Software you can tinker with

It’s always interesting to see how Open Source is depicted in the Press. The Metro this morning had an interesting article (and seemingly well informed too) on the OLPC, in which it mentioned that the laptop would not be running Microsoft or Apple software, but would be using something else instead.

“After discussions with Apple and Microsoft, Negroponte, a professor at Boston’s MIT, rejected both operating systems in favour of the free, ‘open source’ Linux, where users can tinker with the software.”

My first thought was that this completely missed the point of Open Source (not to mention ommitting “Free Software”). My second thought was perhaps this is actually broadly speaking what FOSS is about (if you take “tinkering” to mean being able to change the source code). Lastly I thought maybe it would have been more accurate to say that developers can tinker with the software. After all, could a “normal” PC user expect to be introduced to Linux and suddenly be able to tinker with everything?

3 thoughts on “Software you can tinker with”

  1. I think also with your explanation it missed the point of Free Software. It’s about freedom and not about “tinkering – being able to change – the source code”. Only two of the 4 freedoms have something to do with “tinkering”.
    As you say by yourself, a “normal” PC user probably will not tinker, but the freedoms are still important to them (do with the program what you want and share it with your friends).

  2. I think it’s great any time that mainstream media get’s some of the freedoms associated with Free Software (or FOSS generally) correct without being pejorative.

    While it would be great if the general population understood the Free Software freedoms fully (ala Pinky’s comment) if every mention enlightens one person it will have an impact.

    And in an educational project like OLPC the ability to fully understand and alter the code could be an important freedom. If you consider “tinker” might also mean “school children can educate themselves fully in how the software works, including learning by altering the software”


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