Open-source: so much more than just software and freebies

Open-source is so much more than just Linux and free software. Learn more about open-source and how it positions itself to better people, businesses, and much more.
Written by Stephen Chapman, Contributor

Typically, when you see or hear the words "open-source," what's the first thing that comes to mind? For many, "open-source" is synonymous with "free software," but in reality, it's so much more than that: it's a movement; a chance to improve lives; a chance for success; a total lifestyle change. In this article, I hope to shed some light on what open-source really is -- and more importantly -- why everyone should care about it, or at least be aware of it.

To start, how would you like to raise $10 million to fund production of a project that was birthed out of work freely provided by people who seek only to fuel imagination? Figuratively speaking, your success -- whatever that might be for you -- is their success, too. Well, just a couple of months ago, this very thing happened via Kickstarter to a small team of individuals seeking to create a watch that interfaces with iPhones. They sought $100,000 in funding for production, but instead, ended up raising a whopping $10,000,000:


Not a bad return on something based on freely-available technology, huh?

Massimo Banzi, co-founder of open-source micro-controller maker, Arduino, recently gave a presentation at TED regarding open-source technology and how they are helping to put it in the hands of people everywhere. Open-source hardware? Yes! For a number of you reading this, that should already put "open-source" outside of your current perception of it.

When you have the opportunity to do so, please watch Massimo's presentation below. In it, he discusses many of the amazing things that have been done with open-source hardware -- everything from the watch above; to RC quadcopters that could be cheaply constructed and used to deliver supplies to villages in Africa; to satellites that could be launched into space for students to do tests with, and far more:

With everything Massimo covered in his presentation, it's quite easy to see how open-source is beginning to shape an entirely new landscape filled with imaginative creations that serve as everything from toys to potential life-giving catalysts.

So, with that in mind, what might life be like for an individual trying to live a 100% open-source life? Is such a thing even possible? Interestingly, one man has stepped forward to accept this challenge and document everything along the way. For one whole year, New Zealand filmmaker and writer, Sam Muirhead, will use open-source means "for every aspect of life, from cutting videos to chopping onions." If you can't quite wrap your mind around that, here he is explaining it:

Last of note, please don't forget to watch Massimo's presentation if you have yet to. It really serves as the cornerstone of substance for this article. Open-source really does have the potential to greatly enrich all of our lives -- personally, in business, and otherwise. If you're interested in digging more into open-source as covered in this article, here are a few great resources for you to start with:

1: Arduino

2: Instructables

3: Make Magazine

What are your opinions of open-source products? Do you think a widely-open-source future is a legitimate possibility, or do you see money as always being an eventuality of well-build products, no matter their humble origins? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!


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