Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Week 2: Reaction to Revolution OS

This is very overdue. I'm in the process of catching up with blogging for my "To do" lists. Being completely new to the world of open source development I found the film titled, "Revolution OS" to be interesting and informative. It chronicles the histories and philosophies of the Free Software and Open Source movements in a fairly concise way. It also introduces the viewer to some of the main "characters" in these movements, such as Richard Stallman (the GNU Project and Free Software Foundation), Linus Torvalds (Linux) and Eric Raymond ("The Cathedral and the Bazaar" author).

I found it interesting how the open source development philosophy and movement grew and blossomed from those of free software. There were a number of factors that seemed to fall into place at just the right time for this to happen. One of the main factors was Linus Torvald's development of the Linux OS kernel and the growth of Linux OS users. Other factors include the following: the growth in popularity among ISP's of the Apache web server, which can run on Linux; the growth in Internet use by individuals, businesses, organizations and institutions; Netscape adopting the open source philosophy to compete with Microsoft; and the involvement of database software development companies, such as Oracle.

I had some difficulty understanding the differences between the free software philosophy and the open source philosophy from the film. The main difference that I understood was that the open source philosophy accepts the commercialization of freely developed and distributed software and that the free software philosophy is less accepting of its commercialization.

An analogy came to my mind as I watched the film. The open source "revolution" reminded me of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when the automobile was being developed. Richard Stallman was like one of the very early automobile inventors. He had a revolutionary concept that he was growing with the start of the Free Software Foundation and the GNU project. Then along came Linus Torvalds who developed the Linux kernel and the Linux operating system. This was analogous to the invention of the internal combustion engine, which was further improved by many different contributors. Companies such as VA Linux and RedHat Linux were involved with the mass distribution and commercialization of Linux, similar to Ford and GM's mass production and distribution of automobiles for commercial gain.

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