Free Software

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This page is not about Piga Software itself, it is being hosted on this Wiki to help other Free Software projects.

Free Software are software that are free (as in freedom) to use, modify, study, and redistribute (the opposite of free software is called "proprietary", "un-free", or "non-free software"). It was a common unconscious occurrence during the earlier days of computers (1950s, 1960s, and 1970s) inside such universities as MIT and Berkly, and other groupings of computer enthusiasts. This continued until the software industry grew and software became considered by many to be a commodity akin to how books and films have been (called by them "intellectual property", software was extended copyright in the United States of America during in the year 1980). The person considered to be the most responsible for modern free software philosophy is Richard M. Stallman (RMS) the famed creator of the Emacs editor and founder of the GNU Project and Free Software Foundation (FSF, considered to be the primary free software advocacy organization), who equates the ideals of free software as an ethical issue (having seen the rise of the software industry and the decline of communal sharing). It is defined by the "Free Software Definition" hosted by the Free Software Foundation, and that lists various software lisences that can be considered free software by the FSF. The Debian GNU/Linux distribution also maintains the "Debian Free Software Guidelines" which lists what characteristics makes software free according to the Debian developers, they do not have a list of licenses; but only software under those that qualify make it into Debian GNU/Linux.

Source(s): Software solutions

The most famous pieces of free software are the components of the GNU Project, the Linux kernel, the GNOME and KDE desktop environments, the suite, and the GIMP photo and graphics editor. One of the most prominent examples of free software licensing (the legal release rights) is that of the GNU General Public License which allows the freedoms listed above under the condition that the modified version is in turn released under the same license (and thus preserve the freedoms, these licenses are often called "copyleft" or "share-alike"). Other licenses have been created by similar projects, many allowing total modification (even into a proprietary program, these licenses are called "permissive"), or requiring a definitive list of contributors (to preserve a sense of single rather than communal authorship) called an "advertising clause". Free software also refutes such ideas as patents (laws against duplication or reverse engineering of a product by others) as proponents of free software argue that they restrict user and developer freedoms and discourage innovation. Free software is closely related to the older "Hacker Ethic", which requires all members of the "Hacker Culture" ("Hackers" are developers and users who dedicate themselves to modifying computers, as opposed to "crackers" who illegally break into computers) to adhere to these freedoms for both ethics and the ideal that it will produce better quality software.


Details and Differences

Due the the ambiguity to the word "free" in the English language (free as in freedom or free as in price, price often being colloquially termed "beer" and freedom being compared to "freedom of speech"), many have suggested other alternate names for free software such as "software libre", "libre software", "unfettered software" or "freedomware" which may also be used ("swatantra software" and "malayang software" are common in India and the Philippines respectively). Although many have assumed otherwise, free software under certain licenses and arrangements can be sold although this is extremely uncommon (most selling is for redistribution). Free software under some definitions may be trademarked (legal ownership of a name or title) such as Mozilla Firefox, though again this is uncommon and is often discouraged by many supporters of free software. Free software should not be confused with "public domain" or "copyright-free" software and media, public domain media are without any copyright and as such can be used for any purpose at all. Free software is legally a form of copyright in the countries that apply and as such it is illegal not the follow the guidelines of the software's license. It should also not be confused with "freeware" which is propitiatory software that is released free of charge ("gratis" versus "libre"). Free software is not "shareware" software, which is typically freely redistributable limited versions of propitiatory software. "Fair use" is when propitiatory software components are used in such a way that they do not injure the copyright holder (such as personal or non-commercial use in some cases), this is not an example of free software.

