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Open Source

Open Source is a way of developing software which results in some very high quality software while scaling up very well from tiny programs all the way up to the Debian distribution of the Linux operating system.

While not being constrained to work in a totally open environment, it undoubtedly works best when it is developed that way.

There are many different software licenses which meet the open source definition, and most of them result in it also being Free Software.

Free software is a term introduced by Richard M Stallman after a problem with the sudden closing up of parts of software which previously you could just fix. It is usually stated in terms of the essential four freedoms:

  1. The freedom to run the program for any purpose
  2. The freedom to study how the program works, and make changes to make it work better
  3. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbour
  4. The freedom to distribute copies of your modified version to others, so everyone gets a chance to benefit from your improvements

As you can imagine, freedoms 1 & 3 are a bit hard to implement if you don't have access to the source code, and for this reason most open source and free software is actually delivered as source code, which if not scripts is then compiled into executable binaries.

Both the source code and the binaries are usually bundled up into Software Packages which should then play nice with other software.