10 things people get wrong about open source (images)

10 things people get wrong about open source (images)

Summary: Open source has become an important part of business but that hasn't changed many misconceptions from users minds.

TOPICS: Open Source

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  • I can remember when mentioning open-source software in a business context was unthinkable. Fortunately, times have changed. Indeed, open source is now often considered first but that dramatic progress has not entirely removed a number of misconceptions from users' minds. So I thought it might be helpful to list a few of the things people still get completely wrong about open source.

    1. It's just for Linux
    Most users trip up over this point. When open source comes up in a conversation, talk inevitably — and almost always initially — turns to Linux. The public always seems to assume open-source applications are only for Linux. In fact there are plenty of open-source projects that are either cross platform or Windows only. The Open Source Windows site lists a variety of software for Microsoft's operating systems. But the site doesn't include the listing of major forces, such as Apache, MySQL and Drupal.

    This story originally appeared as 10 things you should know about open source before you use it on TechRepublic.

    Photo credit: John Vetterli/Flickr

  • 2. It's always free
    To be considered open source, the source code needs be freely available. That free availability does not mean the application itself is inevitably free. There are actually many companies making money from their open-source projects. Often, the suppliers tend to attach the price to areas such as support or added features. They also tend to make a community version of their product, which is free.

    When a company sells a community version, it's usually a stripped-down, bare-bones variant of the commercial, open-source product. A great example of this approach is Zimbra, a powerful email and collaboration tool that offers a free, open-source edition as well as editions that have price tags and more features and less access to source.

    Photo credit: art crimes/Flickr

  • 3. There's no support
    Some open-source software offers support, sometimes at an extra cost, and some doesn't. This issue is often critical for larger companies. But even though a piece of open-source software doesn't have a corporate-friendly, 24/7 support hotline, that doesn't mean there is no support.

    Sometimes, there are forums or mailing lists for support. In other cases, the developers who created or work with the software can be contacted. Support options are certainly available — even if that support might not be compatible with the corporate mindset.

    Photo credit: GenBug

Topic: Open Source

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  • RE: 10 things people get wrong about open source (images)

    Adium, meebo, etc. Are all based on Libpurple, you could cite them as people using free software. Also I think you could do a slide dedicated to "free software" vs. "open source software". Software can be opensource but not be free if that software has restrictions on redistribution and derivative work. You could also do a slide on the biggest misconception of all, "dynamically linking to a free software library makes your software a derivative work."
    • RE: 10 things people get wrong about open source (images)

      @snoop0x7b great reply. Very informative.
  • I still don't get the draw from devs to make open source software

    I get why people would want to use open source, I mean I use open source libraries every day when coding, but i still don't understand the draw of building open source software, especially if its free.

    Maybe I'm just an old family guy who doesn't have a lot of evening free time to write code for Mozilla or, more probably, I don't get any feel of joy or happiness by coding in my off hours for "nothing."

    I'm not saying everyone who does this is bad or wrong. I just don't understand what the appeal is to do it.
    A Gray
    • maybe because you have a me - me - me type mentality

      and that is probably why you don't understand those that do and thats not bad or wrong as you pointed out :-)
      Over and Out
      • We all have me - me - me type mentality

        I don't understand people selling things on ebay - but why go through the time an effort having people bid on things, for what? To get more money? Just pick a price or don't.

        that's just one example. I could name a lot more.

        Artist paint for enjoyment, so if you're coding for enjoyment, that's fine, its just what some people want to do.
        William Farrell
    • RE: 10 things people get wrong about open source (images)

      @A Gray

      This almost seems like a troll, since you say you use open source libraries in your work, but I'll play along:

      Have you ever used a program that was pretty good, but did one thing in a way that was awkward for the situation you wanted to use it in? Or one which had a bug that greatly interfered with your ability to use it? With closed source, you are stuck with the program as it is unless you can persuade the owner of the program to change it. With open source, you have the possibility to try to fix the problem yourself, or pay someone to fix it for you.

      The same is true for businesses that use software but aren't programming businesses, except they would pay some third party to fix the bug or modify the way the program works.

      A related motivation is if you want to invent some completely new capability for a kind of program that already exists, say some new feature in an email client. You might start from scratch, but you would do a lot of work reimplementing the standard features of an email client before you go to work on the new feature. Or you could start with an open source email client and begin immediately working on the new feature, saving a lot of time and effort.

      Also, the notion that open source development is done in the programmers' off hours generally is not true. Of course, it depends on the project, but large parts of the work on many open source projects are done by programmers paid by their employers to work on the open source project, since the employers use the open source program in the course of their business. The only project for which I know such details have been published is the Linux kernel. Significant work has been done on the kernel by programmers working on the clock for IBM, Novell, Intel, Oracle, Sun, HP, Marvell, AMD, Nokia, and many more. I have not seen such details for other open source projects, but I believe the situation is similar in many other major open source projects.

