What is FOSS?

By | June 19, 2016
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What is FOSS?

Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) has become a household name in the world of technology. Moving from the edge to take its place in the front burner of not just how technology (software and hardware) are made but how government, health systems, education, businesses are designed and run. With its own blooming community of followers all over the world. Though there is still no full embrace of the concept as a result of lack of understanding, it has come to stay and the ramifications of FOSS cannot be overemphasized because of its many benefits.

The FOSS Philosophy

There are two school of thoughts behind the idea of FOSS: that of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and that of the Open Source Initiate (OSI).

According to the FSF, the freedom of the user is the most paramount parameter of evaluation for what is regarded as free software. Here, therefore, is the definition of free software: a program is free software, for you, a particular user, if:

  • You have the freedom to run the program, for any purpose.
  • You have the freedom to modify the program to suit your needs. (To make this freedom effective in practice, you must have access to the source code, since making changes in a program without having the source code is exceedingly difficult.)
  • You have the freedom to redistribute copies, either gratis (without charge) or for a fee.
  • You have the freedom to distribute modified versions of the program, so that the community can benefit from your improvements.

FSF regards non-free (as in freedom) softwares as unethical, since it restricts the freedom of its users to cooperate. For FSF, it is more about the moral implications than any other thing.

The OSI school of thought diverges a little. Its focuses more on the technical benefits of free softwares. If source codes of softwares could be read and modified by programmers, it would help in improving it, adapting it and also fixing bugs. And this would happen at a speed that would otherwise be less possible with conventional software development methods. OSI is focused more on the practical advantages of the distributed development method of FOSS than the morality like FSF.

Irrespective of this difference between the two philosophies, both share the same ground against proprietary software, software patents, and the like.

Linux (pronounced as “lih – nucks”) is the most visible manifestation of the FOSS philosophy. Linux is licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL). Though Linux is actually the kernel portion of the operating system, it has come to be used to refer to a Linux distribution which includes far more than the kernel. And because an average Linux distribution contains many other components apart from the Linux kernel (like libraries, GUI, servers, email utilities etc.) it referred to as GNU/Linux in recognition of the GNU Project’s significant contribution.

Linux architecture


While all distributions contain the Linux kernel at its heart, the different FOSS apps supported vary because they have been adapted to the unique needs of different users (servers, desktop, embedded systems etc.). Some of the most user friendly examples include Ubuntu, Mint, Debian, Solus, Chalet and so many others. The Linux kernel itself can be downloaded from https://www.kernel.org and other applications from their respective websites. But most users prefer to download Linux in the aggregated form of distributions (Ubuntu, Debian, fedora, chalet, arch and so on).

Happy Linux’NG!


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