Why you should use free software

Protect your freedom

First of all there are the four essential freedoms as set up by the Free Software Foundation:

  • The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
    All members of the department, staff and students, may use the software for whatever purpose they wish: doing research, teaching in the classroom, doing assignments at home, etc. Once students leave the university they can immediately start their career as professional translators equipped with a stock of free translation technology applications.
  • The freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish (freedom 1).
    We are given the opportunity to look into the program code, study the algorithms and test them against theoretical requirements.
  • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
    This means no more licensing troubles, no more setting up license servers nor installing hardware dongles. Everybody can take the software home, install it on his/her notebook or even USB stick and take it everywhere. This means students have access to the software wherever they wish. They are free to give it to their friends and discuss it.
  • The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements (and modified versions in general) to the public, so that the whole community benefits (freedom 3).
    Provided the necessary skills or financial funds, the software may be adapted to the use in an educational environment or in a university network. Alas, as a humanities department, we usually do not have the necessary skills to do so. However, this could be part of research projects where some funds could be allocated to further develop the software or to integrate new features.

Why Universities should use free software

There are a lot of arguments why a publicly funded university such as mine, the University of Innsbruck, should do so. First of all the afore mentioned four essential freedoms, in addition there are very special reasons for an educational environment to use free software which go deeper.

We educate active and responsible human beings, we are in no way committed to or bound by software companies and we do not want to create dependencies. With proprietary software teachers and students "are legally forbidden from adapting the software to solve a particular problem, or from satisfying an intellectual curiosity by examining its source code. An education using the power of computers should be a means to freedom and empowerment, not an avenue for one corporation to instill its monopoly through indoctrination. Free software, on the other hand, gives children a route to empowerment, by encouraging them to explore and learn." (from "Education - one case against windows7 out of 7").

As a university teacher I am trying to use exclusively free software. "A university's job is not to 'train a student so they can get a job'; a university's job is to 'train a student how to think', how to gather data, evaluate data, create information and lead people. A university's job is to do research to further the base of knowledge, so we can move forward; and to publish this research so that others can move forward too. Universities should be using Free Software to do this research and they should be using Free Software as the basis of their research. The public should not have to pay twice or three times for the same research." cited from Universities that do not use Free Software: Time for a boycott?

See also:

This is why we set up our FLOSS software collections for translators as well as for translator's training:

  • USBTrans which uses FLOSS on top of a commercial operating system
  • tuxtrans which is a free translation workstation based on Linux

Free your data - use Open Standards

Free software is strongly related with the use of Open Standards. Standards are open, when they are freely available, created and maintained by a not-for-profit organisation on the basis of an open decision-making procedure available to all interested parties and reusable without any constraints.

Open Standards free your data, they make your valuable data independent from specific software products and software companies. Open Standards make it easy to migrate and exchange data from one application/computer/operating system to another.

Open Standards allow you to read and modify documents you receive (see the FSFE initiative Document Freedom Day), exchange translation memories as well as terminology files. In translation we also have Open Standards (notably the XML-based TMX (Translation Memory Exchange), TBX (TermBase Exchange), SRX (Segmentation Rules Exchange), and XLIFF (XML Localization Interchange File Format).