Opinion: A source open to creativity

Outside of the foreign world of programming, the concept of “open source” has not traveled too far. The idea, though, is very important and will become increasingly more important especially with issues such as privacy.

Open source means that the source code of a program is available to the public. One of the main advantages of code being open to the public is that it is possible to know what is being done with information with the software. Another advantage is if the user does not like a feature in the program they can make a modification to the source code; this is called a “fork.”

Some people do not care too much about online privacy, so why would it matter to them? The answer is security. While it is true the Heartbleed bug was in a open source software library (a library is pre-written code that people can use) called OpenSSL, the library was a rare example.

Heartbleed is a bug that is the result of the a user lying about the size of data to be sent back during a “heartbeat” operation that checks if a computer is connected to a server. This causes extra random information to be sent back to the user’s computer. The OpenSSL library did not have a large community of people debugging it which is where the power of open source comes from.

(GNU/) Linux or OpenBSD operating systems, for example, are far less likely to get viruses compared to Windows or MacBook because of the large community looking for bugs. This is an example of Linus’s Law: “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.”

For a computer user who is not a developer, open source is still worth looking into. An example of such a situation is if you need a program for class to do an assignment, but the most popular software for the job costs a lot of money. Most people use the most popular software because it is the only option they know of or the first, not because it is the best.The standard software is controlled by a large company and does not allow for user input.

If you look, for an open source alternative, you can find a version made by users for users and free, but open to change allowing the project to have more features that are useful.

In the long run, open source determines the quality of technology. Programmers are normal people, and like normal people, they cannot magically figure out how something works. Programmers need examples, and even if they find some tutorials, they do not want to reinvent the wheel. With open source, they can figure out how code works and make better programs in less time.

Almost all open source software is free, so many people might be skeptical as to how something that costs nothing can compete with commercial products or even be better. The answer to this is that often people who develop this software make the software for their own need and decide to help out others who, in exchange, will release free for everyone else. Some open source programmers gain income from ads, donations, or support for the software.

There are many great examples of some amazing open source software. Most people have played video games, but ever wonder how these are made? Many games use the OpenGL (open graphics library) because of its speed and quality of displaying graphics, and it is open source.

As of June 2013, 476 of the five hundred fastest supercomputers including the fastest supercomputer run (GNU/) Linux, a type of open source operating system. Google’s software is often open source; most of Google Chrome’s source code is open (The Chromium browser based on Google Chrome’s source code is completely open). Google gives free hosting for source code, and Google Summer of Code encourages the writing of open source.

Open source supports creativity, helps ensure privacy, and allows for better software to be developed. Open source means more freedom in both cost and use of software. Open source will become more important as technology becomes more advanced. Open source is of course meaningless, unless people understand the code, but it gives people the ability to. The choice of what software to use is up to the user, but it can be very beneficial to know what you are using.