On February 7, the Raleigh, NC, City Council passed an Open Source Government Resolution that promotes the use of open source software and open data.

By placing Free Open Source Software (FOSS) on the same footing as commercial, proprietary software in the purchasing process, the City Council has taken a step forward to ensure that the best software for any purpose is available. Whether Open Source or Proprietary software is used, the citizens of Raleigh will know that their interests are best served.

With only a few exceptions, there is Open Source Software available to meet nearly any need of city government. From straightforward desktop applications to medical applications and emergency services, there is FOSS available—in many cases, free for the download.

What is FOSS?

I love this analogy and stole it from the article, How to get your city to pass an open government policy  at OpenSource.com.

FOSS, Free Open Source Software, is like chocolate chip cookies. Would you rather have a cookie, or the recipe so you can bake more yourself? Of course you would rather have the recipe. At least I would. But then I can bake cookies.

With the recipe I can bake them exactly like my mother did without changing the recipe. If I want, however, I can add nuts, or use whole wheat flour, or add oatmeal, or make any one of a number of other changes.

The same is true of Free Open Source Software. By using FOSS I can download applications I want and make as many copies as I want. If I don’t like how some aspect of the program I have downloaded works, or just think I can make it better, I can download the source code (recipe) and add or change a few lines of code (change the recipe) and recompile (bake) it. Now the code will be more suited to my own needs (taste better).

The only thing left to do is to share the new recipe with the rest of the world, which is one of the great things about Open Source. Everyone can benefit from the changes I have made.

You don’t need to be a baker to enjoy great chocolate chip cookies. Neither do you need to be a programmer to be able to use great Open Source Software. But if you are a baker or programmer, you can make changes as you desire and your skills allow. I could not create a chocolate chip cookie recipe from scratch, but I can take someone else’s recipe and make a few minor changes to it. So that is what I do—with chocolate chip cookies and with some software.

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