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Free Software is a software that follows the Free Software Foundation (FSF) Licensing. Free Software Foundation Inc through its Compliance Lab handles all licensing related issues on free software, enforcing the licence on FSF-copyrighted software and to educate people on it.
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GNU stands for GNU's Not Unix. GNU Software is based on the FSF principles and efforts. If not mistaken, there are a few types of free software licences just like GNU has a few types of licences. The GNU General Public License is handled by Free Software Foundation. This licence is to give people the freedom to change, copy, share, distribute and/or use the software freely. Apart from this, anyone can and should be able to get the source code for the software that they share, distribute and/or use, regardless whether for a fee or not. Usually the source code is given together with the distribution software. Another important issue is that the licence and the person's right must be made known to the person who receives the free software by including the licence with the software.

Most free softwares are copyleft. A simple way to put this is that copyleft software is copyrighted but there must have terms which give everyone the rights to use, modify, copy and redistribute the program's code or any program derived from it but only if the distribution terms are unchanged. This will ensure that other people can enjoy the same freedom that the software provides. To read more about copyleft from GNU's point of view, read copyleft.

One of the most famous free software is Linux OS. This free software follows the GNU General Public License. Therefore, most if not all, of the software that uses the Linux kernel have to follow the GNU General Public License too. This is part of what the licence states, the derivatives of the free software. Redhat Linux, Suse Linux, Debian Linux and other operating systems that use Linux kernel are free software, having the same licence as Linux.

For those who like to have an image manipulator, GIMP is a pretty good free software. The GIMP is licensed under GNU General Public License. As, I am using a Linux-based operating systems, I use GIMP. I find it quite good and capable of doing many necessary things like cropping, colour & lighting manipulation, layering, and saving in many different types of file. My Penang Island Map and Gerogetown Map was made with The GIMP. However, it cannot match Adobe as an image manipulator. Ther version that I am using does not have a function to draw straight line!

Gnumeric is a free software for spreadsheet application. It is created by the GNOME project. Gnumeric's License is under the the terms of the GNU General Public License.

Abiword is a free software for word processor. Unlike Linux-based operating systems, Abiword, like many free softwares, cannot be compared with Microsoft's packages. Its features are less than Microsoft Word but it is good enough as a word processor and it is very much cheaper as the cost is either the downloading time or the cost of a CD / DVD. To check its 'linking' features or integration with other office software / packages , try the Abisuite. Abiword is licensed under GNU General Public License.

Now, there are many free softwares that can be be used on Microsoft's operating systems. For example, Abiword and The GIMP (short for GNU Image Manipulation Program).

Apart from Microsoft's operating systems, there are many free softwares that can be be used on Apple / Mac's operating systems. The GIMP and Abiword can run on Apple / Mac too.

The licenses stated here for the softwares may not be correct or up-to-date. So, kindly visit my About Licences page to get to the appropriate site if available. The best will be checking for the softwares' licences yourself from their own sites.

Free softwares are cheap because it can be obtained freely by anyone in this world. Even if you don't see people selling them in shops in Penang, Malaysia, you can still download them from their websites. Most if not all of the organisations that created the free softwares survive on donations. Therefore, the cost is either the connection charges for downloading or cost of CDs / DVD or the amount that you donate to those organisations.

One issue about donation is some organisations have a denomination for donating like US50/= which is about RM175/=. In the case of Linux-based operating systems, a package may have many organisations contributing to it, for example the Red Hat Linux package. In this case, if you want to donate to only a few of the organisations that contribute to the package, the cost will be around RM1000/= which is no longer cheap, higher than Microsoft's operating systems. Luckily, we do not have to give donation unless maybe if we are making profit from them and of course we must know some technical stuffs. So, I guess 'free and cheap' is pretty tough and not that cheap after all if you want to get into it.

Some organisations may require some payment for service and support especially if you are a company using their enterprise version. I too, will want to do service and support for free softwares users in Penang one day in the future. So, remember to visit my site 'many times' again in the future to keep yourself updated or bookmark this site or better still, have a link to this site if you have a website.
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