FOSS Education/Glossary

Application describes a program which does something that the user wants. For example, web browsing applications include Mozilla Firefox and SeaMonkey.
BIND (Berkeley Internet Name Domain) is a computer programme developed to facilitate the resolution of domain names to Internet Protocol (IP) addresses on the Internet. It is the most widely used DNS server software.
Creative Commons
Creative Commons provides free tools that let authors, scientists, artists, and educators easily mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry. You can use CC to change your copyright terms from "All Rights Reserved" to "Some Rights Reserved." These licenses are legally enforceable and can allow others to modify, reuse or build on your work.
A content management system (CMS) is computer software used to create, edit, manage, and publish content in a consistently organized fashion. CMSs can be used in schools for developing collaborative materials, publishing school websites and prospectuses, presenting school calendars and the like. They offer more control over publishing content than wikis.
DHCP is the acronym for Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol. Every computer connected to a network needs to be assigned an IP address. This can be done manually but it is most common to have the IP address assigned dynamically by a DHCP server.
DNS (Domain Name System) is an Internet service that translates domain names into Internet Protocol (IP) addresses.Domain names (e.g., are easier to remember and to use but the Internet is actually based on cryptic IP addresses (e.g., Hence, a translation between the two is required.
The operating system will consist of the Linux kernel and, usually, a set of libraries and utilities from the GNU project, with graphics support from the X Window System. There are currently over three hundred Linux distributions. Most of those are in active development, constantly being revised and improved.
Mozilla Firefox is a web browser descended from the Mozilla Application Suite, managed by the Mozilla Corporation. Firefox had 19.03% of the recorded usage share of web browsers as of June 2008, making it the second-most popular browser in current use worldwide. It is released as free software and will work on most computers.
Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) is used to cover both Free Software and Open Source software. There are differences in the definitions of these, though often not in the meaning of the terms.
Free Software
The word "free" in Free Software refers to the users' freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. It does not refer to the price of the software. More precisely, a programme is Free Software if users have the four freedoms:
  • The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.
  • The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to one's needs. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
  • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbour.
  • The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
The definition of Free Software and a more detailed explanation is available at
GCC (GNU Compiler Collection) is a collection of front ends for programming languages that is included in most Linux distributions. It currently supports computer languages such as C, C++, Objective-C, ForTran, Java and Ada and contains libraries for these languages. Work is in progress to include other languages such as Pascal and COBOL.
GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Programme) is the most well known FOSS for image editing. It is available for various operating systems. It supports various image file formats and has the ability to be programmed to carry out similar operations on many files.
GNOME (GNU Network Object Model Environment) is one of the two main desktop environments with a graphical user interface for the Linux operating system.
GNU is a recursive acronym for "GNU's Not Unix." In 1984, a project was started by Richard Stallman to develop a complete UNIX style operating system that is available as Free Software. The GNU Kernel is not complete, so the Linux Kernel is often used with GNU.
GNU/Linux is the term promoted by the Free Software Foundation (FSF), its founder Richard Stallman, and its supporters, for operating systems that include GNU software and the Linux kernel. There are arguments for and against each term. For example, the FSF argues for the term GNU/Linux because GNU was a longstanding project to develop a free operating system, of which the kernel was the last missing piece.
The General Public License (GPL) was originally used as the license for "Free Software" distributed by the Free Software Foundation (FSF). Under the GPL, users may run, study, copy and modify the software. Users may also redistribute the modified software. However, users are not allowed to add their own restrictions and the modified software must be released under the same licensing terms.
IDE (Integrated Development Environment) refers to an integrated computer programming environment that usually has a user-friendly graphical user interface and that provides the necessary tools for developing computer programs.
Sometimes IP is used to refer to Intellectual Property. These are, very broadly, rights granted to creators and owners of works that are the result of human intellectual creativity. These works can be in the industrial, scientific, literary or artistic domains. They can be in the form of an invention, a manuscript, a suite of software, or a business name, as examples. In general, the objective of intellectual property law is to grant the creator of a work certain controls over the exploitation of that work.
