Can anyone list open source laptop projects


… what is that, actually? And how does the use affect the individual user or an organization such as a company or an authority? In this post, I am making a few thoughts on these questions that I would like to discuss with you.

The answer to the first question is still easy for me. Free software or open source software (FLOSS) are applications that are under a free or permissive license. I orient myself to the Debian Guidelines for Free Software (DFSG), which among other things. determine:

  1. The software may be passed on or sold without restriction.
  2. The source code of the software must be open and freely accessible to everyone. Distribution of the software must be permitted both as source text and in compiled form.
  3. The software must be allowed to be examined, changed, expanded and distributed under the same license conditions as the original software.
  4. The license must not discriminate against any person or group of people.
  5. The license may not impose any restrictions on the area of ​​application. For example, it must not prevent the program from being used in business or for genetic research.

What do I get out of it as a (private) user?

Even though it's nice to be able to study the source code if you are interested, I personally don't think that many users make use of this option. And if they did, you probably quickly banned the text from your screen again.

Many FLOSS applications are now available and can be used free of charge. And although I don't like the cheap is cool mentality, this is actually a big advantage for the user.

During my school and apprenticeship days, professional and often proprietary office software cost a hell of a lot of money. Sometimes this was several hundred DM or EUR. And for this you could only install the corresponding applications on a single PC. At that time I neither had the willingness nor the means to raise that much money for an office package, of which I only needed and would use a fraction of the range of functions.

So I was delighted that OpenOffice existed. Originating from the published source texts from StarOffice, I was given the opportunity to design my letters, essays, tables and presentations without incurring expenses. Admittedly, the presentation templates already looked like wallpaper from the 1970s. But the proprietary alternatives weren't much better back then.

Many of you are probably familiar with the surprises that can be experienced when exchanging text and table documents between free and proprietary office suites. But believe me, these little problems are not comparable to the ones when I gave my teacher the essay, written on a C64, on a 5.25-inch floppy disk. Fortunately, I still had the version printed on continuous paper with me, created on a 9-nozzle inkjet printer, which saved my note.

One annoying problem, however, remains. It is of no use to the citizen if his documents created with free software cannot be accepted or processed by the authorities. The situation is just as stupid the other way around. When you receive files from authorities that can only be viewed with the proprietary software with which they were created. Much has gotten better and easier here in the last twenty years. And as an optimist, I believe in living so long that I will still see that it gets even better.

Have you had similar experiences? How do you see the situation today?

Over the years, the situation with office software has changed. In the meantime there was a proprietary office suite for private use and for schoolchildren / students for 99 EUR, which could be installed and used on up to three devices at the same time. The price-performance ratio is right for my taste. Only this software was not available for my operating system and was therefore out of the question. However, to this day I believe that such offers would not have existed without free alternatives being available and still being available today.

Another example of FLOSS is Wikipedia, which has already been used for some links in this post. In the past you might have a lexicon or the Brockhaus at home. The latter was actually a real investment. The knowledge in the books was gathering dust, as were the books themselves. Today, thanks to Wikipedia, many people in the world have free access to almost unlimited knowledge. I think this is great.

I wrote at the beginning that I am not a fan of the cheap is cool mentality. This is based on the assumption that good software is not only created in the leisure time of developers between 10 p.m. and 11:50 p.m. If a lot of developers write good applications, they should get paid for it. But it seems to be against the nature of man to pay for a service that he can get free of charge. I don't like this and have decided not to take part.

I myself am middle-aged, have a family, am in the middle of my professional life and receive an income that enables my family and me to make a good living. And I have decided to donate a small insignificant part of my income to FLOSS projects.

Once a year I think about the total amount I would like to donate and which applications or projects I have used particularly often; or which applications / projects were particularly important to me. Then I decide how to divide the amount I have set and transfer the individual sums. I am aware that the amount donated does not even correspond to the monthly salary of a professional software developer. But I think small cattle also make crap and have a good feeling about it.

Today I almost exclusively use free software. Email client, word processor, editors and operating system; everything FLOSS. I am not at all averse to using proprietary software. Even today, I would still use proprietary applications for tax returns or online banking before I torture myself with the free alternatives.

It is true that some of the applications that we have come to love no longer exist because the manufacturers discontinued them or made them unusable. But I've already gone through the same thing with FLOSS applications.

