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Open Source Software – Definition, Advantages, types of licenses
It’s all in the Source Code
Every software has a source code. It is this aspect of the application that defines the outlook or appearance of the program and how it works. This includes the font style, size, and color.
It also includes the features of the software and what makes the program tick.
Computer programmers need the source code if they intend to change a program. Indeed, the source code is very important to the nature and purpose of a software.
So, what does that have to do with Open Source Software?
The source code concept is fundamental to the definition of an “Open Source Software”, what is and what is not.
What is an Open Source Software?
By definition, an Open Source Software is any application whose source code is accessible to the general public for free. Or at least a small controlled group of people that usually include programmers.
There is a reason why the source code of a software is accessible for public viewing. It is modification, and sharing.
It is also to ensure that the software is acceptable to its target users. Creators of non proprietary softwares do this to give their software more credibility.
The more programmers that chech the program, the better the software would be at the end of the day. When you allow other creative programmers to have access to the source code, you can fix bugs in the application. Those little glitches in the program can be rectified and the software will run smoothly.
If there’s an Open Source, there’s surely got to be a Closed Source…right?!
Not all applications can be open source softwares. You also have “Proprietary” or otherwise called “Closed Source Softwares”. These computer programs are only for an exclusive group of programmers. Usually only the creators themselves. The idea is to have complete control over source code.
Who want access to the source code in a Proprietary Software need authors permission.
So, what other differences exist between an Open Source and Closed Source Software?
There are obvious legal issues when it comes to Proprietary Software. With this program, the originators of the software are the ONLY ones legally allowed to:
and share the source code.
If any one intends using a Proprietary Software for the first time, he would have to sign a license agreement. It is that lengthy text that we are all guilty of NOT reading. But instead we skip to and click on the “Agree” box.
Well, in that “lengthy text”, you agree NOT to tamper with the software in any way without the express authorization of the authors of the software.
Typical examples of Proprietary Softwares include AutoDesk’s Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Office Suite.
But, when it comes to non proprietary Softwares, it is a different situation. Softwares examples include:
the GNU Image Manipulation Program,
And some antivirus
These are typical examples of Open Source Softwares.
You can have access to the source code of these applications and you can view, copy, change, learn, and even share the source code.
Types of licenses
GPL – GNU GENERAL PUBLIC LICENSE
Another example of an Open licensed source software is the GPL or GNU General Public License.
This consists of several free software licenses. It assures and allows users to run, inspect, study, copy,changey, and share the software.
Currently is in its third version (since 2007). It aims to offer free software that must be distributed to third parties maintaining the level of appropriation.
In practice requires that if you change the system, and want to market it (or simply distribute it) , it must be under the same license. So it is not valid a more restrictive or proprietary one.
It is one of the most widely used licenses. And they have given birth to projects that maintain the essence of their predecessors. It allow them to continue evolving at the expense of their initial creators.
LGPL – GNU REDUCED GENERAL PUBLIC LICENSE
Another name is a reduced GPL, LGPL. It is a type of license that allows part of the code to be used in projects regardless of their type. It allows starting from a free software project to one that is proprietary, for example.
It is usually used in libraries, or applications of the most diverse nature to include in external projects.
AGPL – AFFERO GENERAL PUBLIC LICENSE
It is in turn based on the previous one, but it is intended for those projects that are expected to be collaborative online, since the distribution of code on demand by networks is allowed.
FDL – GENERAL PUBLIC LICENSE OF DOCUMENTATION
It is the fourth pillar on which the Free Software Foundation licenses are based. It is used for the predictably technical documentation of free software.
BSD LICENSE – BERKELEY SOFTWARE DISTRIBUTION LICENSE
Originally born for the BSD operating system.
Basically it opens the closure to any type of modification and redistribution. As long as it is done with a different name.
The 5 licenses exposed above are not the only alternatives we have.
Apache License: It allows derivative works to be distributed with the desired license,
The MIT license, which uses this prestigious university. It resembles the BSD, allowing to change what you want as long as it is made clear.
Apple (yes, that company that sells proprietary hardware and software) also has its own free license. It is the Apple Public Source License.
Microsoft also has its own, Ms-PL – Microsoft Public License, and so on.
But the most “free” of all is the WTFPL – Do What The Fuck You Want To Public License (it does just that).
You can use any software with WTFPL license. Also change and distribute as you like, without further ado.
