Welcome to the future of software! Much of the software you find on this CD will resemble the software you already use, but there are important differences as well. One of the crucial differences is that the software of the future is free.
This concept of freedom is much deeper than than the "freedom" to download software from the Internet. You have the right to copy and distribute free software. You are not only permitted to---you are encouraged to do so!
In addition, free software makes the source code available. By changing the source code, you change the program. You have the right to change the program, and to distribute new programs based on the source code of the old programs, but if you do so you must also distribute your modified source code. For most of the programs on this CD, the full statement of your rights and responsibilities is contained in the GNU General Public License.
In short, all these programs belong to you! I cannot emphasize this point strongly enough. If you want to copy these programs, you can. If you want to change these programs, you can. You can do it yourself, or you can ask a programmer to do it for you. Any programmer. Anywhere. This is the beauty of free software.
Question: I am not a programmer. Why should I care?
If you think of free software as the public library of the software world, you will begin to understand its importance.
The idea that knowledge should be spread dates from the Enlightenment. Knowledge is a form of "common goods" that belongs to everyone, and that grows when so many people as possible share in it.
There is also an old idea that everyone should be able to read - a central idea in the Protestant tradition - and we have today well-equipped public libraries, where everyone can use their reading skills to draw from the common pool of knowledge. An enlightened public is also essential for a functioning democracy, and literacy is of course an important precondition.
Today, the whole population is literate - the next step in the modern information flux is computer literacy. That a part of the population should be excluded, not taking part in the computer world, goes against the principle of full access to and participation in the "common goods" of knowledge and information. Free software helps to guarantee this access, and thus strengthens democracy.