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Wednesday, September 21, 2005


Closed Versus Open Source

Opera going free has obviously restarted this age old argument, "What's better, Closed or Open source?" Well...both. Yes, it sounds like a cop out, and that maybe Andrew is trying to avoid getting any flak (got friends on both sides). But let me give you the pros and cons of each, and maybe you'll see where i'm coming from.


The Arguments

Inherently more secure. Yeah, I said it, and I believe it. Look, closed source can have security holes out the ass, but developers getting paid typically have more incentive to solve those problems. People who live and die by the dollar don't have much of a choice than to constantly fix their product.
You have product that are either so large, so complex, or so secure of their superiority that development seemingly ceases. And you people thought I'd go easy on Microsoft. Right. Though CS is inherently more secure, by virtue of its widespread use it will be exploited. I don't believe that Windows is more secure than, say, Fedora Core, yet so many people are on Windows machines rather than Fedora that someone who wants to exploit a large group will obviously choose to screw over the Windows machine rather than the Fedora machines. Microsoft's only choice is to provide as many updates as possible, and even those seem to be exploited sooner or later. Also look at IE, it's problem isn't that it's less secure than other browsers (or at least it wasn't in 2001), it's that the time between updates is so long that by the time it's patched, another problem crops up. MS can't seem to keep up with IE, and I say they should scrap the whole thing. But that's just me.

CS also gives us the promise that development will continue so long as the company supporting it stays solvent. McAfee and Norton both stay at the top of their game (even though they're bloated as hell) because not only are people willing to purchase a quality product, but their businesses will cease to exist if the product doesn't stay on the top, their investors will pull out their money. And then you've got millons of people with dated software. Security software at that. Okay, so I'm almost making it sound as though the developers have a gun against their head, but they wouldn't be doing it if they didn't enjoy it (or got paid for it).
If the company does go under, and if the public is either unaware (c'mon, if there are still people using IE because "it's there and it's what I know", then you know there are people who use McAfee who wouldn't notice if Network Associates went under) or uncaring, then as I said already, you've got people with security software that isn't secure. And that's a zombie machine just waiting to happen. And you know, it was getting just too expensive for me to keep up with McAfee or Norton, and the programs were getting just so bloated, that I decided to take my business elsewhere. So, if you don't mind me plugging a great piece of free software, check out AVG Free

Free and/or bought CS software tends to look more polished. If I pay for a product, I want it to look professional. Even some freeware looks relatively professional (Opera). Though this point doesn't seem to be that big of a deal, you'd be surprised. My friend, I can be shallow, for exapmle, I told a friend of mine that I want one of those Mac laptops (MacTop?). She asked why, and the only answer I could provied was "Even if it sucks, it's a sexy piece of hardware." Yes, I said I wanted something not because it promised a better way, but that it just plain looked better.
A polished User Interface does not a good product make. Like I stated above, I wanted something that looked good. Though I know if I ever got one, I'd feel ripped off (I just know I'd never use it, not worth the trouble of learning yet another Operating System. Also, excessive development in polishing the UI sometimes means little development in anything else.

Paid for CS usually doesn't have crap bundled with it, especially adware. Open Source does the same thing for free, but I'm trying to follow this little template I'm using.
But (god this is gonna look awful when published)
Free CS sometimes comes with "extras". Like Gator or Weatherbug. It sucks, but developers need to eat, and even if the company decides to give something away bundled with something that'll provide the company with cash, though unethical, only constant resolve will help you. If you've got a lot of freeware on your machine, be sure to run adaware every now and then, just in case.

That's why I'm for and against Closed Source. And now...
(drum roll)

Open Source

The Arguments

Though Open Source Software (OSS from here on out)is somewhat less secure, the possible number of people developing the software is huge. If you have a problem with the program, you can download the source and fix it up for yourself. And if it's a major OSS effort, like Firefox, problems can be fixed quickly and easily. This is all fine and dandy for advanced users,
(and you saw this coming, didn't you) But
Not everyone has the time, inclination, or knowledge to fix up the code. I'm guilty of all three. So when I use OSS I rely on people who I suppose know what they're doing. And that's a level of trust I'm not generally comfortable with. And as far as security goes, check out what Symantec says about that revolutionary browser, Firefox. Twice as many flaws as IE?. I believe it. But since not as many people use FF, these flaws aren't going to be exploited. Until, of course, FF overtakes IE (it could happen). Yay.

OSS promises that development will continue so long as there are people willing to donate their time to the program. This is good, and considering that more and more people are capable of downloading the source and working with it, a program can (in theory) remain ctting edge even when the creator has left the dev team.
Even if a program is still being worked on, that doesn't always make it better. Bloated software seems to be everywhere these days, and OSS isn't invulnerable to this trend. Also, you're really expecting people to donate their time, even after the creator has left? Y'know, there may have been a reason s/he left. And then you have the same problem as a CS alternative. It'll get old, and people may not realize that development has ceased. But the risk of having old OS software getting exploited is slim, so no problem, right? Riiiiight.

Unfortunately, I don't have a pro for OSS as far as User Interface goes. The UI of even popular OSS looks like it's been designed by a thousand Soviet aesthets. Yeah, doesnt' look terribly good. Even Firefox just feels free. It's unpolished, you can't modify it through the options menu as much as you ought to be able to (and about:config is a shitty solution. I can't do any of that crap, you think a general end user can? ). OSS, especially Linux flavors, suffers from "cheapness." Basically, it runs great, but looks like crap. Gray, with the most bizzarre design of geek colors you could ever imagine. If you lack any sense of style, you won't mind OSS. Me, it feels like a part of me has died whenever I look at the UI. Crying shame, and maybe some developers' girlfriends/boyfriends/wives/etc. can give them some tips on what looks good.

Sorry, had to vent about that.

But!!!! OSS means it's not bundled with any crap, ever! It's free, and the developers want it to remain that way. Donations accepted, of course, but they won't even openly say that (unlike maxthon). This is something that doesn't have a con to it (see, this can be considered an even review :) ).

In the end, why can't we all just get along. I can see why someone would prefer closed source, and see why someone would prefer Open. Me, I tend on the Closed side, but I'm not an arrogant prick and can see the benefits to Open source. Use what you like, people. Always. But if I use something that you don't, please please please, don't get up my ass for it (I'm getting sick of the Opera/Firefox debate). Now, if what I'm using is insecure, let me know, and i might find an alternative. I'd do the same for you.

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