Nearly all free software does not have any kind of warranty (liability of the developer to the user) and as such it is "use at your own risk". Free software is typically distributed online as it is the easiest and cheapest form of redistribution. It has also been distributed through CD-ROM, DVD, Floppy, and other offline forms, though often with a minimal charge for the cost of purchase or creation of the distribution media. Free software has also gained a large amount of widespread recognition from individuals, large and small organizations, scientists and laboratories, governmental institutions, and even use and contribution from computer businesses, most notably from companies like IBM, Red Hat, and Sun Microsystems (GNU/Linux and other free software systems being in the lead for the server and database markets, with an ever growing although still minimal growth in the desktop and workstation market). Free software has also inspired other movements for freedom of texts, images, videos, sounds, and other information and expression forms. This has been dubbed as the "free culture", "free content", or "free media movement" which can also encase free software, some notable free culture projects are Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, and Project Gutenberg. Proponents and users of free software are sometimes called "penguinistas" after the Linux kernel mascot "Tux the penguin", "Hackers", or self defined "nerds" or "geeks", though many free software supporters and users do not associate with any one subculture.

Open Source

Alongside free software exists the "open source" or "open-source" methodology, which is a concept in a similar style and interchangeably compatible but are not identical to free software. Open source is a software development methodology which requires an entirely transparent and open development (with often development releases), as such it has to be done with a maximum amount of collaboration and a minimum of secrecy (the opposite of open source is "closed source"). Open source may be done adhering free software philosophy or otherwise, just as free software can both be openly developed or also done privately with free results. Open source proponents such as its primary advocate Eric S. Raymond (Raymond attributes the creation of modern open source to Linus Torvalds, creator of the Linux kernel) claim that an open development cycle would lead to superior software because the transparent development minimizes the chances of a bug (a problem or error in a program) going unnoticed ("Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow"). The Piga Software developers agree with the claim that it can produce better quality software, as well as the claim associated with both free software and open source that the ability to modify it and return the modifications to the original developers helps destroy function and security bugs. However on open source they also note that the methodology may possibly be best for many types of software (such as operating systems or office suites) but they also claim that "closed development but free results" (closed and opaque development but the end result is free software, likened to "Cathedral Building" by Raymond) is probably best for projects that require more careful planning and a cohesion of design (such as story-based games, fiction, or concentrated research projects). Open source is supported by the Open Source Initiative (OSI) which tries to achieve a greater awareness of open media through deals with the software industry and others, this move has been criticized by persons such as Richard M. Stallman who claim that they are creating too many compromises and are not supporting the "true" point of free software: freedom for computer users. The OSI also hosts the "Open Source Definition", a list of what software licenses allow for open source (it mostly agrees with the "Free Software Definition" and the "Debian Free Software Guidelines"). Although "open source" is often branded as another alternate term for "free software" the two are not of the same meaning (it was originally thought up this way, but it has since grown into being about the development methodology), though the two are often paired together as "Free Open Source Software (FOSS)", "Free Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS)" or "Open Source Software/Free Software (OSS/FS)". It should be noted that "Free Software" and "Open Source" are often always spelt capitalized like in this sentence.

Piga Software and Free Software

Piga Software is a free software organization in that it seeks to create software that falls under the free software definition. Piga Software at its core wishes to expand the free software program list in areas that it finds lacking currently, most notably in the computer games market (they particularly note the lack of high quality strategy games). Piga Software is a strict adherent to the Free Software Foundation's "Free Software Definition" and is also dedicated to the creation of programs free of charge, hence the motto "Free as in Freedom, Free as in Price". It develops software largely under what has been defined as "closed development but free results" by Piga Software's Graham L. Wilson, as such its programs that are in development are not always known by the public until they are released (though if information is posted it is most likely on this Wiki or the Piga Software Forum), they can however be modified freely and patches and upgrades by others may be included. Though an exception is in the Free Empires project where there has been a greater amount of openness, though not quite as much as would be described as under the open source methodology.

Free Software Foundation Definition

The definition published by FSF in February 1986 CE had two points:

"The word "free" in our name does not refer to price; it refers to freedom. First, the freedom to copy a program and redistribute it to your neighbours, so that they can use it as well as you. Second, the freedom to change a program, so that you can control it instead of it controlling you; for this, the source code must be made available to you" - The Free Software Foundation

The modern definition has four points, which it numbers zero to three. It defines free software by whether or not the recipient has the freedoms to:

  • run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0)
  • study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1)
  • redistribute copies so you can help your neighbour (freedom 2)
  • improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits (freedom 3)

It also notes that "Access to the source code is a precondition" for freedoms 1 and 3.


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