having more co-developers increases the rate at which the software evolves. Linus's law states that, "Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow."

But what are these movements really? The rest of the article should clear the picture for you.

Closed source or propriety software implies that the producer of such software has set restrictions on the use, modification, copying, or republishing of the software. This involves restriction in the source code access often through copyright and patents.

The free software movement aims to promote user's rights to access and modify software. It aims at giving the users freedom by replacing propriety software under restrictive licensing terms with free software. Richard Stallman the pioneer of this movement maintains that ‘free’ here stands for freedom to distribute rather than freedom from cost. The problem that this ideology faces is that companies consider such software as anti-commercial since they are available at zero cost.

The open source movement in contrast maintains that some intellectual property law needs to exist to protect cultural producers. It is the same as free software in concept; however, the various licenses that exist often makes it difficult to understand the legal implications regarding the privileges and restrictions of using open source software. Commercially, however, open source is more accepted than free software.

What is commonly referred to as Linux is actually more appropriately a GNU/Linux operating system. The GNU Project uses the Linux kernel developed by Linus Torvalds and supported by thousands of programmers worldwide for its operation.

The Debian Project have made common cause to create a free operating system. This operating system is called Debian GNU/Linux, or simply Debian for short. Work is in progress to provide Debian for other kernels, primarily for the Hurd which is produced by the GNU project.

No comments: