Open Source Development: Top 5 Things I’ve Always Wanted to Know

I am primarily familiar with Microsoft products and languages, but am interested in learning more about open source.  To summarize, here are the top 5 things I’ve always wanted to know about open source development:

1.  Who do you talk to when you have a support issue regarding an open source product that you’re using?

2.  Are open source programs as secure as proprietary programs and are open source solutions embraced by large corporations even though they don’t have a name like Oracle, Microsoft etc. behind them for support?

3.  What are the most popular open source programs out there?

4.  What’s the best place on the web to learn about the open source solutions out there today?

5.  Are there any known drawbacks to open source versus proprietary software that people should know about before pursuing it just on a cost basis?

Granted, some of these I know the partial answers to, but as someone who doesn’t use open source very readily except for Log4Net, it’s fairly representative of the questions I’d have about open source technologies.

4 thoughts on “Open Source Development: Top 5 Things I’ve Always Wanted to Know

  1. Here are some of my thoughts regarding your Open Source questions:

    1. The developer mailing list, which should be active to consider using it for enterprise class software. There are usually “pay for support” companies for open source products that can give you an SLA. E.g. RedHat for linux.

    2. Sometimes open source projects are backed formally or informally by corporations. The argument about security is that since the source is open, many more eyes are scrutinizing the code and fixing the security holes. This is probably another reason you want an active community. The larger the community, the longer some thing has been in the wild, and the more of a “defacto” standard an open source product becomes the more secure it will need to be and will become, IMO

    3. This is hard to answer. It could be a more in-your-face product like Linux or a more subtle tool like gnu c++ compiler.

    4. Sourceforge might be a good start, but it depends on what you are looking for… an OS, a tool, a development library, a content management system…

    5. Not sure – open for discussion.

  2. In response to #5 above – A company should make sure the license of the OSS is compatible with how they are going to utilize the software. This is especially important if the source code is going to be modified and the resultant software sold as a product.

  3. Related to question #5 and the above response: Yes, I forgot the licensing can sometimes be tricky. But not in the way most people think. 99% of the time an Open Source license allows you to use the software/library however you want (including re-distributing it). But they have restrictions on distribution of a *modified* version of the product. Often the restriction is that you make your changes available to others in some form. But this varies greatly with the license.

    One of the most popular licenses, the Gnu GPL, has an FAQ about what you can do with software licensed under it.

  4. 2 >> There are plenty of IT Giants who support/use opensource softwares, Infact most of the popular opensource softwares are backed by these corporations. E.g, Eclipse a famouse opensource IDE is supported by Borland, IBM, QNX Systems, Rational Softwares, RedHat etc. Similarly Apache (Widely used opensource Web server) is supported by Google, Yahoo, HP etc. Also keep in mind that Microsoft/Apple will not going to support OpenSource as their ideology is totally opposite to OpenSource ideology. You can find more details about supporters of any opensource softwares in “About” section of software website. Given are some pointers for you,

    http://www.eclipse.org/org/
    http://www-128.ibm.com/developerworks/opensource
    http://www.apache.org/foundation/thanks.html

    3 >> Again its difficult to answer most popular opensource programs around, I can guess Linux is one among most popular opensource operating system created by Linus Travolda by hacking into Unix, Free BSD. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linux. Apache is another famouse opensource Web Server. As said above gnu c, Eclipse, MySql are good examples.

    4 >> Good start is to start using/knowing Linux, you will side by side know about opensource softwares.

    http://www.opensource.org/
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_source (Plenty of good stuff in “See Also” & “References” section)

    5 >> I don’t think there is any drawback of using opensource systems for normal usage. If you consider it for corporate usage there are other things which you may need to consider but I also don’t think there are any drawback there as well. You may be interested in reading http://www.cybersource.com.au/about/linux_vs_windows_tco_comparison.pdf

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