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Overview of Free/Open Source Software for Librarians Eric Goldhagen

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Presentation on theme: "Overview of Free/Open Source Software for Librarians Eric Goldhagen"— Presentation transcript:


2 Overview of Free/Open Source Software for Librarians Eric Goldhagen

3 GNU and LINUX Richard Stallman – GNU (GNU Not Unix) Started writing free software utilities for unix in 1984 Stallman personally wrote an impressive amount of software Founded GNU and Free Software Foundation By 1991 GNU created all the elements of a free OS except a kernel Linus Torvalis – Linux Wrote linux kernel in 1991 Linux was released under GPL, the software license written by Richard Stallman

4 Important Terms: Software is written as text (source code) Software is most often distributed as an application (binary) that runs in a specific operating system and type of hardware (architecture) Source code is modified (compiled) by another program (compiler) to create a binary Free software and open source are in most cases equivalent and may be found abbreviated as FOSS, F/OSS or FLOSS

5 What Do You Mean Free? Free as in Speech (always) Free as in Beer (sometimes) Free to read source code and evaluate it for security and other reasons Free to modify source code for your own use Free to distribute your modifications Free to anyone for any use More extensive definition at

6 Freedom Backed by License The freedoms associated with F/OSS are protected by software licenses There are many different licenses for F/OSS – GPL (GNU General Public License) Strong copyleft license, all code modifications must be released – BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) Permissive and non-copyleft, allows for easier bundling of f/oss with commercial tools. – LGPL (GNU Lesser GPL) Compromise between GPL and BSD-like licenses. Not a strong copyleft license, because it permits linking with non-free modules. – See for full list of free/open source licenses

7 Why Should Librarians Care About Software Licenses? Discussions of software license, fair use and copyright overlap Creative Commons License for content is an outgrowth of F/OSS End User License Agreements (EULA's) limit rights Free/open source licenses protect freedom and rights You never own commercial software Public access can be restricted by EULA's Software licenses are a drain on limited library budgets Knowledge as information vs. knowledge as property

8 Radical Reference: Tools Drupal for Website Content Management System – Provides web interface to create, modify and otherwise maintain content on the website Modular and extensible – Over 200 code modules exist to add features and content types to the system 100% Free / released under GPL – LAMP (linux, apache, mysql, [php | python | perl]) Large international development community – Over 1000 developers over the past 5 years have added code – Over 200 developers have added code in the past 6 months Download and find out more at

9 Radical Reference: Tools Lightningbug for Reference GPL / LAMP Developed for the site Designed to facilitate collaboration in vetting site content Modified to work in the context of answering reference questions Some of those changes were added to the distributed code Small development community – Very responsive to users of system – Code under active development with fixes and new features being added on a regular basis Available at

10 Summary Software licenses/EULA's restrict fair-use Commercial software is never owned, but leased Commercial software is guided by the desires of the marketing department; F/OSS is guided by the needs of the users and the whims of the programmers F/OSS creates a dynamic where collectivity and competition are not mutually exclusive concepts F/OSS creates a culture where contribution and participation are valued over ownership.

11 What FLOSS to Use?

12 Filling in the Blanks Free Software Foundation GNU Open Source Initiative NOSI (Nonprofit Open Source Initiative) Linux distributions – Debian – Redhat Fedora – Ubuntu – Gnoppix Where to find f/oss – Sourceforge – Freshmeat On line Resources for More Information on the Topics Covered

13 Credits Presentation created with Open Office 1.1 Created using a salvaged computer running Debian LINUX Presentation theme distributed free with Open Office 1.1 On line sources used for this presentation are all listed on the Filling in the blanks page

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