Open Source Software
(A Completely Biased View)

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The Quick Overview

Open source software is, by definition, computer programs and applications whose source code is freely accessible for any computer programmer to use, modify or adapt for any commercial or non commercial purpose. The only restriction on the use of open source software is that any modifications or improvements made to the source code must be given back to the open source community. In this way, open source software is continually improved, updated and expanded. By the way, for those uninitiated in “Geek Speak,” source code is the list of instructions that the programmer writes to make a computer do useful things.

Why is Open Source Better Than Proprietary Software

Microsoft, Intuit and Adobe hire brilliant programmers who produce top quality programs, but these companies don't have a monopoly on brilliant programmers! The open source community is a world wide cooperative effort to create and perfect application and system software, and make it available for anyone to use, copy and freely distribute world wide.

Open source software is better simply because it's freely distributed and any programmer in the world can offer corrections or improvements. Of course there is strict quality control, but the bottom line is that there are more eyes looking at open source code than code written by programmers in a commercial shop. Any programmer will tell you that the more eyes going over code, the more bugs and mistakes you will find. That's why commercial, proprietary software needs more frequent revisions and why open source is more stable.

A Brief History

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is a non-profit organization founded by Richard Stallman on October 4th 1985 to support the free software movement. The FSF is a movement that promotes the universal freedom to create, distribute and modify computer software. The Free Software Foundation Prefers that software be distributed under “copyleft” ("share alike") terms such as with its own GNU General Public License.

In 1998, members of the Free Software Foundation created the Open Source Initiative, an organization with a slightly different philosophy but still dedicated to the creation and distribution of freely available software under the GNU General Public License. The Free Software Foundation and the Open Source Initiative work together on many projects and are not rival organizations.

Why We Believe in Open Source

There are many reasons to prefer open source software aside from the reason given above, the mission of the open source movement is to open the world of computing to people who wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity. Many support the movement for this reason alone. There is also the false belief that open source software cannot be used for commercial purposes; NOT TRUE!

Open source code can be used and modified by anyone, for any commercial purpose. The only limitation is that any improvements or modification be returned to the open source community. Many open source developers will grab the source code of an application and then adapt it for a client, saving the programmer countless hours because they don't have to start coding from scratch. The programmer is entitled to payment for services rendered and must simply give the improved elements back to the open source community.

There is much to be said about the fact that open source software is more quickly fixed and patched for bugs and security exploits; there are more than 43,000 end user applications available; and oh that's right, lets not forget . . . it's free! But our short list for preferring open source is: Its universal, it works better and it's a movement dedicated to doing the right thing.

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