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What is The Open Source

This is an article that briefly explains the difference between open source, freeware and shareware, types of software that populate the web and operating systems, that we deal with on a daily basis and that we should better understand to help us manage costs and security issues.

Open Source Versus Freeware

Generally, Open Source refers to a computer program in which the source code (instructions for that program in its primitive form, in programming language) is available to the general public for the use and/or modification of its original design. Open-source code is typically a collaborative effort, an environment where the programmers involved improve the source code and share the changes within the community so that other users can help, creating an evolutionary chain of improvement and enhancement.

According to opensource.org, Open Source does not just mean access to the source code. Open source software distribution terms must adhere to the following criteria:

1. Free redistribution

The license must not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate software distribution containing programs from several different sources. The license should not require a royalty or other fee for such a sale.

2. Source Code

The program must include source code and must permit distribution in source code as well as compiled form. Where some form of a product is not distributed with source code, there must be a well-publicized means of obtaining it for no more than a reasonable reproduction cost, preferably by downloading it over the Internet free of charge. The source code should be the preferred form in which a programmer would modify the program. Deliberately obfuscated source code is not allowed. Intermediate forms such as the output of a preprocessor or translator are not allowed.

3. Derivative Works

The license must allow modifications and derived works, and must allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the license of the original software.

4. Integrity of the Author’s Source Code

The license may restrict source code from being distributed in modified form only if the license permits the distribution of patch files with the source code for the purpose of modifying the program at build time. The license must explicitly permit distribution of software built from modified source code. The license may require derived works to have a different name or version number from the original software.

5. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups

The license must not discriminate against any person or group of persons.

6. No Discrimination Against Fields of Work

The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the program in a specific field of endeavor. For example, it must not restrict the program from being used in a business, or from being used for genetic research.

7. Distribution of the License

The rights associated with the program must apply to all to whom the program is redistributed, without the need for execution of an additional license by those persons.

8. The License Must Not Be Product-Specific

The rights associated with the program must not depend on its being part of the particular software distribution program. If the program is extracted from that distribution and used or distributed within the terms of the program’s license, all parties to whom the program is redistributed should have the same rights as those granted in conjunction with distribution of the original software.

9. The License Must Not Restrict Other Software

The license must not place restrictions on other software that is distributed together with the licensed software. For example, the license should not insist that all other software distributed on the same medium be open-source software.

10. The License Must Be Technology-Neutral

No license provision may be based on any individual technology or interface style.

According to an article published in Forbes on April 2, 2014, “(…)  Open Source software is a trend that is picking up momentum. First it was the open source Linux, which shifted the tectonic plates and largely displaced fee based legacy operating systems like Unix, HP-UX, Solaris, even Windows felt a little pinch. Lately, in the “Big Data” space “Hadoop” is new “open-source” software that is already beginning to step on the toes of the big database vendors like IBM and Oracle. Incidentally, “Hadoop” is written in Java and runs seamlessly on all Java Virtual Machines. The amount of information now being stored is mind boggling and is measured in petabytes. Each petabyte represents 1,000 terabytes.

As more and more business software applications are offered free or “open source”, a rapid migration to “open source” is occurring. Can it really be that software like Zulu and Hadoop are equal to or better than software that the world’s largest companies have been buying for millions annually from Oracle and IBM? As the inertia of the corporate mentality inexorably gives in to the “open source” revolution businesses may reap billions in annual savings.

Even the software customer support is getting less expensive. Besides getting Zulu free, Scott Sellers promises cheaper and better customer support that that offered for the Oracle JVM. “Open-source” customer support was first commercialized and popularized by Red Hat Inc. (RHT) which services the widely used Linux operating system. Funny enough, now everybody, including traditional commercial software vendors like IBM, Oracle, Hewlett Packard (HPQ), and even Microsoft (MSFT) are catering to “open source” needs and are offering heterogeneous support along with their closed operating environments. (…)

When all these factors are added up, businesses and consumers world-wide will ultimately benefit from the proliferation of “open source” in the form of lower prices for a plethora of products across many spectrums. A report by the Standish Group (from 2008) states that adoption of open-source software models has resulted in savings of about $60 billion per year to consumers. (…)”

The popularity of open source has even reached the universe of Brazilian soap operas, imprinting a special touch of originality to the well-disposed “Now Generation” (2014), on Rede Globo TV. Aside from the exaggerations and caricatures of the engaging comedy, the message of the philosophy of open technology – “from everyone for everyone” – in the struggle for a fairer and more accessible technological world is perfectly conveyed.

