What is Free & Open-Source Software?
Free Software refers to freedom rather than price. As described by the Free Software Foundation:
“Free software” means software that respects users' freedom and community. Roughly, it means that the users have the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software
Some people use the phrases Free Software and Open-Source Software inter-changeably but there are important differences.
Open source software as defined by the OSI:
"enables a development method for software that harnesses the power of distributed peer review and transparency of process. The promise of open source is higher quality, better reliability, greater flexibility, lower cost, and an end to predatory vendor lock-in."
The four essential freedoms
A program is free software if the program’s users have the four essential freedoms:
- The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose (freedom 0).
- The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish (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 distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3). By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
A program is free software if it gives users adequately all of these freedoms. Otherwise, it is nonfree.
There are benefits in freeing ourselves from proprietary software including education, learning, sharing, security, decreasing costs, protecting privacy and giving users more control.
The video below is a TED talk by the guy who started it all – Richard M Stallman.
You are Probably Already Using It
You may not realise it but you are probably already using free software. Mobile phones, home routers, games consoles, TVs, set-top boxes and smart cars use freedom software. FOSS technology is the backbone of the internet and is behind many top websites including Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, Google and Amazon.
FOSS software has even helped in the production of blockbuster movies such as Harry Potter and Spider-man.
Who else uses it ?
Many of the big employers in Belfast and Dublin need expertise in FOSS software including Web Developers, Software Engineers, SysAdmins, DevOps & Network Engineers.
FOSS software is an enabler for many start-ups, for academic research and for banks and stock exchanges. If that isn’t enough for you, you can also free your desktop too.