How is it with you? Do you use free or open source software in your everyday life? If so, to which extent? And how satisfied are you with it? In which areas do you think there is a lack of free alternatives? Feel free to use the comment function or write me an email if you like.

What to do if it's stuck?

FLOSS and proprietary software have in common that they are buggy. Without a warranty obligation on software, this fact will never change. But what can you do as a private user if an application doesn't work the way it should? Or do you just not know how to achieve your desired goal?

In my opinion, every application also includes a manual, instructions and a command reference as documentation. Depending on the manufacturer, project or application, the quality of documentation varies from “not available” to “shitty is boasted” to “pleasantly good”. It is worth taking a first look here. If you get stuck with the existing documentation, you can often find help in the countless Internet forums, where volunteer, committed users help other users with worries, needs and problems.

In order not to have to answer the same questions over and over again, the only requirement is that you have read the damn manual (RTFM) and used the search function before opening a new topic. Those who stick to these simple, basic rules and also remain friendly at all times will most likely get help.

If, on the other hand, in a rowdy, gruff tone, demands immediate support and solutions to a problem with an application for which you were not even prepared to donate / pay a cent, you should not be surprised to starve to death on your long arm. And that's perfectly fine in my eyes.

In addition to the documentation and the Internet forums, there are of course the technically gifted relatives. They usually arrive on weekends and public holidays to fix the IT problems of their families and neighbors. But please do not shamelessly take advantage of the help of these noble knights without armor. They may come to visit you much more often if they don't have to reinstall three laptops and two cell phones to get coffee.

So the possibilities are actually exhausted. As far as I know, there are hardly any commercial and financially interesting support offers for private users.

FLOSS lives from taking part, not from complaining

Free software is usually offered free of charge for use. This is often created by volunteers in their spare time. Even companies that want to give something back to the community employ developers who can work part of their working time on open source software.

Errors are most likely not built in on purpose. And not every conceivable use case is taken into account in development from the start. Complaining about it and making demands for something that can be used free of charge has only rarely helped.

If you have requests regarding the functionality of an application, you can address these to the respective project. If you read the so-called contribution guidelines beforehand, this increases the chances that a contribution will be taken into account.

Support and help is needed in every nook and cranny of the FLOSS universe and is often very welcome. You don't have to be a software developer. Because often there is a lack of things that have little to do with the code. For example, you can:

  • Write, expand and improve documentation
  • Translate documentation into other languages
  • Help users solve their problems in internet forums and mailing lists
  • Verify error patterns and test patches

FLOSS is software from the community for the community. Get involved, join in!

A (few) word (s) to developers and maintainer

Some of you have created great applications and made them available to the community. Do you need help and need / are looking for young people who are ready to learn how to create, maintain, package and distribute software? Then please remember that everyone starts small and you have to help the offspring on the horse before they can ride.

In part, you have created ecosystems of version control systems, build environments, CI / CD and communication channels around your software that are difficult for beginners and technically interested laypeople to penetrate. Anyone who has spent days digging through various wiki pages and what feels like half the Internet, answering the question of how to look after a distribution package, often gives up in frustration.

I don't have a silver bullet for how it can be optimally designed. But IMHO there is a big gap between tutorials like “How to build a {DEB, RPM} package” and “How to build and maintain packages for Distribution XY”, through which potential offspring fails.

A discussion within the individual communities may be necessary here as to how the process of recruiting young talent can be improved.

Or do I have a wrong image of the FLOSS world and there is no problem with young talent because you can hardly save yourself from new package administrators?

What do companies and authorities get from FLOSS?

TL; DR: More sovereignty. Not heavily dependent on a single provider. And freedom.

In the above paragraph I have deliberately avoided using terms such as “free of charge”, “free of charge” and “cost reduction”. In my opinion, reducing FLOSS to alleged cost advantages falls short and is not infrequently a reason for the failure of migration projects towards FLOSS. Instead, I would like to highlight aspects in this post that IMHO often fall short of.

I will start with an example from the closed source world. A product such as an operating system or an application from a proprietary manufacturer is acquired and integrated into the company's own business processes. It is not uncommon to pay once for the license in order to be able to use the product at all and also for a subscription, through which you get updates, security patches and support from the manufacturer support. The manufacturer can decide how long to support a product and when to discontinue it, so that the customer may have to buy a successor product again. If things go very badly, the provider completely discontinues a product without there being a successor product. As a customer, you just look into the tube and you can start looking for a product again, which you can integrate while adapting your own processes, if necessary. This is often accompanied by the adaptation of further systems and processes, as well as the exchange of client applications and user training.

