Free Software

Free software is the software in which every user is allowed to use, study, copy and distribute it, either in its original form or introducing new modifications. This permission prevails even if the software is free of charge or priced. It is important not to confuse the word free with gratis, because the freedom in free software is associated with copying, modifying and redistributing the software is independent of its gratuitousness. There are programs that can be obtained gratuitously but cannot either be modified or distributed, while others can be bought and still be free software.

According to the Free Software Foundation – FSF, free software refers to four kinds of freedoms for its users:

  • freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0);
  • freedom to study how the program works and adapt it to suit your needs (freedom 1). This requires access to the source code;
  • freedom to redistribute copies, in such a way that you can help your neighbor (freedom 2);
  • freedom to improve the program and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits (freedom 3). This requires access to the source code.
More information about the definition of free software can be obtained at FSF website. This site also discusses about the types of distribution licenses regarding free software. Among these licenses types, there is the General Public License (GPL), which assures the four freedoms cited previously. In December 2003, the CG-GNU-GPL was launched, which adds meta-data generated by CreativeCommons and the explanation part, called Commons Deed, to GPL.

One of the objectives of the AgroLivre Network is the dissemination of free software use in agricultural domain, both in agribusiness and family agriculture, either directly or supporting and fostering other government and private institutions. This objective, if well conducted, may impact areas as diverse as the development of software and services and digital inclusion for the agricultural sector. Embrapa holds the appropriate conditions to act in this process, because: it conducts actions dispersed throughout the country, reinforced by the cooperation with other institutions of the National System of Agricultural Research (SNPA); it has the knowledge about the sector and a competent and qualified body of technicians. The following actions are planned aiming at the adoption of free software in Embrapa:

  • Training of technicians in architecture, installation and administration of GNU/Linux servers;
  • Acquisition of equipments for the free software laboratories, aiming at the training of technicians of Embrapa Information Technology and of the Department of Information Technology in free software, such as OpenOffice and Mozilla;
  • Training of technical staff in the use of development supporting tools such as Struts, Eclipse, PostgreSQL;
  • Identifying Windows - based legacy applications;
  • Holding a workshop in Brasília to discuss free software deployment in Embrapa;
  • Migration of corporate software systems to Web Platform, adopting open standard models;
  • Establishment of a development model on the free software development model.
The above actions are programmed to be executed by the end of 2006. However, new actions could be created to accommodate new demands.