Open Source Software

open source softwareIf you have ever used Ubuntu or Linux, you probably have some idea about open source software. Here are some examples along with a brief insight into the ‘what’s and ‘how’s of open source computer software applications.

There are three major types of software – Programming Software, Systems Software and Application Software. Of the three, the latter two come in two broad classifications – open source and closed source. There are many different types of application software which are open source and most of us regularly download and use them on our PC/laptop, such as VLC. In this Buzzle article, we will take a look at some popular and highly recommended open source software examples for different types of operating systems.

An open source computer software is either a systems software or an application software that is available freely in the form of source codes and the users are permitted, under the software license, to study, modify and improve the software. The Open Source Initiative has set certain parameters to determine whether a software license renders the software open source or not. These parameters are very specific and are as laid down below. In order to be considered Open Source, a software must qualify on all of these parameters.

Free Redistribution
The software license does not restrict anyone from selling or giving away the software as part of a software package which contains programs from various other sources. The license also should not require any royalty or fee for such sale or passing over of the software.

Source Code
The program should essentially contain source code and the distribution should be permitted in source code as well as compiled form. If the source code is not provided free, the means of obtaining it should be well publicized and should not cost more than a reasonable charge, though the preferred mode of obtaining such code should be free downloading via the Internet. Deliberate obfuscation of source code is not permitted and outputs of processors and translators are against the rule.
Derived Works
The software license must permit modifications to the source code and the distribution of such derived work must be allowed to be distributed under the same terms as the original software license.

Integrity of Author’s Source Code
Distribution of source code in modified form can be restricted by the license only if the license necessitates distribution of patch files with the source code for modification of the program at the time of writing it. In such case, the license must be explicit in allowing distribution of software which is developed from modified source code and may require derived works to be known by a different name or version number from the original.

No Discrimination of Persons or Groups
There should be no discrimination, whatsoever, by the license against any person or user group. What is made available to one must be made available to everyone else.
No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor
There should be no restriction on the use of the software for any field of work. If it is free for business use, it must also be free for use in lab researches.

Distribution of License
The rights to the program should apply to everyone, to whom the program is redistributed without any necessity for applying for additional license by such parties.

License Must Not be Specific to a Product
The rights attached to the program must not be specific to the software of which it is a part. Even if the program is extracted from that particular software package and used elsewhere within the program’s license terms, the user of such an isolated program would have the same rights as he would have had on using the program along with the original software distribution.

License Must Not Restrict Other Software
There should be no restriction on any other software that is distributed along with the licensed software. The other software may or may not be open sourced but that should not put any restrictions on their distribution on the same medium as the open source one.
License Must be Technology Neutral No part of the license should weigh upon any particular technology or interface style.

VLC, Mozilla Firefox and MySQL are prominent software examples which are open source. Linux and Ubuntu are prominent examples of open source operating systems. Let us browse through some examples for two major operating systems – Windows and Mac.

Popular Open Source Software for Windows

-Firefox ~ web browsing
-Miro ~ video player, bittorrent, pod casting
-Pidgin ~ instant messaging
-Miro Video Converter ~ convert any video to mp4 or theora
-SkipScreen ~ skip unnecessary clicks and waiting time on media sharing sites such as zShare
-Thunderbird ~ e-mail
-RSSOwl ~ cross platform RSS client
-Cabos ~ easy peer-to-peer file sharing
-Gnucleus ~ Gnutella search and file sharing software
-VLC ~ plays Quicktime, AVI, DIVX, OGG and many other video/audio formats
-Media Player Classic ~ plays lots of media formats
-Open Office ~ word processing and spreadsheet functions aka MS Office
-AbiWord ~ word processing
-Juice ~ great pod casting client
-Handbrake ~ convert/rip DVD to MPEG-4 format, one of the best DVD ripping software
-Audacity ~ sound recording software
-Gipm ~ graphics editing aka Photoshop
-Paint.net ~ similar to Gimp
-Inkscape ~ application for vector graphics
-Filezilla ~ FTP application
-X-Chat2 ~ IRC client
-PealZip ~ extracting and archiving functions
-ZScreen ~ open source application for screen-capture functions
-Launchy ~ open source program launcher that works on keystrokes
-AutoHotkey ~ open source short-cut creator which enables you to create keyboard shortcuts for just about any task that is of repetitive nature

Notable Open Source Software for Mac

-Mozilla Firefox ~ web browsing
-Miro ~ video playing, bittorrent, pod casting
-Audium ~ instant messaging
-Miro Video Converter ~ convert any video to mp4 or theora
-Vienna ~ RSS client
-Mozilla Thunderbird ~ e-mail
-SolarSeek ~ file sharing client
-Q Emulator ~ running Windows on Mac
-Perian ~ plugin allowing quicktime for playing additional media formats
-VLC ~ plays Quicktime, AVI, DIVX, OGG and many other video/audio formats
-iPodDisk ~ iPod ripping
-Burn ~ CD/DVD burner
-Vidalia ~ user anonymity on the web
-Bean ~ word processor
-KisMac ~ wireless scanning on Mac
-Xee ~ fast image browsing and viewing
-Scribus ~ DTP application
-Cyberduck ~ great FTP program
-Colloquy ~ IRC client
NVU ~ visual web designing and development software
-Gipm ~ graphics editing aka Photoshop
-Audacity ~ sound recording software
-Camino ~ web browsing
-OpenProj ~ open source project management application
-jEdit ~ open source text editing software, especially useful for programmers
-Stellarium ~ Open source 3D planetarium application

Most of these open source applications, as you can discern, are equally popular to Mac as well as Windows. The biggest advantages of open source computer software are their ease to penetrate the market without the companies offering them requiring to sweat over promoting them and providing a sense of empowerment and flexibility to users and developers. The greatest disadvantages are argued to be their being in a perennially developmental stage and the ignorance of system testing and documentation. This point of concern may be true in case of very small software projects but holds no water for larger, more successful projects which risk no such negligence and their software are well-defined and subject to rules regarding testing of modifications and documentation. Before downloading though, get thoroughly informed about free software download pros and cons to be on the safer side if you are downloading software from some obscure site.

We all have, sometime or the other, used and benefited from some of the best open source software available on the web. Most of you must be familiar with the aforementioned examples and know some of these to be the best things to have happened to web browsing, instant messaging, pod casting, media playing, photo editing and much more – the scopes are unlimited! Download these wicked open source applications and open yourself to more variety and computing convenience.