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GNU/Linux: Source Code and Human Rights

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Linux

James Maguire, Datamation's managing editor, claims he has no interest in software whose source code is available for editing. "I'm not a software engineer," he says. "If I can't grab it off the shelf, I can't use it."

He's half-joking, of course. But he echoes the opinion of many people outside the free and open source software (FOSS) community about what its efforts are about. Ask average computer users what FOSS is about, and, if they've even heard of it, they'll probably say something about the source code being publicly available.

The problem is that the community has done a deplorable job of explaining itself to outsiders. Focused on the immediate concerns of developers, the Open Source Definition lists only one right out of ten (to redistribute the software) that might be of interest to average computer users. The more concise Free Software Definition includes two out four points for the average user (the rights to redistribute and to run the program for any purpose). But, in practice, those who use it tend to be focused on the rights given to developers like themselves.

Nor is the matter clarified by the popular use of the term "open source" for the entire movement, since the term refers directly to the source code.

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Linux != cheap Windows

It's a good article. Not many journalists out there actually understand what GNU/Linux is about (hint: it's not just cheap Windows).

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