Monday, February 28, 2011
When you have been suggesting free open source software to people as longs as I have you are bound to run into at least a few people believe FOSS is only for "cheap" people (I've found typically these people have Microsoft Certifications). They accuse you of only using free software because it comes at no cost to you. Even if this was the first reason you gravitated towards FOSS, odds are if you are still here after some months there is now more to it than just "free of cost".
One of my favorite quotes is:
Nothing is ever free.
I believe this statement to be true for a number of reasons. The important thing to recognize is that I believe the "free" in this quote and the "free" in FOSS are two different types of "free". In the quote the "free" refers to a monetary value. Even if you pay no monetary value for software - that software cost someone, somewhere, something. Whether that something is a paycheck for the software developer coming from a company backing the project or it is simply a dedicated individual hacking at code during his spare moments - that "free" software comes at a cost to someone.
Now - what do I believe the "free" in FOSS means? Freedom of course! The code is open - you are allowed to change and redistribute it as you wish. Add features, fix bugs, or fork a project all together. You are not tied down in messy, restrictive EULAs - your computer is truly your own. You are not "renting" your software. Because this software is free of cost to the end user you also have the freedom to change at any time. Don't like KDE? Try Enlightenment. Don't like Fedora? Try OpenSUSE. Don't like OpenOffice.org? Try LibreOffice. (This list never really stops)
I've found that the longer most people use FOSS the more likely they are to contribute back to the projects they enjoy. We can all help in different ways - if you can spare a few dollars for your favorite project I'm sure they won't say no - if you cannot there are plenty of other ways to help - code, support, art... If you haven't already drop a message to your favorite open source project and do so to find out how you can help! Without community backing the world of FOSS would not be the thriving ecosystem it is today.