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Based on the information presented in our module, “Free software” is software that respects a users’ freedom and community. The term free software isn’t referring to cost, it is referencing freedom. For software to be considered free, it must allow the following four freedoms. Freedom zero, permits you to run the program however you choose to. Freedom one is the freedom to be able to study how the program works and make changes should you so desire. Freedom two is the freedom to be able to redistribute copies to help others. The third freedom is the freedom to be able to dispense copies of your modified versions, the intent here is so others may benefit (“What is Free”).
Free software is also available for commercial use, development, and distribution. According to GNU, commercial development of free software is no longer unusual and such free commercial software is essential. It doesn’t matters how you acquire your software, you always have the freedom to copy, change, or even to sell copies (“What is Free”).
According to GNU website, the free software movement began in 1983. The next notable milestone was in 1984 with the launch of the free GNU operating system by Richard Stallman (“GNU Software”). The Free Software Foundation was founded in 1985. In 1998, a section of the free software community fractured off and began campaigning as “open source.” Stallman suggests the term “open source” became associated with ideas and arguments based only on practical values. He states the two terms describe almost the same category of software, but they stand for views based on fundamentally different values and that open source is a development methodology; free software is a social movement (Stallman).
What is open source? The “open source” label was created at a strategy session held in 1998 in Palo Alto, California. The attendees believed that this was an opportunity to educate and advocate the advantage of an open development process (“History of the OSI”).
The Open Source Initiative (OSI) was formed as an educational, advocacy, and stewardship organization. By Oct. 1999, OSI had published its first formal list of approved licenses. OSI was founded by Eric Raymond and Bruce Perens, in 1998 (“History of the OSI”).
One of the first objectives of the OSI was to draft the Open Source Definition (OSD), this resulted in the creation of the OSI-approved licenses list. In 2004, the OSI launched a campaign to reduce the number of open source licenses (“History of the OSI”). As a result, a License Proliferation report was published is 2006, which classified the license list into groups based on usage and content. This resulted in a broader awareness of the license increase issue and reduced the creation and use of new licenses (“History of the OSI”).
The original Board’s accomplishment was it successfully positioned the OSD as the gold standard of open-source licensing, and the OSI as a standards body trusted both by the developer community and the worlds of business and government. Much of their advocacy takes place by offering background to reporters, policy suggestions to politicians, and business cases to executives (“History of the OSI”). OSI’s hard-earned reputation for reasonableness and accessibility has helped it cope with threats to the community’s interests before they become crises. In 2006, the OSI’s advocacy created the Open Standards Requirements for Software to push governments to refer to them when doing their own open standards work (“History of the OSI”).
The goal of the original Board was to build a sustainable institution that represented the open-source community as well as to exercise stewardship of the Open Source Definition. A notable achievement was the adoption of bylaws, IRS recognition as a 501(c)3 nonprofit, and set out trademark guidelines (“History of the OSI”).
What is the Humanitarian FOSS Project? According to their website, they are a collaborative, community-building project that was started by a group of computing faculty at Trinity College, Wesleyan University, and Connecticut College. Their goal is to build a community of academic computing departments, IT corporations, and local and global humanitarian and community organizations dedicated to building and using Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) to benefit humanity (Lanerolle, Trishan de.).
Established in 2007, the HFOSS Project has been engaged in numerous activities since its start. Although most of our projects use the GNU license, they are open to working with OSI-approved licenses and consider themselves within the broader FOSS community (Lanerolle, Trishan de).
What is the social context of open source software? Raymond, states, many people would expect a culture of self-directed individuals to be fragmented, territorial, wasteful, secretive, and hostile. In spite of this Linux’s free market works better to produce virtuous, other-directed behavior than the massively-funded documentation shops of commercial software producers (Raymond).
He also suggests, that although coding remains an unsocial activity, the really great hacks come from harnessing the attention and brainpower of entire communities. The developer who relies on his or her own brain is going to fall behind the developer who knows how to create an open, evolutionary environment in which feedback exploring the design space, code contributions, bug-spotting, and other improvements (Raymond).
Linux was the first project for which a conscious and successful effort to use the entire world as its talent pool was made. Linus was the first person who learned how to play by the new rules that pervasive Internet access made possible (Raymond).
The author also reasons the future of open-source software will increasingly belong to people who know how to play Linus’s game and that the cutting edge of open-source software will belong to people who start from individual vision and brilliance, then strengthen it through the effective assembly of voluntary communities of interest (Raymond).
The Open Medical Record System (OpenMRS®) was created in 2004 as an open source medical record system for developing countries. This software enables the design of a customized medical records system without the requirement of programming knowledge. The system is based on a database structure that can be customized for different applications because the medical information collected does not require a certain type of data collection form (“About OpenMRS”). The basic belief is that information should be stored in a way that it is easy to summarize and analyze. It is a basically a concept dictionary which stores all diagnosis, tests, procedures, drugs, and other general questions and potential answers. It is also a client-server application, which means it is designed to work in an environment where many client computers access the same information on a server (“About OpenMRS”).
OpenMRS is also a community of people working to apply health information technologies to solve problems, primarily in resource-poor environments. The community is comprised of developers, implementers, funders, and users. OpenMRS is a free, open-source program (“Frequently Asked Questions”).
When I think about freedom, the right to free software isn’t on the top of my list. After studying the material, I have a greater understanding of how important the GSU and the OSI have been in shaping collaboration and improvement of technology. As the saying goes, “two heads are better than one”.

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