Originally Published: Friday, 8 October 1999 Author: Luke Groeninger
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Of Open Source Software

Software, half of the binary relationship in a computer, is just as necessary to run the computer as hardware is. The user navigates through the hardware using software, which is navigated through the hardware. In recent times, this chicken and egg style paradox has become overlooked as the focus has switched from hardware to software. As software becomes easier to use, code size becomes larger and larger. At least with commercial software....

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Software, half of the binary relationship in a computer, is just as necessary to run the computer as hardware is. The user navigates through the hardware using software, which is navigated through the hardware. In recent times, this chicken and egg style paradox has become overlooked as the focus has switched from hardware to software. As software becomes easier to use, code size becomes larger and larger. At least with commercial software.

When you look at the software that most computer stores sell, how much of it is good quality software? How much of it requires more than one CD? As users demand more features and better usability, the code base becomes larger and larger to handle these features. This on the other hand has a disadvantage of making debugging harder and harder, and software runs slower and slower.

To compensate for this, hardware has had to become faster. This is evident in the shear number of publications dedicated to discussing the fastest and best hardware. Who needs to run Kill 'Em All VII at 200+ frames per second? The human eye can not even distinguish above 30. Films run at 24 frames per second. This hardware allows for programmers to take the 'easy' and more hardware-intensive route rather than the more elegant, more efficient routes.

Open source, among other things, forces the exact opposite of this trend. With groups of programmers from all over the globe working on software, you have a much better chance of finding and catching bugs. And, as a by-product, you also have multiple viewpoints working on software, each contributing something new to it, and in turn, helping the piece of software.

Free (as in free of charge) software, on the other hand, does not take money for its software, and as such, is not making the same 'guarantee' that buying software makes. It makes no promises on what it will and will not do, it does not say that you can get your money back, but it does say that you can help it if you want. Most users are afraid of this concept, as they don't have any form of guarantee that the software will work or not, and they get no support for it if they can't figure something out.

Linux, being a hybrid of both free software and open source software, has many attributes that make it both good and bad. I personally believe that these attributes make GNU/Linux an attractive operating system, especially when compared to the competition.

Luke Groeninger, a full-time student and part-time writer, has been dealing with Linux for the better part of three years. In addition to running several Linux servers at his school, he also enjoys hanging out on irc.linux.com as DGhost. Feel send him an email at dghost@linux.com with any questions or comments.





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