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Meaning of FLOSS

Meaning of FLOSS

Yes, we have already spelled it out fully for you. But what does it actually mean?

F is for Free, as in “free lunch”. It means you do not have to pay for it. FLOSS is distributed for free, and you can always get a copy of a FLOSS package or system without having to pey anything, This is not totally true: at the very least you will need to store it somewhere (a pen drive, a disk, your computer’s memory…), which implies you need to consider the cost of the media used to store it.; and likely to get it you will need to walk, drive, commute, or network connect to the facilities of someone who already owns it to make your copy. Conversely, even the most liberal licenses allow you to charge a distribution fee to cover those costs… if you wish to.

L is for “Libre“, a Spanish word meaning “Free” as in “Freedom”. It means you have freedom to modify, extend, improve and further develop on it. You are welcome to learn, share and improve upon the work of others. All licenses allow you to develop proprietary, closed source derivative works for your own use and some of them will even allow you to sell it while others may require you to maintain it as FLOSS if you distribute your changes outside,

O is for Open: all the development process is open for everybody to see. You know who did the work, how it was done, and can see the process all through. You can contact the developers, ask them about their decisions and learn from them. And you can interact with them, make suggestions, ask for improvements, notify problems… Of course, just as you are free to see all through and bother the authors, they are free to ignore any and all of your requests or advice, setting the basis for a software ecosystem: if you do not like their work, answers or support, you are welcome to modify it yourself, or to hire someone else to do it for you, often even the authors themselves, setting the basis for a full economy of services, development or support around FLOSS.

S is for Source: You get access not only to the executable program, you also can get the source code, i. e. the human-readable instructions, the blueprints used to build it: you get to know how it works, and how it interacts and can be integrated with other tools, It is easy to learn how it is built, which engineering approaches and decisions, which architectural methods, which working practices are being used. This allows everybody not only to learn and see what’s going on under the hood, but also to spot problems and fix them, and by sharing these changes to improve on the quality of the common goods. It is said that two eyes see more than one, now imagine millions of eyes peering through a tool’s source code, many of them from knowledgeable individuals who can tinker, play and improve on it.

S is for Software: of course we are talking about Software all the time. This entangles several phylosophical questions that raise rage wars in the most greedy parts of the world. The main questions are whether software is just ideas and algorithmic processes (like mathematics) and should be protected by copyright, or not, and even most importantly, what is “software” (is it only the executable? Is it also the source? Does it include design, blueprints, architectural decisions, building methodologies, documentation, support environments, etc…?). We are not going to enter on these issues here, but do note that they have been taken sometimes to surrealistic extremes.

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