We have been discussing the relative quality of support in OpenSource v. proprietary software, and I am reminded of some other issues that we’ve spoken of before. We had a fight here some time back (in November) over the question of Black Boxes in research software (I won the fight), a topic which has been touched on in the present discussion. The code has to be exposed. (see also this for a specific example)
Another argument we’ve had is how a system like Linux is maintained vs. a system like Windows. Developers argue about this, but the truth is that since Linux and most of what is attached to it is OpenSource, the system can constantly be updated in a way that improves things (usually) going forward instead of simply building up code. (This is the question of a stable Kernel API vs. not.)
With respect to the business model, the difference between the two paradigms is astounding. To put it simply, a proprietary model allows and often encourages decisions that are just plain bad for the user. See for example:
- Microsoft Blocks Older File Formats
- Microsoft Attempts to Patent the Very Essence of Humanity
- Apple Feels It Owns You
In some ways, in the day to day experience of the end user, it is true that things like the Linux/MS difference, or more broadly the FOSS/Pirate difference is a cultural one. But certain truths are highly manipulated or overlooked.
For instance, Linux is grandma ready. It is a grandma ready as any other system has ever been. One of the reasons people think it is not is because they or someone they know encountered problems with installation. This overlooks another important truth: No arbitrary OS will install flawlessly on an arbitrary box. That has never been true. Of all the OS’s out there, a good distro of Linux will install easily on more boxes than any version of Windows that has ever, ever existed for all time up to now. That is a plain and simple truth that cannot be denied. For details, see this.
Open source is changing your life, even if you don’t know it. The maximum attained quality of the produce for OpenSource is always better when the project exists, in part because the requirements of the proprietary business model will interfere with best practices of development in almost all projects. OpenSource is usually more cost effective than proprietary solutions.