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Why Use Open Source Software
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Sooner or later, someone is going to ask why using open source software is a good idea. To successfully fend off the ensuing challenges from proponents of commercial proprietary software, you should have a solid answer. The most important reasons for adopting open source software are Open source software costs little or nothing to use. This is especially important for nonprofits, universities, and community organizations whose budgets are constantly shrinking and that must do more with less every year. Open source software permits you to modify it to meet your specific needs. The licensing mechanisms available are more flexible than commercial licenses. Open source software is more robust (tested) than commercial proprietary software. Open source software is more reliable and secure than commercial proprietary software.
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CHAPTER 1 MYSQL AND THE OPEN SOURCE REVOLUTION
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Although it is likely you won t be challenged or asked to demonstrate any of these reasons for adopting open source software, you are more likely to be challenged by contradiction. That is, proponents of commercial proprietary software (opponents of open source) will attempt to discredit these claims by making statements about why you shouldn t use open source software for development. Let s examine some of the more popular reasons not to use open source software from a commercial proprietary software viewpoint and refute them with the open source view.
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Myth 1: Commercial Proprietary Software Fosters Greater Creativity
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The argument goes: most enterprise-level commercial proprietary software provide application programming interfaces (API) that permit developers to extend their functionality, thus making them more flexible and ensuring greater creativity for developers. Portions of this statement are true. APIs do permit developers to extend the software, but they often do so in a way that strictly prohibits developers from adding functionality to the base software. These APIs often force the developer into a sandbox, further restricting her creativity.
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Note Sandboxes are often created to limit the developer s ability to affect the core system. The main
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reason for doing this has to do with security. The more open the API is, the more likely it is for villainous developers to create malicious code to damage the system or its data.
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Open source software may also support and provide APIs, but open source provides developers with the ability to see the actual source code of the core system. Not only can they see the source code, they are free (and encouraged) to modify it! Some of the reasons you may want to modify the core system are when a critical feature isn t available or you need the system to read or write a specific format. Therefore, open source software fosters greater creativity than commercial proprietary software.
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Myth 2: Commercial Proprietary Software Is More Secure Than Open Source Software
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The argument goes: organizations require their information systems in today s Internet-connected society to be more secure than ever before. Commercial proprietary software is inherently more secure because the company that sells the software has a greater stake in ensuring their products can stand against the onslaught of today s digital predators. Although the goals of this statement are quite likely to appear on a boardroom wall as a mantra for any commercial software vendor, the realization of this goal, or in some cases marketing claim, is often misleading or unobtainable. Let s consider the Microsoft Windows server operating system. It can be shown that the Windows server operating system is less secure than Linux. While Microsoft has built in a successful and efficient patch system to ensure installations are kept free from exposed vulnerabilities, the fact that these mechanisms are part of everyday server maintenance is reason enough to consider that Microsoft hasn t obtained a level of security that is sufficient to ward off attacks. (Sadly, some would say as long as there is a Microsoft there will be digital predators.) The main reason why Linux is more secure than Windows is because the global community of developers who have worked on Linux have worked together to ensure the system is protected against attacks (also called hardening). In the case of Linux, many developers throughout the
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