KDE (K Desktop Environment) is one of two main desktop environments with a graphical user interface for the Linux operating system.
The kernel is the essential centre of a computer operating system, the core that provides basic services for all other parts of the operating system. A synonym is nucleus. A kernel can be contrasted with a shell or User Interface, the outermost part of an operating system that interacts with user commands
The acronym LAMP refers to a solution stack of software, usually free and open source software, used to run dynamic Web sites or servers. The original expansion is as follows:
  • Linux, referring to the operating system;
  • Apache, the Web server;
  • MySQL, the database management system (or database server);
  • PHP or others, i.e. Perl, Python, the programming languages.
The combination of these technologies is used primarily to define a web server infrastructure, define a programming paradigm of developing software, and establish a software distribution package.
LAN (Local Area Network) is a local computer network for communication between computers, typically covering a small area such as an office building or a group of buildings like a campus. A LAN may be connected to the Internet or it may be a separate distinct network. LAN is commonly used for sharing of resources such as files, printers and disk storage.
In the context of software, localization is the process of adapting, translating and customizing a product for a specific market. This means the modification of the interface so that it is meaningful and comprehensible to local users of the product. Apart from the linguistic issues, localization also needs to address content and cultural issues as well as technical issues.
Linux is the name usually given to any Unix-like computer operating system that uses the Linux kernel. Linux is one of the most prominent examples of free software and open source development: typically all underlying source code can be freely modified, used, and redistributed by anyone. The name "Linux" comes from the Linux kernel, originally written in 1991 by Linus Torvalds. The system's utilities and libraries usually come from the GNU operating system, announced in 1983 by Richard Stallman. The GNU contribution is the basis for the alternative name GNU/Linux.
The Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP) provides the necessary software to set up a network of diskless workstations or thin clients to connect to a Linux server. It supports various Linux distributions, and is widely used. During boot up, the diskless workstation obtains the necessary network information from the server and the operating system is downloaded from the server. Any program supported by a server on the network can then be run from the workstation.
Live Distribution
A Live Distro or Live CD, is a Linux distribution that can be booted from a compact disc or other medium (such as a DVD or USB flash drive) instead of the conventional hard drive. This enables users to try out a new distribution without installing anything on their computer.
In 2001, MIT announced the OpenCourseWare (OCW) project through which it would make available course material used in the courses taught at MIT. These would be available online for use by educators, students and self-learners from anywhere in the world. Materials for 700 courses from virtually all the academic disciplines are currently available on the OCW website ( ).
Moodle is a popular free software Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), which allows courses to be made available to learners through their web browser.
The Open Knowledge Initiative (OKI) was initiated at MIT in 2001. It is a collaboration among some leading universities, with MIT and Stanford leading the initiative.The objective of OKI is to define an open and extensible architecture for learning technology and it is targeted specifically to the needs of the higher education community. It provides specifications for interfaces among components within a learning management system and facilitates communication with other systems, including existing enterprise systems. is an open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more. It is available in many languages and works on all common computers. It stores all your data in an international open standard format and can also read and write files from other common office software packages. It can be downloaded and used completely free of charge for any purpose.
The operating system (commonly abbreviated OS and O/S) is the software component of a computer system that is responsible for the management and coordination of activities and the sharing of the resources of the computer. The operating system acts as a host for application programs that are run on the machine. One of the purposes of an operating system is to handle the operation of the hardware. This relieves application programs from having to manage these details and makes it easier to write applications. Almost all computers, including hand-held computers, desktop computers, supercomputers, and even modern video game consoles, use an operating system of some type.
