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The State of Open Source Software 76

Posted by samzenpus
from the line-them-up dept.
snydeq writes "InfoWorld's Peter Wayner provides an in-depth look at the state of open source software and an overview of the best open source software of the year. 'It's easy to find hundreds of other positive signs of open source domination. If the mere existence of a tar file filled with code from the nether regions of a beeping device that's buried deep inside someone's pocket is all you need to feel warm and fuzzy about "open source," you might conclude that open source development is the most dominant form in the increasingly dominant platform of the future,' Wayner writes. 'But anyone who digs a bit deeper will find it's not so simple. Although the open source label is more and more ubiquitous, society is still a long way from Richard Stallman's vision of a world where anyone could reprogram anything at any time. Patents, copyrights, and corporate intrigue are bigger issues than ever for the community, and more and more people are finding that the words "open source" are no guarantee of the freedom to tinker and improve. Some cynics even suggest that the bright, open future is receding as Linux and other open source tools grow more dominant.' Included in the writeup are the best open source applications, best open source desktop and mobile offerings, best open source development tools, and best open source software for datacenters and the cloud."
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The State of Open Source Software

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @05:42PM (#37333334)

    InfoWorld promotion has been going on for a long time in slashdot, but seriously now. Milking for link juice and keywords like "best open source applications" and "best open source development tools" straight in the summary? Hooray, SEO spam.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @05:46PM (#37333376)

    Android is supposed to be open source, but they keep the source codes unreleased for months, you can't actually run your own source on the devices easily and actually making any contributions is almost impossible. All while they claim it's open source to win geeks and other companies support, while said companies also danger themselves in patent lawsuits (which Google nicely "forgets" to tell)

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @06:03PM (#37333582)

      Android is (partially) open-source only because it would cost too much for google to develop a replacement for something that already exists while having almost no benefits. They (google and smarphone manufacturers) keep important parts of android closed, just look at how difficult it is porting a new version of android to a phone that ALREADY runs it. There is no community involvement at all in android's development. Patents and lawsuits are a constant threat even if you are a completely legal and sole android modder.

      That being said android is way better (at least for me) than almost all alternatives (iOS, Symbian, obscure dumphone software) and it still can be fixed (can't say I see that happening). I'm really sad for Maemo/Meego fate, it is an amazing phone OS, I consider it much better than anything else, for end-users, developers and manufacturers. It is really open (well, still have some bothering closed bits, but mostly open), there is a big community involvement around it (even it being a small amount of people) and has a very good UI. I really can't understand why Nokia killed it, they still are a very profitable company and had time to develop the next big mobile OS, I can only guess it was because of some money injection from microsoft.

    • Re:Google (Score:3, Interesting)

      by anubi (640541) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @08:36PM (#37334834) Journal
      Yeh, I remember the day I bought a new timex "datalink" watch. I had high hopes and dreams of what I could do with that watch, being I could "talk" to it with nothing more than a LED.

      I bought three of the things.

      I remember well the frustration I encountered when I tried to find out aboutl the protocols needed to talk to the watch. I had all sorts of microcontroller projects I wanted to use it with... at the time, all 6502 based. Microsoft was involved. That's when I began to get a real sour taste in my mind every time Microsoft was mentioned. Microsoft had gotten big, and no longer thought well of those of us trying to find other ways of using their products.

      Now, please tell me why keeping the protocols under tight wraps helped Microsoft or Timex? Did they really think I was going to copy their watches? Geez, there is no way I had any intention of getting into the watch manufacturing business! I just wanted to horse around with the darned thing and have fun seeing what I could do with it. To me, that was the fun of having the watch in the first place. If I can't do anything with it, I might as well buy a Porsche as a lawn ornament.

      I ended up, five years later. throwing the watches away, two still in the original packaging. Junk. The only benefit I got was a lesson to be very wary of my intentions to see potential in products when the manufacturer is going to do their legal darndest to make sure I can't horse around with it. Its like going to a restaurant and having the chef come to my table and make sure I "enjoy" the meal exactly as he deemed. A shake of salt could bring a lawsuit.

      I have seen books on how to program Androids at the bookstore. That, by itself, has biased me strongly towards the purchase of an Android phone when I get ready to buy a "smart" phone. The other phones look too much like a "datalink" to me.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 09, 2011 @03:21AM (#37348972)

        A watch is a consumer product for doing things they advertise for. Nobody promised you anything more. You seem like a moron who gives their money first and then checks what they are getting. And you threw them away? Most people would return them to the store. Jesus.. what a retard you are..

