Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What is Open Source Software

These days we keep hearing about open source software. However, what is open source software is the question. In this write up, we will get to know more about it.
When we buy or for that matter download a software, it normally comes in ready to use version. The code of the software is compiled, due to which the internal code of the software is not visible to the user. In other words, the source code is not visible and/or accessible to the user. Therefore, making any kind of changes to the computer software is almost impossible. This is an advantage which is harnessed by most commercial software manufacturers. Compiling a code helps them to keep the source code to themselves and reduce the chances of it being copied. This also ensures, they are able to work on enhancing the product and give better quality product with every release. However, an open source software is just the opposite of this. There are different examples of software, that we use in our daily use. You will come across open source software in all types of software. Let's find out, what is it exactly.

What is Open Source Software?
There are different types of application software, which have come into the market, where the source code comes along with the compiled software. The end user is encouraged to modify and/or customize the software. The makers of open source software is that when you encourage people with interest in software to alter the software code, the end result is more useful and errors are minimized over a period of time. There are many open source software examples. Some of the ones we regularly use are web browsers like Mozilla Firefox, a software application similar to Microsoft Office is Open Office, etc. Apart from the software, there are open source computer operating systems as well. The most commonly used open source operating systems are Linux and Ubuntu. These are different types of operating systems, where changes can be carried out by the end user to suit his needs. You may not be aware that there are open source resource for handheld computers available as well.

Features of Open Source Software
For a software to be classified under open source category, it should have certain features. Having access to the code running the software is not sufficient. Along with it, certain conditions have to be fulfilled by the said software, for it to fall under the said category.

Freely Distributed
It is important that the software is freely distributed. In some cases, the software can also be a part of a package, which is sold. The classic example of this can be Red Hat distribution of Linux. There is no restriction on the license, which prevents any one from selling or giving away the entire software or a part of the software. There is no need to pay any royalty or any kind of fees for the same.

Source Code and Redistribution
This is one of the most important features of any open source software. The source code comes along with the compiled code. A user is allowed to make changes to the source code to suit his needs. The person is also allowed to distribute the modified software. The modified software will have the same terms as the license of the original software.

No Place for Discrimination
No kind of discrimination is made. Any person or a group of people are discriminated upon. Likewise, there is no restriction on where can the software be used. It can be used for business, research or for home purposes. There are no terms and conditions laid down, which restrict the use of the software.

Free License
The license comes with its own terms and conditions and there are no restrictions, whatsoever. There are no restrictions made on the kind of software, which can be used in conjunction with the said software. In case the software is not compatible, there can be a restriction, but no licensing restriction exists. At the same time, it is important to note that the license of an open source software should be technology neutral.

Advantages of Open Source Software
One of the most important advantages of open source software is that the core of the software is free. Therefore, more and more start ups are turning towards open source. The other advantage is that the source code can be modified, therefore, one does not have to wait for the next version of the software to be released for the enhancements required. One is not left at the mercy of a vendor to lay hands on the software.

Disadvantages of Open Source Software
Every coin has two sides. Likewise, there are certain disadvantages of open source software as well. One of the concerns for most of the major types of software included as open source is that there is no technical support. Therefore, in case of a problem the person may not know, whom to turn to. It can be attributed to the fact, that the software is changed by different users and lending technical support is certainly not possible.

The disadvantage is that in some cases the projects can meet an untimely end. The other possibility is that infighting among the different members can cause harm to the development of the software itself. This has been the case with a number of web design and development software. At the same time there are some free software downloads pros and cons as well. A person should be able to differentiate between genuine software and a malicious one.

Looking at the way open source software stands today, it is very clear that it does have a bright future, in spite of some of its shortcomings. More and more people are taking to it and also find it convenient to use the software.

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