Saturday, May 17, 2008

Open source and its benefits (English essay)

Well, this is another essay I wrote. It's probably the shittiest one.

Source code is the most important thing in computers. These codes are what tell the computer what to do and how to do it. There exist two types of source codes. The first is private source code made from software companies that want to make as much profit as they can. The second is open source code which is made by groups of people and is free for anyone to use. In a short term period, most people would think that private code is better because the programmers work harder on it so they can make more profit. However, open source software has many benefits that people don’t really know about.

Open source software can be modified by anyone because the source code is available to all. This makes it very easy to polish the software by fixing the bugs that are in it. After an individual fixes the bugs, this person shares the code with everyone on the web. For example, “In January 1999, attackers were able to plant a Trojan Horse version of the TCP/Wrappers tool on a well-known FTP site -- since source code is available, the back door was quickly noticed and removed.” (Ross, 1999, para. 3) This was possible only because the code was available to anyone that could read code. Another benefit from having the source code freely available is that software can be released very early because “In many cases where software firms rely on testing services and beta-testers, open-source collaboration offers engineers a third and often highly effective mechanism for cross-checking underlying code.” (Rais, 2007, para. 2) These are reasons why some software developers decide to make their projects open source. While they don’t make much money out of it, they still do from online ads and donations. Companies can also use this type of software.

Another good thing about open source is that it is completely free to use. People that don’t know how to read source code can still use open source software. An example of this is Open Office, which is the equivalent to Microsoft Office. While they have some differences, the users are just as productive on the free software as they would be on the private owned software Microsoft Office (Claburn, 2007, para. 10). Some companies might also want to use open source because of possible zero purchase cost, near-zero vulnerability to viruses, better security, and lower or no fees for upgrading (gbdirect, 2008). For companies, this means that they can have greater profit at every quarter. When these corporations have to buy private software, they have to buy licenses for every computer in which they will be using the software on. These licenses have to be renewed after a specific time lapse. Failure to comply results in legal action and can cost millions for a company. This can all be avoided by using open source software.

Again, a benefit that can be seen with open source is that all the code in most of the softwares can be reused in another program. This gives developers a greater freedom and because of this, more computer programs can be made with an open source code for people to use and enjoy. This cannot be done with private owned computer software because the code is only made available to programmers of that company. There is a law that prevents any programmer from taking code from an open source code and make it into commercial software. This prevents programmers from making open source into paying software and keeps open source programs alive.

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