        I have seen books on how to program Androids at the bookstore.

        iOS, WP7, Symbian all can be programmed by the end user. What nonsense are you talking about? Ooops.. sorry to let facts be involved in some good old MS bashing.

  • by jmcbain (1233044) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @05:53PM (#37333474)

    As J. Gruber of Daring Fireball points out [daringfireball.net], Google doesn't do open source as we would expect. An internal Google memo on Android development clearly states their policy:

    • Do not develop in the open. Instead, make source code available after innovation is complete
    • Lead device concept: Give early access to the software to partners who build and distribute devices to our specification (ie [sic], Motorola and Verizon). They get a non-contractual time to market advantage and in return they align to our standard.

    This is not how open source is supposed to work. Open source doesn't mean "closed until we decide to make it open". Open source doesn't mean "closed until we and our partners can profit."

  • by EdZ (755139) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @05:53PM (#37333486)
    VLC, but no ffmpeg, x.264 or MPC-HC? Especially ffmpeg, given that VLCs decoders come from libavcodec.
  • by tepples (727027) <{tepples} {at} {gmail.com}> on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @05:58PM (#37333546) Homepage Journal
    Among the six links to infoworld.com are 6 + 5 + 8 + 13 + 11 + 8 = a total of 51 pages. I'll forgive people for not reading through the whole article. For me, the problem with a lot of pages isn't having to click next, next, next, as much as that I can't Ctrl+F to find a particular application or genre in the article.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @05:58PM (#37333548) Journal
    All you really need to extinguish the warm-and-fuzzies is a stiff dose of the fact that an alarming number of the present and upcoming SoC designs at least optionally include pretty aggressive Tivoization features, opaque black-box functions handled by cryptographically verified and non-replaceable firmware blobs, and not infrequently a driver or two that isn't available in source form and makes keeping the kernel current rather tricky...

    You can have all the open source you want; but if you can only run it on x86 whiteboxes and select dev boards, you still have a problem.
    • by Microlith (54737) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @06:51PM (#37334018)

      non-replaceable firmware blobs

      Firmware blobs, not being run by the host CPU, tend to be a bit of a wash.

      a driver or two that isn't available in source form

      Rarely are these kernel modules. Most often they are userspace modules, which limits your ability to upgrade or swap out the libc. This is problematic for non-Android Linux efforts because (thanks to Google) these userspace blobs are linked against Bionic and not glibc.

      You can have all the open source you want; but if you can only run it on x86 whiteboxes and select dev boards, you still have a problem.

      Which is precisely what Apple and Microsoft want. Well, minus the "x86 whitebox" because that gives you an out to get around them.

  • by UnknownSoldier (67820) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @06:07PM (#37333634)

    I love mobile as much as the next person, but for the love of the programming, can people please separate Desktop and Mobile ?!

    • by TaoPhoenix (980487) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @07:57PM (#37334558) Journal

      "No".

      The future of computing is interchangeable Mobile and Desktop, with only superficial factors. a Mobile Device needs to be able to power a (low end) desktop experience by hooking up to hardware. I'm fine if that's Zoom +2 years.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @09:20PM (#37335144)

        "The future of computing is interchangeable Mobile and Desktop"

        More accurately, the future of computing is in mobile. Desktop will die, and mobile will talk wirelessly to the large monitor and keyboard on your desk when you need it to, without ever have to leave your pocket.

        So in a way, mobile *becomes* the desktop as well, and those large boxes collecting dust bunnies under your desk will go away.

        • Riiiight, because nobody needs to do actual work, nope all they need is social media baby yeah! Speed? Posh, if it can't run on a CPU from 10 years ago you don't need it!

          Please, mobile chips are playtoys. you know what they'll be in 10 years? playtoys. It is actually very simple, unless they start packing nuke batteries in the damned things you will ALWAYS have to give up speed for battery life which is fine if you want to play some angry birds, but when you are at home? fuck that slow ass bullshit.

          That is just as damned stupid as the occasional customer I have that insists on a gamer laptop. No not because they wanna LAN, that would actually make sense. Nope they want to spend crazy money on a mobile device that they never take anywhere so what you end up with is a REALLY EXPENSIVE desktop with crappy parts that dies quicker from heat death. oh well fool and their money and all that.

  • by HangingChad (677530) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @06:11PM (#37333678) Homepage

    As I sit here on a Ubuntu workstation, accessing this site with Chrome, with another open window sporting Firefox, I have to ponder if open source is really as ubiquitous as people think.

    • by hedwards (940851) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @07:37PM (#37334400)

      I think you've hit on something. In the closed source world MS killed Bob, but Canonical has yet to kill that unity crap. Most of the time OSS is the way to go, but sometimes you do need to just kill a bad idea before it really starts to monopolize your time and energy.

      • Re:Hmmmm (Score:3, Insightful)

        by arbulus (1095967) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @09:42PM (#37335268)
        The thing with FLOSS is that you see the development process. You see the bastard kids. You see the failed ideas. You see the brainstorming-throw-shit-at-the-wall development until they reach a rev where everything works. You don't see that with closed development processes. You just see an end product and never see the "failed" bin.

        The positive in that is that someone might like rev 3.2 that you threw out. And they can take that rev, fork it, and have a product that loads of other people love as well. It gives people freedom and choice that the closed systems deny you. People may hate Unity and GNOME 3.0. So someone comes along, forks GNOME 2, keeps it alive, and people are happy. And maybe by version 1.5 or 2.3, Unity gets really good. And maybe by 3.6 GNOME gets really good. KDE 4.0 was unusable. But the latest release is really great. The whole process lets people have the choice of using what they like instead of being told what to use and how to use it.
  • by bcrowell (177657) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @06:12PM (#37333684) Homepage

    It does seem to be pretty common for people to apply the term "open source" to things that aren't. For example, when Schwarzenegger was governor of California, he started a Free Digital Textbook Initiative [bbc.co.uk]. I went to a symposium set up by the state about this initiative. Many people at the meeting used "open source" correctly to describe their books. E.g., the book's LaTeX source code was freely available, and the book was under a CC-BY-SA license. But Pearson, a big commercial textbook publisher, sent a representative, who talked about how Pearson was doing books that were "open source." Actually their sole free offering was a consumable biology workbook that was available as a free PDF download. But they heard everyone else saying "open source," and it sounded like good pixie dust, so they started using the term.

  • by DangerOnTheRanger (2373156) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @06:14PM (#37333706) Homepage Journal
    Although the open source label is more and more ubiquitous, society is still a long way from Richard Stallman's vision of a world where anyone could reprogram anything at any time. -1 for mentioning open-source and RMS in the same sentence.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @06:34PM (#37333880)

      Mod parent up.

    • Or one could read the contrast another way: "Although the 'open source' label is more and more ubiquitous, society is still a long way from a 'free software' mentality."
    • Re:FTA: (Score:4, Informative)

      by wrook (134116) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @09:30PM (#37335204) Homepage

      No offence, but before you start criticising, it would help if you understood the issue. RMS uses the words "open source" himself. I have emails from him to prove it. What is at issue is that there is a distinction between "open source" and "free software". Originally ESR started using the term "open source" as a replacement for "free software". He (probably correctly) felt that the word "free" was confusing. However, at the same time he created a definition of "open source" that was different from "free software" while insisting that they were the same. The FSF is concerned with the freedom of all subsequent users to use the software for any purpose, modify it for their needs and to redistribute their modifications. "Open source" discusses the development practice of allowing other developers to view and modify the source code. There is no implication that all subsequent users will be able to modify the code.

      An equivalent term would have been fine at the time. The problem was that ESR ignored the only thing that the FSF was interested in. At the same time, he championed many useful and pragmatic practices that have value in their own right. Thus one movement became two.

      It is quite reasonable to say that the practice of producing open source software is becoming more and more mainstream, but that the issues of software freedom have not taken hold to the same extent. I doubt there would be many people who would disagree with that statement or find it objectionable. Open source development practices are a definite step forward. But for those interested in software freedom, there is still a long way to go. In some ways the open source movement has taken up a lot of the technical issues that the free software movement used to deal with. Personally, I think it is more important for free software advocates to concentrate on social rather than technical issues (and, in fact, I think that is being done).

      • by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:46PM (#37335654)

        Whatever happened to ESR anyway? I don't think I've heard anything new about him in 10 years or more.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 08, 2011 @06:55AM (#37337980)

          Last time I read his blog he hid in his basement because of a hurricane...

        • by wrook (134116) on Thursday September 08, 2011 @08:59AM (#37338922) Homepage

          His blog is here: http://esr.ibiblio.org/ [ibiblio.org] It seems he's purposely stayed out of the limelight for 10 years, or at least his "Speaking Engagements" section of his home page says that he has stopped giving them since 2002 for personal reasons. Not wanting to speculate, but at around the same time he took a lot of flack for talking about the shares he received from the IPO of VA Linux. I think a lot of technical people can identify with having made political gaffs and I wish he'd been given some slack. But there you go, being famous has both its ups and downs. I think in the end we all lost out because his voice was valuable and he doesn't seem to raise it as much any more. Still, he appears to be quite active on a lot of projects, just not as vocal.

          Thinking about it, it's an interesting question given that my response was really intended to deflect some all too common, unwarranted criticism of RMS. Like a lot of people, I don't agree with everything he says (though I could say that about anyone, really), but the guy stands up to an incredible amount of abuse and keeps marching on in the spotlight. I don't blame ESR one bit for not wanting to follow suit (if that's really what happened).
           

  • by exomondo (1725132) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @06:49PM (#37334002)

    a world where anyone could reprogram anything at any time.

    Isn't that more the goal of Free Software (particularly given the changes in the GPL with v3) than Open Source?

  • by Cutting_Crew (708624) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:44PM (#37335644)
    Imagine you have a customer that is part of a contract that you just won but you have to find/deliver/develop a user interface of some sort for the customer to interact with their daily needs. On the backend you have a database, some other stuff and this and that that will interact with the GUI. Do you write your own GUI using WCF? Do you use QT which is free to distribute commercially?(all you have to do is include the dll/jar/whatever). Do you write your own?

    No of course not. Why would anyone want to do that? How about let's go with a piece of crap software that makes a crappy GUI, with VB code running in the background, no documentation online to speak of, only runs on windows(of course), is buggy and the only interaction the "developers" have with this tool is to drag and drop. If a problem occurs, if you need a change in the software then you have to wait on said company to deliver... not to mention that that is extra money to add said feature(s). So what happens when someone else comes onto the project? They have been coding in C#/Java/C++/whatever language forever but it takes them 4 weeks to become even somewhat productive because this tool is so confusing and openly with question was built so that people could use it without doing any programming.

    You cannot blame this piece of software for what it is. If it is built so the average joe can use it without programming a single line of code then so be it. You CAN however blame the ignoramous that fell for the hook line and sinker selling pitch on why we should be using said software because using another library or writing your own code would be too "expensive". Never mind the fact that you are totally and utterly dependent on said company to deliver knowledge and answers to questions about software so you fall behind schedule, nevermind that a new "developer" wastes 4 weeks of his or her time learning their way around a GUI instead of actually spending at most a couple of days learning about the software design and nevermind that the GUI is so horribly put together that is doesn't make sense for a coder. Nevermind the fact that the license for this software cost an unknown amount.

    Management doesn;t seem to care/notice/know about options that are available and is so short sighted that he would make a decision that would make a team of "developers" want to just get up and leave. People who are management/approve contracts should NEVER make those decisions if he/she has not and/or is not a developer without at least putting together a team of real developers who are going to be working on it.

    Open source software would be much further along if developers were allowed to be developers instead of put behind a management sandbox.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 08, 2011 @09:09AM (#37339034)

      What? Really?

      Open source software would be much further along if developers were allowed to be developers instead of put behind a management sandbox.

      The most counter intuitive, forget all I said so far, contradictory conclusion line EVER!

      I mean, I agree with you, let the suit out of the development, but come on, Open Source USUALLY lacks of suit is common knowledge,

      Besides, all the problem you described is because the "Magic GUI Maker" you mention was PRIVATE, CLOSE SOFTWARE.

  • by unsolicited (2277156) <communal@indiatimes.com> on Thursday September 08, 2011 @01:57AM (#37336652)

    Businesses hate competition.
    Open source promotes open competition.
    Hence businesses hate open source.

    Is it difficult to understand?

  • by sgt scrub (869860) <saintiumNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Thursday September 08, 2011 @11:04AM (#37340316)

    Most of the Linux kernel development is supported by the hardware companies. The kernel developers may be coveted by these chip manufacturers who want to be sure that they can keep some of the Linux market, but the developers are nothing more than mercenaries.

    Priceless. :)

  • by raymorphic (2461142) on Thursday September 15, 2011 @03:36AM (#37407226) Journal
    Good to hear. Go Open Source!

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