Special Issue: Intellectual Property
Building a free computer with open source
by Tim Hennessey
What is open source?
Software at large has had many driving principles since its creation. The most obvious reason many companies make high quality software is to make money. People like Apple Microsoft and Adobe spend years in development in a closed setting to create a truly great operating system or an industry standard suite of programs. That's because they have the money to pay a lot of talented people to create these programs. Companies like these know they make great products and want to charge as much as possible to people to buy them. It's not evil, just capitalism.
A fundamentally different kind of development is called open source. Programs that are or become open source allow for anyone to view the source code of the program, and, depending on the company, edit and re-release it as something improved or completely different. A more complete definition can be found at http://www.opensource.org/docs/osd There is a good number of people who don't know what open source software is. That's because there is a much steeper learning curve for some of the programs, and they are not always as stable as a more predominate release. Also they just don't have the marketing budget of someone like Microsoft That is not to say they are lower quality, just most consumers want their software to work perfectly out of the box. There's nothing wrong with that but it can lead down a road of uninspired software, or to a point where big name developers can control the market.
Open source has been around about as long as software development. One of the earliest examples of an open source operating system was IBM's in the 1950's. The market for open source software has fluctuated over the years, but with more coders being trained and the economy not what it once was, usage of open source is on the rise.
Just to get this out of the way open source is different than freeware/shareware. Freeware is a purely free program that does not allow editing for the source code. Shareware is usually an extend trail of a program that can be purchased if the user likes it. Open source software isn't necessarily free, but many times is.
I'm here to tell you how you can create a completely free and open source computer. It's easy, legal, interesting, and did I mention free? You'll find links to each section of this little guide at the top of the screen