Soapbox time, baby. I could probably rant about this for eternity, so I’ll try to keep it short.

Open source software kicks the crap out of proprietary software.

What is open source software? It’s software that you can not only run, but easily modify, because you are given what is called the program’s source code, which is the set of instructions that make the program run… more or less 🙂

What are some examples of open source software? Let’s see… the one you are probably using right now is your web browser. Firefox is open source. (If you like open source and use Chrome, try Chromium. I’m actually using it right now!) If you use the Pidgin instant messaging client, you’re also using open source. Open Office is an open source alternative to Microsoft Word. Another widely-used example is the Linux operating system (Red Hat, Ubuntu, Debian, etc.). There are millions more programs out there for just about anything you want to do!

Alright, so it’s not so crazy to use open source. What’s so good about it?

Well, first off, it’s free. To be “open source” you have to provide the source code, and the source code can be used to make the program, so the program is free! Nice, huh?

Second, you can modify it. Say you don’t like the color of a certain button, or you want it to do something slightly differently. No problem, if you know how to program (and you can learn) then you can make it do what you want. If there’s a bug, you can fix it. If there’s a security hole, you can fill it. (That’s what she said?)

Third, you know what it’s doing. Ever worry that maybe Google Chrome is sending all of your usage data to Google for them to “not be evil” with? Well sorry buddy, you’ll have to take their word on it. Oh, you trust Google? Alright then, well do you trust Microsoft? That’s better, I didn’t think so. How do you know Microsoft isn’t monitoring everything you’re doing? It’s not open source, so you don’t. With open source, you can guarantee that a program only does what you want it to do.

You may be wondering how open source makes people money. I mean, people aren’t making these programs for free, are they?

Well, you’d be surprised. Linux was actually created by some Finnish dude, and given away for free. Think anyone ever paid a dime for Firefox? Nope.

In many cases, open source doesn’t make anyone money. People make software for the sake of making something people can use for free. Open source programmers are really nice people as you can imagine. (I’ll write more on this in a future post.)

But if you really want to make money on open source, you can. Red Hat, the most popular Linux distribution, actually makes a lot of money. You see, Red Hat sells support to companies that use Red Hat. If they have problems, they can call Red Hat get help. And that isn’t free.

So, now that you know a little more about open source software, why not try using some? Already have Firefox? Try looking for something else to use, like Open Office. It’s free, so there’s not really any risk! If you really want to take the jump, make an Ubuntu Live CD and try it out. You don’t have to install anything, it just runs off the CD!

Doesn’t open source just sound like a great idea?

~peace, RR

I welcome comments and suggestions. Comments can go below, suggestions to radiantreason[at]gmail[dot]com 🙂