Free Software

What is free software?

  1. Historical Significance

    1. The definition of free software has been revised several times, and will likely be resolved again. They make the history public for people to see the changes.
  2. Key Points

    1. Free Software is focused on liberty, not price. Users are free to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software.
      1. How can something have liberty but not be free? I can see how something can be free (as in free beer) but not have liberty, but not the other way around.
    2. An “unfree” program constitutes an instrument of unjust power. Either the users control the program (free) or the program controls the users (unfree) while the developer controls the program.
      1. It seems to me that people could just not use that program, unless they had a monopoly or something.
      2. What about people without the interest/prowess to contribute to free software? Are we being unjustly acted upon?
    3. Four essential freedoms of free software
      1. The freedom to run the program as they want to, for any purpose
        1. This goes to our discussion last week, what if someone wants to use the software to cyberbully, do you have to be ok with that?
      2. The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does what you want. Must have access to the source code.
      3. Redistribute – to help your neighbor
        1. Can you redistribute for other reasons? Profit? – Later it says yes, interesting.
      4. Redistribute copies of modified versions.
        1. Do you have to redistribute the copies of the modified versions like in CC? – Later says no.
  3. Questions for Discussion

    1. What about people without the interest/prowess to contribute to free software? Are we being unjustly acted upon?

The GNU Project

  1. Historical Significance

    1. Originally computer programers freely shared their source code and cooperated. Modern computers required a nondisclosure agreement and put a stop to this sharing.
    2. The author did not feel right about creating software that would be kept behind walls and serve as a divider, so he decided to create free software.
  2. Key Points

    1. It is unethical to stop people from sharing and changing software
    2. The idea relies on assumptions that the authors disagrees with
      1. Software companies have an unquestionable, natural right to own their software and as a result have power over the people that use the software.
      2. The only important thing about software it what jobs it does and as a result computer users shouldn’t care what society we have.
      3. Nobody would create useable software if companies could not own it – obviously true as evidenced by the free software movement.
    3. Copyleft uses copyright law to allow users to do whatever they want with the software except make it proprietary.
    4. This really is a moral code “Unix was (and is) proprietary software, and the GNU Project’s philosophy said that we should not use proprietary software. But, applying the same reasoning that leads to the conclusion that violence in self defense is justified, I concluded that it was legitimate to use a proprietary package when that was crucial for developing a free replacement that would help others stop using the proprietary package.”
  3. Questions for Discussion

    1. What motivates people to pay for software (or anything else) that someone might just give them?
  4. Other

    1. The project is highly coordinated anarchy – a self-organizing system.

Free software, free society

  1. Key points
    1. A computer itself is a universal machines
    2. Programs give computers instructions but it is obeying instructions from the software developers
    3. We should have both individual control and group control. In a group, we might not all be programmers, but those that are can make changes in ways that the group wants.
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