Open Source
Open Source software does not only mean access to the source code. To qualify as Open Source software, the distribution terms of the software must comply with the following criteria:
  • Free Redistribution
  • Availability of Source Code
  • Possibility of Derived Works
  • Integrity of The Author's Source Code
  • No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups
  • No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor
  • Distribution of License
  • License Must Not Be Specific to a Product
  • License Must Not Restrict Other Software
  • License Must Be Technology-Neutral
For further explanation of the definition of Open Source, please refer to:
Operating System
The OS (Operating System) is the collection of software that controls the hardware and software applications on a computer.The OS manages and allocates the physical resources (CPU processing time, hard disk space, inputs from the keyboard, etc.) among the different applications that run on it.Examples of an OS are Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux, Solaris and Mac OS X.
Perl (Practical Extraction and Report Language) is an interpretive programming language designed to process text and is typically used for CGI scripts. Perl has been developed as an open source project and was started in 1987 by Larry Wall. Developed originally for UNIX it is now available for different operating systems.
Hypertext Preprocessor :PHP originally stood for "Personal Home Page" Today it is a recursive acronym for "PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor" PHP is an Open Source server-side scripting language for Web programming. You can use it to add dynamic features to HTML pages or to create entire sites that generate HTML dynamically. PHP is executed on the server and the client cannot view the PHP code. PHP is compatible with many types of databases.
Python is an interpreted, interactive and object-oriented programming language developed by Guido van Rossum in 1991. Python is portable and runs on most operating systems. It is suitable for rapid prototyping and as an extension language for applications that need a programmable interface. Although Python is copyrighted, the source code is freely available and distributable even for commercial use.
GNU/Linux is designed as a multi-user environment, where specific users are granted defined permissions. The Root user has complete control over the computer system. In many cases logging in as root is discouraged, and users log in with conventional accounts and then execute a command to gain root privileges.
SCORM (Shareable Content Object Reference Model) is an XML-based framework that allows interoperability, accessibility and re usability of learning content. Learning content created using SCORM can, in theory, be shared among different learning management systems.
A server is a computer that provides resources or services to other computers. Though servers are often powerful and purpose built, in many applications this is not necessary. A computer that is used for only one server application is often named as such. For example, when the software Apache HTTP Server is used as the web server for a company's website, the computer running Apache is also called the web server.
Source Code
The source code of the software is the set of programming instructions that is written by the programmer using a particular computer language. In order for the computer to understand and run the software, the source code must be compiled or "translated" into machine code (also referred to as binary code, executable code or object code). To modify the software, the source code must be available for modifications, as the machine code is not human-readable.
Thin Client
Thin clients are computers that have a minimum of computing power, handling monitor, keyboard, mouse and some local devices. The client connects to a server that has more processing power and runs the programs.
TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) includes all of the costs involved in a technology or business solution. In addition to the initial investment cost, such costs include maintenance, support, replacement costs, and the like. In the case of software, the TCO should include the initial cost of the software; upgrade cost; and maintenance, support and training costs.
User Interface
The information presented by the computer, along with the inputs from the user make up the User Interface. There are graphical and text interfaces. KDE and GNOME are two major desktop environments that make up a large part of the User Interface on GNU/Linux systems.
A Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) allows courses to be published for learners through the Internet. Learners' progress can be monitored and feedback given. They provide a collection of tools such as those for assessment (particularly of types that can be marked automatically, such as multiple choice), communication, uploading of content, return of students' work, peer assessment, administration of student groups, collecting and organizing student grades, questionnaires, tracking tools, etc. A well known free software VLE is Moodle.
Web Browser
The Web Browser is an application that presents information from a web site to the user. There are a wide range of FOSS web browsers, of which Mozilla Firefox is the best known.
Wikis are web based systems that allow users to edit the content on the web site through their web browser. Some wikis can be configured to require the user to log in before editing the site. They can be used to create collaborative websites with a flexible format.
X provides the basic framework, or primitives, for building graphical user interface environments: drawing and moving windows on the screen and interacting with a mouse and/or keyboard. X does not define the user interface — individual client programs handle this. As such, the visual styling of X-based environments varies greatly; different programs may present radically different interfaces. X is built as an additional application layer on top of the operating system kernel.