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Why Free And Open Source?

Ever like being locked out? Probably not.

That’s why we at Free Geek Toronto like to keep things open – especially our software. Open celebrates community, transparency, and collective engagement. Open means embracing everyone and anyone.

When is software not open source?

Let’s get a bit technical – open-source software is software with source code that users can inspect and change. The source code is the side of software that most of us never see – but modifying this code is how programmers change the way an application or a program work. If you know how to manipulate the source code, you can fix things you don’t like and add new features that you wish were there.

There are two sides to every story. When the source code of software can only be modified exclusively by the person, company, or team that created it, we have proprietary software (sometimes called closed source software). Only one governing body has a say over the source code, so a user can’t add features or fix any problems they encounter. In order to use proprietary software, users must agree to use the software within the bounds of what the creators have permitted. Often, users must agree to the terms of a license document that pops up the first time they run the program. Think about those long ‘Terms of Use’ documents that always pop up.

With open-source software, the creators make the source code available for users to modify and learn from it, while proprietary software requires users to operate under a set of rules. The “free” in Free Geek stands for freedom and we stand behind accessible, open software.

Advantages of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS)

Security – FOSS is ultimately more secure for a few simple reasons: more people are able to view the source code, test it and find the bugs hidden within it. Even better, FOSS is typically debugged almost immediately, whereas debugged versions of proprietary software generally roll out slower.

Quality – Thousands of people are collaborating and improving a software’s source code results with a program that is true to what people want (they ARE the ones designing it).

Transparency – Users have access to it all – no secrets, no following a vendor’s vision. You understand what you’re working with and there’s no red tape.

Customizability – One of the coolest things about FOSS is that users can add features and modify the software to build their own ideas. No limits!

GNU

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is the official sponsor of the GNU Operating System and they are leaders in the conversation around Free and Open Source Software. The development of the GNU license made it possible for free software to exist. A “Linux distribution” is, in fact, a Linux/GNU distribution it is the Linux kernel along with a variety of the FOSS/GNU software running the show. Many of its users are not aware of this.

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