What is Linux, Free Software and Open Source?Linux (also known as GNU/Linux) is a computer operating system, like Microsoft Windows or Apple Mac OS. Unlike those two, however, Linux is built with a collaborative development model. The operating system and most of its software are created by volunteers and employees of companies, governments and organizations from all over the world.
The operating system is free to use and everyone has the freedom to contribute to its development. This co-operative development model means that everyone can benefit. Because of this, we like to call it Socially Responsible Software, or Free Software. Closely related is the concept of Open Source Software. Together, Free and Open Source Software is collectively abbreviated as FOSS. This contrasts with the proprietary (or closed source) development model used by some software companies today.
Many of the principles behind FOSS are derived from the axiom of standing on the shoulders of giants, most famously used by Isaac Newton, which has guided scientific and industrial development for hundreds of years. Transparency of the code and development process means that it can be participated in and audited at all levels. Software is just another form of information, and people have the right to have full control over that information. In the same way that you are free to share your favorite books and recipes with your neighbor, you should also have the freedom to share and change software.
Linux has many other benefits, including speed, security and stability. It is renowned for its ability to run well on more modest hardware. Linux comes from the venerable UNIX family of operating systems, and so has been built from the ground-up with Internet-style networking and security in mind. Hence, viruses, worms, spyware and adware are basically a non-issue on Linux.
How can it cost nothing? Doesn't it cost money to make good software?It can cost time and resources to produce good software, which are not synonymous with money. Many FOSS developers develop for fun; many others are paid for their time. Because the code is open, it is actively worked on by all sorts of individuals and organizations. Since development is shared, it can cost relatively little to work with FOSS. The savings made can be invested into creating better customization or into improving integration with existing systems and processes. When access to the source code is available, there are essentially no limitations to what can be achieved. Free Software is so named because of the freedom granted to the user.
FOSS makes it possible to leverage the skills and insights of a wide range of developers, thereby avoiding the constraints and limited viewpoints of a small, closed development team. Usable feedback can be received throughout the development process from users worldwide. Code and ideas from different programs can be melded together, creating interesting and powerful combinations whilst minimizing duplication of effort.
Many proprietary software packages are sold at far above the cost of their production. Microsoft Windows, for instance, has for many years been sold at at profit margin of 85 per cent. A mere 15 per cent is spent on marketing, packaging, shipping, and development of the product.
- Software, like any information, is infinitely replicable. Despite this, many vendors like to price their proprietary software as if they are physical items. Through the enforcement of artificial scarcity and vendor lock-in, software prices can be kept artificially high. In contrast, FOSS promotes abundance and open standards.
So What Should A user expect to see differently?
Well SUPER GLAD you asked lets put in a Live CD (Can run Linux from your DVD/CD Drive with out touching anything on your hard Drive) and test out your first Flavor of Linux.
Thanks to © Sridhar Dhanapalan 2007-2008. It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Australia Licence.
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