With Open Source Softwares, you still have to “Agree” to the license agreement. But, the terms and conditions are different from Proprietary Softwares. You are granted access to the source code of the application.
With some you also have a “Copyleft License”. What this license agreement entails is the following. When a computer user modifies the source code of a program, they have to agree to allow other users to also view, learn, copy, change, and share their modified source code.
Users who modify the source code of these open programs are usually NOT permitted to charge licensing fees to other computer users who intend viewing, copying, altering, and sharing the source code.
Programmers of Open Source Softwares may charge fees to software users for support and other software services. Examples are troubleshooting, installation, and general use).
This will be viewed as being more lucrative than say – selling a modified software.
This is especially true if the license agreement entails that such programmers have to make the source code of the software available to the general public. In such a situation, it would make little sense for the programmer to sell their modified software. This is because the source code will not be under their exclusive control.
So the software itself will be free-of-charge. But, if a user needs some support, then the programmer can charge the user a fee before rendering their help.
But, if a Proprietary Software is NOT FREE, then whether you are a programmer or a regular user, you have to buy the software. The author(s) of the software makes money from the actual sale of their software.
Based on the reviews and feedback they get from both regular users and other programmers. These authors may then decide to modify the source code of their software. It can be either by themselves or by hiring other programmers to assist.
Advantages of Open Source Software
Is it a preferred option? Yes! Many people prefer Open to Proprietary Software for many of genuine reasons.
For starters, programmers love the fact that they can alter the source code in any way they deem fit. But, computer users would be happy that the application is far from the finished. And they can do modifications to the software to suit their peculiar needs.
Below are some other reasons why non proprietary Softwares are a preferred option for non and computer programmers.
#1: A Sense of Community:
With Open Source Softwares people with similar interests tend to get drawn together. Open Softwares tend to build communities.
In such communities the programmers will get to:
learn from each other,
and improve their programming skills.
The amount of knowledge-base that such communities provide can’t be acquired from a classroom.
Non-programmers are not left behind as a community of users can also be formed as a result of the open software. Here users can share their opinions and feedback from using the software. It is in these communities that bugs, glitches, and troubleshooting challenges can also be resolved.
#2: Advanced Knowledge and Training:
Open Source Softwares provide programmers with the opportunity of be in touch with other more talented . With real world, practical examples to work with, they will absorb information quicker than they would under a formal educational setting. As mentioned earlier, communities spring up as a result of the open softwares.
They provide a viable open source learning platform. There programmers get training from other more experienced and reputable.
#3: Employment Opportunities:
Open Source Softwares provide employment opportunities to programmers who offer their services to users in need of support, installation, general use, and troubleshooting services.
The community of programmers also provides a resource where programmers get work on other projects.
#4: More Control:
When virtually everyone has access to the source code, it gives them some level of control. You can decide on how the program should run, what should be on it and what shouldn’t.
You get to decide what modifications you want. Also, you get to decide whether to copy, save or share the modifications you have made to the source code.
#5: More Stability:
Open Source Softwares provide employment opportunities to programmers. Programmers offer their services to users in need of support, installation, general use, and help services.
The community of programmers formed under the open software also provides a resource where they can get employed to work on other projects.
If you are working on a very important project with long-term ramifications, then Open Source Softwares may be preferable to you.
Users of open software sometimes need the programs to perform some very important tasks. They can rely on programmers modifying the source code to meet the future demands of users.
This ensures that the open software remains stable, consistent, and relevant for a very long time. It is because it functions under a standard of regular upgrades and updates by programmers.
#6: Better Security:
With open source softwares, programmers are on the lookout for bugs, errors, flaws, omissions, and vulnerabilities.
This makes these softwares much more secure than the Proprietary Softwares. The Proprietary have vulnerabilities that their authors may not be aware of.
An software with open source can only get better. This is because as so many programmers have access to the source code. And they work on making the software better.
Indeed, these open softwares may be the creation of a person or group of people. But everyone is owner, as you can chip in and improve the software.
You can modify the loading speed of the program. You can also work on its interactivity, intuitiveness, and user friendliness.
Also, the layout, appearance, features, and general operation of the open software can get improvement from anyone.
This is what makes them such a preferred option to users and programmers.
Where to find the best free open source software for download
In the website https://sourceforge.net/ you can find the best open source software and download it. The software have these filters: