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The State of Open Source Software 76

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 Hatta ( 162192 )

      That is pretty egregious.

    • I wouldn't care if the articles were actually newsworthy.

      What I got from the articles is that:
      Open source doesn't mean that corporations can always freely copy an open source project without talking with the FOSS project's management. But hey, that is actually a good thing, otherwise the big companies would just keep spewing out shamelessly copied versions of FOSS projects as their own.
      IMO the real value on FOSS is that you get the source code of the binaries you run. You can freely tinker with it as long a

    • by Ant P. ( 974313 )

      Between this and all the free attention the "editors" feed the likes of Florian Mueller with via these itworld/infoworld/computerworld splogs, I've just about given up on Slashdot as a reputable news source.

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

    As J. Gruber of Daring Fireball points out [], 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 h4rr4r ( 612664 )

      Why not?
      So long as the end user gets the code, what does it matter?

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

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

      You are right, open source means "closed until we release".

      Open source doesn't mean "closed until we and our partners can profit."

      You are right, open source means "closed until we and our partners can sell/distribute it".

      Oh -- open source exactly means that. If you don't release, you don't need to publish the source.

      • You are right, open source means "closed until we and our partners can sell/distribute it".

        Oh -- open source exactly means that. If you don't release, you don't need to publish the source.

        Are you certain of that? I was wondering just today: If I distribute to my partner P (and no-one else) the source and binary of an application A which links to a GPL'd 2+ library L, can L's copyright holder demand I provide them with the source? Or can only P do that?

        What if I distribute (again to P) a modified version of library L?

        • If your new body of work is a derivative of library L then both P and L can demand the source (from the moment you distribute it to another party), but practically L may never know your derivative existed if the matter is kept private.

          If your new body of work is not a derivative of library L then the terms of your new body of work is a private matter between you and P under any terms you choose. Look at it another way you could distribute just your body of work and have P reconstruct the whole by indepenan

    • Although, this is only for Android. For the most part, Google behaves as a good F/OSS citizen.
    • by inhuman_4 ( 1294516 ) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @06:20PM (#37333754)
      I always thought opensource meant the user gets access to the code , not just the binary. IMHO there is nothing wrong with google keeping the code under wraps while its under development. As long as the user can get the code when the device is released I dont see the problem. What is going on with honeycomb where they release the device but not the code I am unimpressed with.
      • The new Hotness is developing closed layers on Open Source shells.

        Companies save 7 years on core concept development, but then they slam you for anything that looks like a rectangle with a home button in patent court.

        Google is doing the same thing - Android is "sorta open" but seriously no company has the cash to fight them for the 5 years it takes to begin to get noticed.

    • by kangsterizer ( 1698322 ) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @06:30PM (#37333840)

      Your argument is correct but not precise enough and you'll get attacked by some g-drones ^^

      What is meant to be said here, is that Google _ALREADY_ released the product and did _NOT_ open-source it. That's HoneyComb and it's been out for quite a while.
      Basically, it's like saying ID software games are all open-source cause they open source the engine like 5 too 8 years later. Aka bullshit. (note: ID software is actually honest and very clear about their practice and I can only acclaim their behavior - Google instead uses that as marketing weapon)

      Then there's the opensource "spirit". The RMS opensource. The open source that has _also_ open development behind. The open source like Mozilla does, for instance, where nearly everything is open and anyone can just come in and chime. The open source like the Linux kernel does. That's proper open-source.
      Call it what you want.

      • by Eskarel ( 565631 )

        Except that honeycomb isn't licensed under the GPL. The kernel is, as are certain third party user space applications, for all of which Google has released the source code. The rest of Honeycomb is open source, but is not licensed under the GPL. It's not illegal to distribute it without permission, but if you ask they can tell you to stuff off.

        Lots of people have this illusion that OSX and Android are different than they are. You can have an open source kernel for a proprietary operating system, you have to

        • That is totally irrelevant. No one said Google did something illegal for instance. Nope. But they're not following the open source spirit.

          Unlike Apple, they claim to be open source, I can sharply remember that "Android is as open as git clone blah make" post from a Google exec. But that's a lie.
          Apple does not claim that OSX is open source. They claim for open standards but that another story.

          • by Eskarel ( 565631 )

            Lots of people have implied Google is breaking the law, and an awful lot of people, yourself included, seem to be absolutely convinced that Google are the good guys and shocked when they aren't. Have you read what Eric Schmidt has to say about Google+ as an identity service and anonymity on the internet? They've gone over to the dark side mate.

      • by vipw ( 228 )

        RMS didn't do his development in the open. The Cathedral and the Bazaar [] was about this.

      • I think i will call that opensource-spirited and openly developed software as "Free software".

        Overall, whole thing sounds like another rehash of free-as-of-price vs. open-source vs. free/libre talk. Some people just don't get the difference, especially between last two.

    • by Microlith ( 54737 ) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @06:33PM (#37333874)

      This is not how open source is supposed to work.

      It's not how Free Software works, for sure. It's also not how community projects work. It's how insular, isolated projects with a strongly expressed NIH syndrome work.

      Android is not Open Source though. The AOSP is. The AOSP is the offal of the Android project that Google used to draw in fans of open source, Free Software, and Linux. And yet at the height of Android's popularity they proceeded to leave the AOSP and community out of Honeycomb, and we have no idea whatsoever they'll do with Ice Cream Sandwich when it comes out on devices.

      This is one reason that I shudder when people suggest that Android should be the basis for a desktop Linux, to the exclusion of all the other infrastructure not controlled by Google that, lacking any major architectural flaws, needs good usage testing and a designer's eye.

      • and we have no idea whatsoever they'll do with Ice Cream Sandwich when it comes out on devices

        yes, we do. they've publicly stated many times they will open source HC. there's no reason not to believe that.

        google, being a publicly held company, is in the business of making money. first and foremost and before anything else. don't act so shocked when the act of making money gets in google's way when it comes to releasing source when you demand it.

    • Cathedral vs. Bazaar. Some of us may remember the gcc/egcs split or the emacs/xemacs saga, where FSF packages were developed in secrecy until they were released (sound like Android?). Or perhaps even something like ghostscript, which was a commercial product, but they released older versions under a FREE license (sound like Android?).

      Today, the bazaar model is much more common. We can clone a git repository or svn update and see changes as they happen. Android has moved to a cathedral model. Id GPLs

      • by node 3 ( 115640 )

        Cathedral vs. Bazaar. Some of us may remember the gcc/egcs split or the emacs/xemacs saga, where FSF packages were developed in secrecy until they were released (sound like Android?).

        No, because Android source isn't released even after the product ships. That's the whole premise of this thread.

        • by vipw ( 228 )

          For the same reason, you can't really consider Android (HoneyComb) to be Open Source until they release the code.

          You should finish reading the comment before replying...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I was OK with the whole email, right up until he got to the part about distributing it to partners. AFAIK, you can do anything you want to GPL software until you redistribute it. Then, you have to publish your changes.

      Open source _can_ mean "closed until we make it open". But it can't mean "closed after we redistribute changes based on GPL software".

      If they developed internally, they should be able to develop however they want. And use it themselves all they like.
      As soon as they give it to their partne

    • by drb226 ( 1938360 )
      Open Source != Open Development Process. I know lots of people are going for this warm fuzzy community feeling around the term "open source", but really, "open source" just means the source is released to the public under a permissive license. Nothing more. Don't get me wrong, I think that Open Development Process is totally the way to go. But don't think that everyone that says "open source" means "open development process".
    • What nonsense. Why do you want to deny them the ability to profit from creating open source tools?

      Where in any manifesto or license does it say this is bad?

      Seems to me we should be falling all over ourselves thanking Google for finding a way to make Linux commercially viable, via Android in particular. We need Linux to work.

      I think a more legitimate question is why we tolerate so many violators of the various licenses, and so many binary blobs in our cell phones. That's (of of the things t
    • by MrHanky ( 141717 )

      Interesting that two of the first three comments are about Google in a story that has nothing at all to do with them. Fun what corporate fanboyism can do to people's minds.

    • by oviye ( 2459254 )
      I have different words with u. []like this
  • VLC, but no ffmpeg, x.264 or MPC-HC? Especially ffmpeg, given that VLCs decoders come from libavcodec.
  • by tepples ( 727027 ) <> on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @05:58PM (#37333546) Homepage Journal
    Among the six links to 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 gknoy ( 899301 )

      Many mod points for someone who links the all-on-one-page versions of these. The "print" link didn't seem to work for me.

      • Re:Fifty-one pages (Score:5, Informative)

        by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @06:04PM (#37333598)

        Agreed. Here's all the one page summary ...
        [ not karma whoring since I've been maxed for _years_ ... ]

        = Applications =
        * Apache Lucene and Solr
        * Drupal
        * Openbravo ERP
        * Pentaho BI Suite
        * SugarCRM
        * WordPress

        = Desktop and mobile =
        * 7-Zip
        * Google Android
        * CamStudio
        * Google Chrome
        * LibreOffice
        * Oracle VM VirtualBox
        * PDFCreator
        * Pidgin
        * TrueCrypt
        * VLC

        = Application Development =
        * CakePHP
        * CoffeeScript
        * Git
        * Apache Hadoop
        * Hudson and Jenkins
        * jQuery Mobile and Sencha Touch
        * MongoDB
        * Node.js
        * Web2py

        = Data Center & Cloud =
        * Eucalyptus and OpenStack
        * Gluster
        * Talend Open Studio
        * Vyatta
        * Xen
        * WSO2

        Can I get my 10 mins back, please.

    • > Among the six links to are 6 + 5 + 8 + 13 + 11 + 8 = a total of 51 pages.

      Hmm, I think you have a fence-post (off by one) error for some of them. :-/ The first page is just an intro page for the last 4 sections.

      e.g. The actual pages of content ...

      6 article: Bossie Awards 2011: The best open source software of the year
      5 article: Linux at 20: New challenges, new opportunities
      7 awards: applications
      12 awards: desktop and mobile
      10 awards: application development
      7 awards: data center and cloud


  • 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
    • 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

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

    • "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.

  • 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.

    • 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by arbulus ( 1095967 )
        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. I
  • 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 []. 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.

  • 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.
    • 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).

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

        • by wrook ( 134116 )

          His blog is here: [] 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

  • 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.
  • 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. :)

  • Good to hear. Go Open Source!

Ya'll hear about the geometer who went to the beach to catch some rays and became a tangent ?