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Old 04-06-2007, 10:38 AM   #1
oswars
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School Work: Paper on Closed Source vs Open Source


Hello,

I'm a high school student and I'm trying to get some extra credit. I came up with a solution to satisfy both my english teacher and my computing teacher (I think they've got the hots for each other, which is a good thing cause I get to hit two birds with one stone ).

We all agreed upon a debate script on Proprietary Software vs Open Software.

Just to let you know I don't use either linux or windows, but have tried both and do use open source software like gimp/audacity quite often because of my computing teacher who basically introduced our class to open software.

Anyway I have some questions if someone would be kind enough to answer:

1a) How would a programmer make money from open source software? Lets say I was a programmer and then I created some useful software. Would it be better for me to close the source or open it? If I close the source and patent it, I could strike it rich. So what would be the advantages for the individual who created it (other than the good feeling of giving something to the masses) of distributing software with the source open?

1b) I've heard that open source software is to be marketed as a service and that a company who choses to open their source make this their business model? Could someone give me an idea of how this is done in real life and it's advantages over traditional methods used to sell software.

2) How do software patents come into this battle between open and closed?


Thanks for those who answer and join the discussion. I may have some more questions and I encourage anyone interested to ask their own questions and also anyone who may like to shed some light on the topic from a historical/psychological/'industrial competitiveness' POV to join too. (Industrial competitiveness because I've read about the halloween memo and also read some things about how Bill Gates used to quarrel with the rather small (compared to today) computing community of the past over a version of the programming language basic he created - if some one can give me some links to find info about these events it would be helpful).

In case you're wondering what I really think about all of this then here it is (my POV is concerned mostly with your average day to day users of software):
The masses don't care how their software is made, who made it might influence them with huge advertising campaigns by big companies like Microsoft, Google, Apple and when someone brings up something no ones heard of the average consumers natural instinct would be to look down upon the product until they try it at least. Most of the users who try it forget about it because for starters they are used to whatever they are used to and, IMO, they believe that it is in some way inferior to proprietary software because they don't get the traditional support and if they can't get it to work they believe it's too hard or that its not for them. They can't remember names like aptitude for installing/updating - it should be easily identifiable as a program used for installing and updating their computer. These days most linux distributions like ubuntu are just as easy to use as proprietary OS's, but then again the masses are used to like I said, what they are used to and there lies the problem. What opensource needs is to get communities like ubuntu to further standardize their services so that they have interfaces for programs, like they have for aptitude. Then some huge advertising campaigns. Also some people need to start some companies to provide closed drivers for hardware that is closed so that all open OS's may use them at least for a price. Centralization IMO would be the key. If there is some way to centralize all open source projects to work together, then there would be no stopping open source software.

I hope one day be able to buy things labeled Linux Capable or #INSERT YOUR DISTRIBUTION# Capable. Thats a right a consumer should have and a market that isn't properly catered for, I can only wonder why it isn't.


Thanks again,
oswars

p.s: At the end this has sort of turned into an windows vs linux debate but software whether open or closed runs on a platform OS.

Last edited by oswars; 04-06-2007 at 10:45 AM.
 
Old 04-06-2007, 10:52 AM   #2
Diego Torquemada
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Have you checked

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_source_software

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_so..._closed_source

It might be useful for you.


Just a little bit offtopic thought...

people might think that open source software is sometimes of lower quality given that sometimes actualizations of some programs are slow and there is not a direct responsible for the support... however if they are good/promising idea, a community will grow around them. The community will provide support through forums, and some years later you will have a product of excellent quality.

See for example: LaTeX or Emacs... those are almost 30 years old programs. Now they have evolutionated to some almost perfection point, and there is a huge community around them who provides support.

Last edited by Diego Torquemada; 04-06-2007 at 10:57 AM.
 
Old 04-06-2007, 12:37 PM   #3
taylor_venable
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oswars
If I close the source and patent it, I could strike it rich.
While corporate banter regarding software patents often represents it this way, this is hardly ever the case. In real life, patents are a way for companies to fend off one-another and to manipulate one-another into making deals. It's almost like MAD - mutually assured destruction. Distribution of patents amongst major companies ensures that no single one of them controls everything. But as a single programmer with one patent, you can't compete in any market. You don't have enough power to make deals with the big boys, even though that's what the patent lawyers say. Like having one dollar to put in the stock market -- you're not going to have an effect. So imagine you have this one patent and you find out IBM is infringing on it. You take them to court, where they immediately fire back that you're infringing on twenty patents that they own. Now you're in a huge court battle, and for the most part, you're on the defense. That's what happens when a little programmer gets a patent in this world we've made for ourselves, and it's exactly why software patents are dangerous.

Quote:
Originally Posted by oswars
So what would be the advantages for the individual who created it (other than the good feeling of giving something to the masses) of distributing software with the source open?
One thing is longevity. If you have a useful product, it will continue to live and thrive and evolve long after you've given it up for lack of time or desire or whatever. It will continue to have an impact, with the ability to become more than its original creator intended. It allows the software itself to literally become free.

Quote:
Originally Posted by oswars
1b) I've heard that open source software is to be marketed as a service and that a company who choses to open their source make this their business model? Could someone give me an idea of how this is done in real life and it's advantages over traditional methods used to sell software.
This is basically what RedHat does. What you're really buying from them is object code (the effort of compilation) and support -- both of these are services. You can get RedHat Linux in another form as CentOS, which (IIRC) is RedHat Enterprise Linux but recompiled (only CentOS doesn't require money for the compilation). So you can see that RedHat's business model is oriented around support. There are plenty of other examples as well; basically any business based around GPL'd software has to use something similar to this model. That's because they're required to give away source which can be freely redistributed, hence even people who didn't purchase it originally have access to it. Selling free software using a model oriented around the proprietary sense, where you're not allowed to redistribute it, makes little sense.

Quote:
Originally Posted by oswars
2) How do software patents come into this battle between open and closed?
For one, patents on closed-source software are nearly impossible for anybody but the holder to know about, because the implementation that it covers is not visible. Not to mention that people patent the most absurd things, like "a method to compile various high-level language programs into JavaScript". On the other hand, it's just silly to patent open-source code, because you've just said: "Here's the source code, you can read it, but you better not use it!"

I recommend you read some of the stuff that more expert people have already written about the topic. For one, see Richard Stallman's paper about the danger of software patents. You can find it here: http://lpf.ai.mit.edu/Patents/danger...re-patents.txt

Hope this helps.
 
  


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