Everyday Computing, Features, Technology

Free Software

By Dr. Lyndell St. Ville- ICT Consultant
By Dr. Lyndell St. Ville- ICT Consultant

OUR enslaved ancestors must have been relieved to have finally achieved their freedom. They eventually won their emancipation after centuries of suffering the savagery and brutality of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Emancipation signalled a change in their reality, and in their dreams, that their children might enjoy true freedom. The sort of life that they could have only dreamed of during the dark years that they toiled and suffered, daring to hope for a brighter future.

Emancipation imposes a duty upon us, to be reminded of their long and painful struggle, and to live our lives in a way that respects and values the very freedom that they fought and died for. To do otherwise would be tantamount to a betrayal of their long march to freedom.

In your use of ICT, do you choose hardware and software that respects your rights and does not impose upon your freedom? There is a choice in the software market that consists of two main choices. Proprietary or “closed source” software does not allow you to access, modify or redistribute changes to the software. On the other hand, “free software” (free as in speech) actively encourages you to access, modify and further distribute your changes to the rest of the community. In that sense, the open source software respects your freedom, whereas, the closed source software imposes restrictions upon you.

The freedoms granted by Free an Open Source (FOSS) software, also referred to as “software libre,” should not be confused with the purchase price. Free software is not necessarily free in price. Similarly, proprietary and closed-source software, which does not grant those freedoms, may be given away at zero cost. If all software was acquired at no cost, then free software would still be more valuable due to the freedoms granted.

Here are some examples of Free and Open Source software that you may encounter:
* Apache — the most popular web server ;
* Asterisk — a communications server (providing telephony, switching and PBX facilities);
* Firefox — the web browser which is credited with forcing Microsoft to take notice and update their own browser;
* Linux — the phenomenal operating system which powers the Raspberry Pi, and a vast array of other devices.

If you are purchasing or acquiring software, you deserve it to yourself, and your ancestors, to consider using open source software. Even app-development, a useful skill, might be misguidedly targeting a “closed source” approach within a so-called walled-garden that restricts freedoms in a flash of shiny gadgetry.

In his highly acclaimed song, entitled “Redemption Song,” Bob Marley sang that we “should emancipate ourselves from mental slavery.” He was right to note that “none but ourselves can free our minds.”

When acquiring ICT for your home or office, it might be useful to consider whether a true choice is being made, and what freedoms might be given up in the process. If there is a compelling reason to acquire closed-source software, it should always be done while being mindful of what is being traded away, and what free software choices might exist.

To freely share your views, contact the author at: www.datashore.net or via The Voice.

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