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The advantages of freely available, open source software

Have you ever read the license terms of closed source software?
So that you understood everything you are not allowed to do with this software?
So that you actually took note of all the threats if you disregarded even the small print and footnotes?
Usually that's a lot of pages!

In contrast, the license text of free, open source software (=FOSS) consists of a fairly clear text in which almost exclusively things are printed that you are allowed to do! Free, open source software allows you to:
  • Understand what the software really does without having to trust the (false) promises of others.
  • Learn from others how things work.
  • Add all features you need.
  • Iron out errors and bugs in the software.
  • Push the limits of what a machine can do.

In FOSS, no manufacturer can put an "expiry date" on a product (and if they can, you can remove it). The following applies: Trust is good, control is better!

But I can't do coding and have no intention to learn how

Nevertheless, you constantly benefit from Free, Open Source Software. For example, you wouldn't be able to read this page without Linux, because the Internet is built on Linux servers and routers. Even without programming knowledge, you can install updates on your gadgets, which are made freely available to you by the open source community. Filament 3D printers are almost predominantly based on the Marlin firmware, which is freely available to all printer manufacturers. Freely available software is one of the main reasons why so many manufacturers of FDM printers exist and because of this competitive situation the prices have become affordable for end users!

Are there really no obligations?

Yes, there are, depending on the type of free license! In order to guarantee the free availability of software, it is usually common to include the clause that changes to the code must also be published. That is plausible: You use someone's work for free and in return deny him the same rights? Not like that!
If manufacturers use free software in their devices, they are obliged to publish any changes to the source code! As an end user, you benefit greatly from free, open source software, so when buying a device you should make sure that the manufacturer (who also benefits financially from it) fulfills his obligation to publish the source code of his firmware. My experience in dealing with manufacturers, especially from Asia, is that they are usually not even aware of this fact. It is often sufficient to point that out to trigger those changes on a manufacturers' website. However, my word often has more weight than that of a buyer of a device or a person who points out this fact before buying. Sure, I'm an "influencer" (although not a big one) and the manufacturers don't want to mess with us. With "How Open Is This Gadget" I would like to have a stronger influence on manufacturers to meet their obligations towards Free Software, but also to make clear what advantages are associated with publishing the source code of firmware. Basically, as consumers, we want to have as much control as possible over the product we buy, and not a bit or byte should prevent us from using a machine for as long as we deem necessary.

When we buy a device, we use our wallet to vote on the manufacturer's future strategy! Keeping an eye on the openness and repairability of a device is in the interest of the individual and the community.

Open decision

Following the idea of openness, I do not publish any ranking tables with what I believe to be the best, greatest, fastest, cheapest, most open-source gadget at the top. Instead, I am posting the test methods I used, as well as my results in the form of close-up video sequences, high-resolution photos, and some numerical values. You have to make the final decision yourself anyway.

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