As Linus Torvalds himself says, “I’d much rather have 15 people arguing about something than 15 people splitting into two camps, each side convinced it’s right and not talking to the other.” And this should be the possible way forward for the Future.

linus trovalds Linus Torvalds

Linus Torvalds is a Finnish programmer born in 1969 and who in his college days – late 80’s and early 90’s – started creating his own computer operating system based on an Intel 386 processor, because he couldn’t afford any of the most common systems of the time. He then decided to call it Linux, a fusion between his own name and the Unix system that existed in college. While still a student, he made his work freely available on the Internet in order to obtain comments and suggestions to help him in the evolution of the final product. Over time, the success of his initiative reached such a level that the new operating system became a reality. Honored by the Technology Academy Finland in 2012 with the Millennium Technology Award (in addition to several other previous awards), he continues his work in the Open Source Development Labs which he joined in 2003, a foundation created to help develop the Linux kernel, with contributions from giants such as IBM, Oracle and HP.

What About Freeware?

This concept of freedom should not be confused between freeware and open-source, because both represent different freedoms. Freeware is a software made available to the public at no cost, free to use, without any associated licenses or copyrights. Open-source software can be free or not, depending on the associated license, and therefore the fundamental difference between the two is at the level of their source code. Freeware is made available in closed source code mode, copyrighted so that it cannot be modified, adapted or distributed while open-source software is made available in open source code mode, it can be freely accessed, modified, used and shared under licenses in accordance with the 10 criteria defined at the beginning of this post.

Another confusion is the mix between free software and freeware which are not the same thing. The term free software refers to the past of the open-source term, used in the 1980s at the image of the Free Software Foundation founded in 1985 to promote free software. The term open-source appeared 13 years later at the suggestion of forecaster Christine Peterson and adopted by the Open Source Initiative founded at that time. Let’s just say that the terms represent two different institutions and despite their philosophies and preciosities divergencies, they both roughly refer to the same thing. “Free software” and “open source software” are two terms for the same thing: software released under licenses that guarantee a certain specific set of freedoms. (in OSI)

The term freeware was also coined in the 1980s, this time by programmer Andrew Fluegelmen, who pioneered another concept derived from freeware – the shareware.

andrew fluegelman Andrew Fluegelmen

Andrew Fluegelmen was a self-taught programmer, also lawyer and publisher, owner of a small book publishing company, who in the early 1980s wrote his own accounting program and a year later developed his big computer success, the PC-Talk, a communications program (sort of the early days of Skype), with the intention of revolutionizing the market under a new business concept that he coined as freeware, a software licensed under terms that encouraged users to make voluntary donations under the appealing of usefulness concept because if the user found it useful he would feel the impulse to contribute; license terms also allowed users to copy and redistribute the software freely as long as this same license terms and text were not changed. He was also the founding editor of both PC World and Macworld magazines.

Shareware, types and derivatives

Shareware is a type of proprietary software, along the lines of freeware, but not completely free in that it imposes feature or usage time limitations (trial time) with the option to unlock it upon payment. One of its founders, Jim Knopf, and Andrew Fluegelman’s collaborator, started by creating a database program, the PC-File, that unlike the optional donation policy in the case of Andrew’s project, imposed the payment of some fees for developing and updating his product.

Today shareware is just a generic term to cover a number of specific models each representing a different business goal or strategy, as adware, crippleware, trialware, donationware, nagware, freemium, demoware and postcardware.

Find references and more knowledge in Learning Links

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