For those uninitiated to this concept — a full-fledged philosophy for many — applying something as lofty as freedom to the world of bits and bytes may seem a tad misplaced. However, advocates of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) will tell you that ‘freedom’ is as critical in the digital world, especially in one that is largely controlled by proprietary (and market) forces.
Richard Stallman, the foremost torchbearer of the Free Software Movement, points out ‘Free’ is a matter of liberty,not price: “‘Free’ as in ‘free speech,’ not as in ‘free beer’,” he distinguishes. In simple terms, the user is free to run, copy, modify and distribute software, and this, enabled by the fact that its source code (a set of instructions that calls the shots) is freely available.
‘free speech’ type of freedom, it means that if you want a particular application to be modified to suit your needs — say, using an Indian script — a developer can access the program that runs it and ‘tweak’ it for you.
“Microsoft OS, for instance, gets heavier with each version, forcing users to upgrade hardware. Linux doesn’t have a mandate to ‘encourage’ people to buy new PCs, and so has far lower system requirements,”
A big advantage here is the security factor. In the GNU/ Linux systems, users can’t run applications that attack system files, making it impossible for virus to propagate. “GNU/Linux OSs are built on Unix concepts, which from ground-up was designed to be multi-user/multi-tasking/ connected,” “Windows comes from the single-user world of DOS, which allows for such attack.” “A huge industry has now sprung up around the entire viruses-on-Windows scenario — even Microsoft has now started shipping anti-virus software. This is ironic; instead of exploiting the situation this way, it should be fixing the design flaws of their OS!”