What is Open Source Software

I have recently been quite disappointed by discussions I had (mainly with colleagues) about Open Source Software (OSS). The conclusion I came to is that, even among people working in the IT industry, there are very common misconceptions about what actually is OSS. I am not talking about the argument of whether it is good or bad, instead many people seem to think it’s something different than it actually is…

First of all, when you mention OSS, people immediately think Linux. Not OpenOffice, not Firefox & Thunderbird, not Apache and Squid and MySQL. Just Linux. I will not even get into the issue that what they think is Linux is actually Linux + GNU + a lot of other software.

The second misconception is that «it doesn’t work». Actually, I have found it easier to install Ubuntu than XP on many machines. It was certainly true some years ago, with hardware support being a major issue, but currently, I don’t know of many pieces of software not supported. Most of them even out-of-the-box, no CDs with drivers or anything.

The third misconception is that «it’s too difficult, normal people cannot use it». Again, this may have been true some years ago, but today your average Linux distro will work out of the box, with multimedia, office and internet working without any user intervention.

The biggest problem is that people believe this so firmly, that it’s impossible to convince them otherwise. The only way is to ask them to come by my office and look at my machine…

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2 σχόλια στο What is Open Source Software

  1. Hello. I have to say, that OSS doesn’t only refer to the above, but also to stuff like shopping carts and CMS. Now, I’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to navigate through systems like Drupal and Joomla, and where they seem intuitive and convenient for most programmers for whom the stuff was originally designed, the average user finds it cumbersome and non-intuitive to break from the typical, convenient usability. I have to say at this point, that installing OSS is perhaps the easiest thing I have come across. It’s atleast as easy as an automated install wizard – if not easier.

  2. Ciao Dimi,

    Yes, I subscribe your words. Nowadays, thanks to independent developers, companies and public administrations who have belived in OSS we have a wide variety of programs, OS, and code freely avaliable and with the possibility to customise it as we want (or as we can).

    We will never be grateful to them enough.

    About OS discussions… I use both OS but I have to admit that at home I use Windows in part because I find more programs on Windows than on linux and in part because I’m used to. Of course I have had a partition with linux and a Virtual machine but at the end I have uninstalled because I didn’t use it.

    In a working environment I’m using both and I’m confortable with both, but I have to admit that for a non advanced PC user it’s difficult to change.

    But anyway, at the end it is a question of education, habits and money. It’s strange to have to convince people to use something for free instead of something for what you have to pay (you pay your Windows copy with your PC).

    Finally, I want to comment you an experience at Barcelona city council. They changed all the MS Office software to OpenOffice. But after few months they changed another time to MS Office arguing that the amount of money in formation for civil servants and to transform all documents generated previously into the new formats was too expensive. Also some applications are developed on MS Office.

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