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Open vs. Closed Source Software

There has always been a debate about open and closed source software and which is the superior software model. In this post I will be talking about the pros and cons of both models.

Open Source

Open source means that anyone can fetch, edit and compile the software without paying a fee. Popular open source projects include Linux, Apache Web Server, GIMP and 7-zip.

Free (as in cost)

I'll get this one out of the way first. A major reason people use OSS (Open Source Software) over CSS (Closed Source Software) is that it usually has no cost. This is evident by the fact that most people who use OSS do not donate to the creators of the projects. If you use OSS, please donate to the individual projects and not through a organization like the FSF because the FSF will use it to buy more overpriced libreboot computers (EDIT: They do not buy 100% free software computers as shown buy their list of expenses for 2015 which includes HP Servers and Desktops).

Free (as in freedom)

One main talking point from OSS advocates is that OSS "protects your freedom." This is kind of misleading due to freedom being a human right and it wouldn't be really free if people weren't allowed to develop CSS. Free/Libre Software is a synonym for Open Source Software. The term "Free Software" is almost exclusively used by FreeDesktop and the FSF. The freedom that OSS developers are refering to is the freedom to run, build, change and share the program.

Portability

OSS is much easier to port to other systems than CSS is. For example, NXEngine, an open source Cave Story engine, has been ported to almost every platform under the sun. There is even a TI Nspire CX port of NXEngine. With CSS, you have to wait for the developer to port the software to less popular platforms.

Community

OSS usually has a more helpful community than CSS does. Of cource there is holy wars that are found in every community (PC vs. Mac, Console vs. PC, Vi vs. Emacs, Distro A vs. Distro B, etc.) but you can usually find an answer to a problem that you are having with a program.

Closed Source

Closed source means that the source code of the program is not publicly available. Both of these source code distribution models have their pros and cons. Popular closed sourced projects include Microsoft Windows, Adobe Flash and iTunes.

Privacy

OSS advocates like to say that CSS is evil because it is possible to "phone home" and that it is almost imposible to detect. However, these people are thinking inside the box. It is quite easy to tell if software is phoning home. All you have to do is open up the network monitor on your computer. If you think that the operating system could be hiding the network activity, you are being close minded as well. What you have to do is check the router's logs to see if anything fishy is happening on your internet.

Exploits

This one is a very big flaw in CSS. It is much easier to find and fix exploits in OSS than in CSS packages like Windows due to the amount of people who review the code each day in OSS projects like Linux.

Price

A lot of CSS costs for a reason: It costs money to make a good product. That is why you don't find any good open source video editors (Kdenlive doesn't count; it crashes way too much) while you do find good editors that cost money like Adobe Premire, Final Cut Pro and Sony Vegas.

Support

More people use CSS than OSS. For every 1 person who uses linux there is around 50 people who use Windows. This means that closed source software often has better support than OSS. With CSS, there is usually a customer support line; with OSS there isn't one. This is because customer support costs money and most open source projects can not afford to pay people in India to answer phone calls. Some exceptions are RedHat who provides support when you sign up for a subscription to one of their products and Canonical who provides support through their Landscape service. Both of these are subscriptions and cost money.

Conclusion

While OSS and CSS both have benifits, I feel that neither is better than one another. Most of the time something being open source makes it sound better than something that is closed source. However this is not the case. There is a lot of closed source software that I feel is better than the open source alternative (Example: Microsoft Office is better than Libreoffice) and a lot of open source software that is better than the closed source alternative (Example: GRAMPS is better than Family Tree Maker). So, I don't think the source code distribution method really affects the quality of the software in most cases.

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