      So there are many businesses for whom it makes good business sense to assign some employees to work on open source projects. Sharing the effort when everyone needs pretty much the same result is more efficient for everyone.
    • RE: 10 things people get wrong about open source (images)

      @A Gray
      Well, there are a few reasons.
      1 - If you use an open source product to do your paid work, you might find it beneficial to offer contributions to the code base to improve your work experience.
      2 - a lot of the contributors to open source don't do it for nothing, their doing it because their company has a business plan that benefits from certain open source software, and they therefore pay their programers to contribute to the code to advance that business plan. Actually I think a lot of open source projects are primarily contributed to by businesses who're looking to leverage open source to improve their own bottom line.
      3 - There's also always a few programers for who coding open source projects are stand ins for saving the whales, or whatever cause they'd otherwise want to crusade for.

      And that's only part of the reasoning.
    • RE: 10 things people get wrong about open source (images)

      @A Gray

      all of the open source i have written has been on contract to write for a particular purpose. they paid for my time and knowledge rather than for the piece of code
  • RE: 10 things people get wrong about open source (images)

    "1. It's just for Linux"

    LOL. Yeah, big misconception. Got plenty of OSS on my machine, but I'm running Windows.

    "2. It's always free"

    Try telling the open source people that.

    "3. There's no support"

    Problem is, the "support" varies, from pretty good to absolutely abysmal. And yeah, they probably [i]do[/i] need a hotline.

    "4. You need full access to the source code"

    Yeah, this is an issue - a lot of Open Source developers often are of the mindset that everybody in the world needs to be a programmer, which often leads to a "fix it yourself" mentality, which often extends to their "support" services. Which probably contributes to the idea that open source software has no support.

    "5. It's just for programmers"

    Partially true. There's a lot of open source software out there where you practically need a computer science degree to figure out (for example - most open source text editors). Not always the case, but still common enough.

    "6. You're breaking the law by adopting open source"

    Definitely, definitely false. There's no reason whatsoever why you would be breaking any laws with open source software any more than you could closed source software.

    "7. You have to be an expert to use it"

    Yes and no. There is considerable debate about the user friendliness of open source software, and it varies widely. Within the past few years, the usability has increased considerably for the largest projects.

    Smaller projects may still have some usability concerns, however, and there are still some apps out there that refuse to kill certain sacred UI cows (think the GIMP).

    It's also the case that many open source projects lack true usability R&D, so many open source developers have resorted to philosophical bickering rather than true usability research (Emacs vs VIM vs other text editors, anybody?).

    "8. It's hard to find"

    Pfft, so false. You can find it everywhere, and if you're running Linux itself, you've got most of it available in your package management system. Problem is, putting your app in an app store usually costs money, so open source devs usually don't have them there.

    "9. Freeware and shareware mean open source"

    H*** NO!

    Freeware usually means crapware, and shareware is a mixed bag. Horrible stuff. I will often include "open source" as part of my search terms to avoid the stuff. Proprietary usually fails when it's free or nearly free.
    • RE: 10 things people get wrong about open source (images)

      Thank you, was better to read this summary than skimming 9+ pages.
  • RE: 10 things people get wrong about open source (images)

    "superior to their proprietary counterparts." - Will this ever happen to Games?

    Open Source Dragon Age Origins perhaps? :) Imagine the sources for these games are just there etc. ^_^
    • RE: 10 things people get wrong about open source (images)

      @TheFilipinoFlash Go play some Neverwinter Nights servers (also Bioware). Lots have them have rescripted how the game works entirely into something that's barely recognizable.
  • RE: 10 things people get wrong about open source (images)

    I only want to handle support for the custom software I write for a client, not for office applications. So if I install computer systems for clients, I always install MS Office.

    W. Schalley
  • RE: 10 things people get wrong about open source (images)

    wait... where is Loverock?
  • RE: 10 things people get wrong about open source (images)

    Open Source, as it relates to Linux, is still a nightmare to use and a giant pain in the ass compared to Windows.
    • RE: 10 things people get wrong about open source (images)

      You write a general statement that Open Source related to Linux is a nightmare compared to Windows. So how is that it?s a nightmare? Sounds like another anti-Linux rant.
    • RE: 10 things people get wrong about open source (images)


      I've never had nightmares nor major pains using the Open Source in Linux, or Linux itself, which is also Open Source

      please give more specific details regarding your experiences
  • Excellent post

    This is an excellent article, and right to the point. In my own blog on ZDNet.co.uk (under the handle "apexwm"), I make these very same points all of the time. And in the end, Microsoft apologists show up and try to bring up the same age old rumors about GNU/Linux that you mention in this article. And each time that they do, they have no knowledge about GNU/Linux which tells me that they don't even try to use it which makes their claims false. In reality, as you point out, a lot of the rumors are exactly the opposite in real life. And the only way for people to realize this, is to actually try out GNU/Linux for themselves. As I tell them, there's nothing to lose, it's free and very easy to burn a Live DVD or create a Live USB drive.
  • RE: 10 things people get wrong about open source (images)

    Nice article and nice summary (CobraA1). Many people do not quite get the open source benefit for the coders but if there is one good example is Magento (ecommerce software). They started out 100% free and forked from the community version to the Enterprise version. Trust me they are making money with support, hosting and enterprise version fees. All kinds of companies use it even little tiny local company like mine (http://www.houstonproservices.com).