Free and Open Source
Here you can learn what open source and free means, the difference between them, and what it means for you!
"Open source", has a very straight forward meaning. If something is open source, it means that the source code is openly available to users of a program. In other words, if you use an open source program, you have access to the code that makes it function. "Free" has more than one meaning. Free can either refer to "free as in price" or "free as in freedom". In the context of "free and open source", free refers to freedom.
Think free as in free speech, not free as in free drinks.
Free and open source software, often referred to as "FOSS", "FLOSS", "libre", or simply "free software", has many advantages.
- Open source software is often more secure than closed source, proprietary software. This is because the security of closed source software if dependent on the knowledge of a few developers, while open source code can be reviewed by anyone with technical knowledge to find potential vulnerabilities. However, it's important to note that open source is not inherently more secure than a proprietary alternative, since it's not a given that it's code has been reviewed. You should still use common sense when running free and open source software.
- Open source software is completely trustless, which means you don't have to trust that the person developing it has positive intentions. All you have to do is review the code yourself to determine whether or not it has malicious intent.
- Open source software is almost always much more respective of privacy, since anyone can review the source code to determine if the developer is doing something shady with user's information. In the case that they are, anyone can take the code and develop their own alternative without privacy concerns!
- Free and open source software often survives much longer than proprietary software, since anyone can continue to update it. Even if the original developer gets tired of working on a project, anyone else can take the code and pick up right where he or she left off.
Free software doesn't necessarily have to cost $0, but it does have to allow the users to preserve their freedoms. However, V0LT software happens to be both free as in cost, and as in freedom. The following freedoms are the freedoms upheld by free software.
- The freedom to run the software however, wherever, and whenever you want.
- The freedom to study how the software operates and change how it works.
- The freedom to redistribute the software, whether for free or for profit.
- The freedom to distribute your modified versions of the software to others.
It should be noted that "open source" and "free" software are not the same thing. Open source is a matter of practicality, which free is a matter of ethics. Free software is open source, but open source software isn't necessarily free. A program can provide the source code that powers it while still prohibiting the user from distributing modified copies, for example.
Below is a list of frequently asked questions about free software, and how it relates to V0LT.
- How do I tell if a V0LT program is free and open source?
- Programs that are free and open source are marked with an open circle icon on the Programs page like this:
- How can I view the code of an open source V0LT program?
- To view the source code of an open source V0LT program, simply open the program's page by clicking "More Info" on the Programs page, then clicking "Source Code".
- Am I allowed to use V0LT source code to make my own sofware?
- Absolutely! In fact, it the GPLv3 license explicitly allows it! However, should you use V0LT's free and open source software in your own software, your software must be released as free and open source as well. For example, if you modify a V0LT program's source code in order to turn it into something new, you're required to license your version under the same, GPLv3 license.
- Why aren't all V0LT programs open source?
- There are a few reasons for this. First off, I originally developed all of my programs as closed source, before I became a part of the free software movement. Converting all these old programs to open source would be very time consuming. Another reason is that many of my older programs use Unity, which makes it impossible for software made using its platform to be entirely open source.
- How do you make money off of programs if the code is freely available?
- Since I choose not to charge for my software, I don't make anything directly. All the money I make comes from donations. If you enjoy what I do and want to support it, please consider making a donation to help out. If you don't want to, or simply can't donate, a participating in V0LT social media accounts and contributing to V0LT projects is just as helpful!
- However, if you're interested in writing free and open source software, there are plenty of ways you can monetize it! The first, and most common way is to allow users to download and run your software for free, but charge for priority technical support for businesses who want to use your software with a support channel. Another common way is to release your source code under the GPLv3 license, but charge for pre-built binaries. This would allow people to download, compile, and distribute your software themselves, but would require users who want a conveinent download experience to pay.
- Am I allowed to sell V0LT software?
- Under the GPLv3 license, you are allowed to sell copies of V0LT software, even without explicit permission. However, I ask that you be honest and straight forward about it. For example, I have no issue with, and actually fully support you selling copies of V0LT software on CD to people without internet, but I discourage you from simply putting it for sale on your website as a quick cash grab, especially without informing users the software can be obtained for free from V0LT. Legally, the only requirement is that you distribute sold copies with the source code. This means that however you distribute sold copies, whether it be on CD, flash drive, a website, or email, copies must be sent with the source code along side. Just like with free copies, this source code must remain licensed under the GPLv3 license. Below is a list of examples of selling V0LT software that I would encourage.
- Downloading V0LT software and source code, traveling to a location without internet, and putting it on CDs to sell to people in a location without internet access.
- Studying and learning how a V0LT program works, and providing paid technical support to users.
- Porting a V0LT program to an operating system or platform it isn't currently supported on, and selling your ported copy.
- Selling a modified version of a V0LT program on your website that adds functionality.
- Creating a website, and telling users that if the V0LT server is down for some reason, they can download V0LT software through your service for a fee, in case they need it immediately and can't wait for the main site to be back up.
- Couldn't people just steal your code, since it's all open?
- Absolutely. In fact, the right to study, change, adapt, and improve upon software is one of the main reasons I release my software as free and open source. However, by accessing or using open souce programs from V0LT, the user/developer agrees to follow the GNU General Public License v3. This license is very relaxed, but doesn't allow for original or modified versions of the software to be distributed as closed source. In other words, if someone wanted to steal an open source V0LT program, they'd still be legally required to distributed the source code along with it, making it very clear that they didn't write it.
- I'm interested in writing free software. Would you be willing to help me get started?
- I'm you're looking to distribute your software as free and open source, I'd be more than happy to help. In fact, through V0LT, I often help free software projects by creating branding materials, websites, and manuals at no charge. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out the Made By V0LT program!