The bad news is, all of this can happen when using FLOSS. But there is another option at FLOSS that can prove to be beneficial. I would like to give you an example of this too.

Assume that software is used that a committed FLOSS developer created as a hobby project in his spare time. The software only has dependencies on other FLOSS technologies and covers all requirements of the company or the authority. The use is unlimited and possible free of charge. The application is now deeply integrated into the company's own processes and is an elementary part of the value chain. Everyone is happy and everyone is happy.

But then one year the support for a FLOSS technology, on which this application depends, ends. There is a major release upgrade for this technology. However, the FLOSS application must be adapted in order to continue to run.

Now you can ask the developer (s) of the application whether they would like to make the necessary adjustments. Maybe you are lucky and this will happen within a few days. Maybe you're unlucky and they just don't feel like it.

If the motivation is lacking, one can get the crazy idea and offer the developers to pay them for the necessary adjustments and negotiate a price with them. For me, this is an obvious thought, as you would also pay a proprietary manufacturer. And often even for changes that you didn't want / need.

Now it can still happen that the developer (s) reject the offer. They just don't feel like taking care of their old application any longer. What is left now, besides conducting a market survey, finding an alternative and moving heaven and earth in order to implement it?

Stop! Stop! There is another alternative. The application is open-source and the source code is available to you. The application can be recreated from this at any time and you have the right to make any adjustments to the source text. If the application is important enough to you, nothing and no one will prevent you from hiring your own developers who will study the source code and make the necessary adjustments. And since you pay these developers yourself, you can also let them work on your desired functions with priority.

Now it became clear why I think the argument that FLOSS is free or cheap is stupid. It is not true. At the latest when I employ my own developers and hopefully also pay them, this also costs money; you just invest the money in your own resources. It is similar when you have functions developed by order. But here you retain sovereignty over the software, in contrast to the product of a proprietary provider.

Of course, this may not be possible in every case. But in many cases this is a viable option and one of the great advantages of the FLOSS development model. Another advantage is that you don't have to do all of the development work alone. The burden can be spread across many shoulders around the world. Developers from various industries are working on the Linux kernel. The same applies to the BSD core and countless other projects.

Who can help when things get stuck?

Basically, the same options are available that are also available to private users. In addition, there is often the option of concluding support contracts with manufacturers or system houses.

For example, Red Hat, SUSE, Canonical and Oracle offer various support options for the respective portfolio. In addition, some companies have established themselves in German-speaking countries that offer support services for a variety of FLOSS projects / products.

These companies not only earn money with services related to FLOSS. You often participate with your own staff and / or financially in the further development of various projects.

In my experience, the quality of the support is comparable to that of the proprietary provider.This is true in both a positive and a negative sense.

Just use the search engine of your slightest suspicion and you will definitely find a suitable service provider.

Here too, don't complain, join in!

I want to repeat myself: “FLOSS is software from the community for the community. Get involved, join in! "

In my opinion, this should apply in particular to authorities and organizations that finance the operation and development of their applications with citizens 'taxpayers' money. That is why I support the “Public Money, Public Code” campaign. Innovations and investments in free software do not disappear behind closed doors for the benefit of the few; instead, all users can benefit from it. For example, also citizens who may use the same FLOSS applications at home that the state uses and is helping to develop.

So far, much of it is still a mere utopia. In the public sector it fails often enough to donate to open source projects. Spending money on consultant contracts is much easier. But you can also support FLOSS projects in this way. I believe where there is a will, there is also a way.

Closing words

Free software and open source software are free in the sense of:

  • The source text is open and can be viewed, studied and passed on by anyone.
  • Everyone has the right to change the source code.
  • The use of the software is not restricted in any way.

Those who just want to get their work done may be as lucky or unlucky with FLOSS software as they are with proprietary software. FLOSS, on the other hand, offers sovereignty and freedom; with all the advantages and disadvantages that this may entail. Technically interested people can familiarize themselves with it, learn and become part of a community.

I like FLOSS and believe that our world can no longer be imagined without open source development models in the future.

This entry was published in General on by Jörg Kastning. Keywords: FLOSS, FOSS, Free Software, Open Source, osbn, Planet.