Sunday, 20 April 2003

Open source (another solution)

The open source movement is possibly the biggest "thing" since the inception of the computer and the Internet. One example of the open source movement is the Linux kernel / operating system. It is the largest, most successful implementation of the free software philosophy. It demonstrates that code, written by people for people can develop faster and better (ie. Better maintenance, better support, faster resolved bugs, etc.) than other closed source products. Linux is not the other open source development out there. There is also (to name a few):
  • the Mozilla browser (who some of you may use in its different guises - Netscape 6 / 7, galleon, etc...)
  • the Apache web server (that servers up the majority of the pages on the web)
  • the Sendmail application (deliver your e-mail around the Internet)

I really think that Linux (and its many distributions) is finally at a stage where it can take on closed source in the desktop (home user) domain. In the server domain, it has already proven itself to be better than the majority of closed source solutions that already exist.

My issue is not with making money off software. After all, people have to eat. My issue is with decisions being made (usually by "pointy-haired" managers of the Dilbert cartoons) not wanting to take the "gamble" on open source software. They cite reasons like not one point of contact, no real support, and open source means Internet intruders can see all our weak points. There are many more reasons than the ones I've listed, but my general observation is that unless you're paying a large sum of money for licensing, then it can't be a quality product. And that's a really pity. I've witnessed overall better support and less security vulnerabilities with open source software than I have with closed source software.

This leads me to think more about the philosophy I initially introduced a few paragraphs above. Why doesn't it apply to other things in life? I would have no issue with recipes being more open. Yes, that's right, food recipes. Chefs and restaurants should not give "dumbed-down" recipes to patrons hoping to emulate their culinary creations at home. They should give the full recipe out (with some nominal cost to cover of printing, etc...). Patrons going back to the restaurant would then be able to improve on the recipe in ways not obviously apparent to the chef. On top of this, the chef is now charging to provide a service, much like how open source companies charge for support, but basically "give away" the instructions and techniques of their applications.

This philosophy can also be read into other things besides software and food. Think about it...

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