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Open Source The Case Against

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					           Open Source Software:
             The Case Against


Brian Kelly
                                         Email
UKOLN                                    B.Kelly@ukoln.ac.uk
University of Bath                       URL
Bath, BA2 7AY                            http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/

UKOLN is supported by:

A centre of expertise in digital information management   www.ukoln.ac.uk
    What Is Open Source?
    Open source can mean:
     • Free – as in “free beer”
               For the educational section with limited
                funded, this must be good
        • Free – as in “free speech”
               Freedom to view source, modify source,
                redistribute source and redistribute
                modifications
      “Free software is a matter of liberty not price.
      Free software is a matter of the users' freedom to
      run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve
      the software.”     http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html

    A centre of expertise in digital information management   www.ukoln.ac.uk
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    60s Thinking?
    • Make love not war
    • Was Paul a hippy?
    • What have we learnt?                            It’s a bunch of tree-
                                                      hugging hippy crap




    A centre of expertise in digital information management           www.ukoln.ac.uk
3
           Big Business?
 It’s not hippy-thinking - big business now likes open source!
                         Does it really – or is this just power plays
                                between multinational companies?
Has continually refused to
make Java open, using the
Microsoft argument that it’s               IBM Holds more patents than any other
safer if Sun looks after it                         company (and is aggressive in
                    Sun                             protecting and exploiting its IPR)


                                             Netscape
                   Apple
                                            AOL-Time Warner-Netscape invented the
Closed hardware, OS,                        proprietary Web and, in light of the recent
networking.                                 biggest-ever quarterly lost, would you rely
All they have going is an                   on them?
excellent OS and GUI and
          A centre system
an easy-to-use of expertise in digital information management             www.ukoln.ac.uk
    4
           The Public Sector
           The Public Sector (Universities, Government, EU, …):
               • Has a responsibility to make deliverables freely available to
                  taxpayers
               • Is in a position to build on open source products (Apache,
                  etc.) and ensure independence from commercial software
            Isn’t open source software developed in HE often
                  vendors
               • We to provide proof-of-concept or pilots, and
            intendedshould be doing this!
       once the concept has been accepted commercial
But:
       products will view
  • This is a simplistic be deployed to provide a service
      • Public sector has a responsibility to provide value for money – and
        this could include financial exploitation of its IPR (exist strategies,
        paying for staff on short-term contracts, etc.)
      • It was a mistake for the Government to run a Dome – why expect
        public bodies to become software developers
      • Links between commercial and public sector is now mainstream -
        and to ignore the prevailing cultural ethos is “hippy crap”!
           A centre of expertise in digital information management   www.ukoln.ac.uk
  5
      Has It Taken Off?



                                          Much Talk, Little
                                          Action!
                                          <www.opensource.
                                          ac.uk> was set up
                                          in 1998, but the
                                          home page hasn’t
                                          been updated since
                                          June 1999!

Viewing using the free (as in beer), ad-funded,
closedAsource, standards-compliant Opera browserwww.ukoln.ac.uk
       centre of expertise in digital information management
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    Open Source Delivers Quality?
    Open source will deliver quality software, as millions of
    developers can contribute to the code base and review
    the software! Apache proves this.
    But:
      • This is a simplistic view
      • Netscape / Mozilla is a good example of difficulties:
          Netscape 6.0 released, based on open source
            Mozilla
          “considered slow and buggy, and adoption has
            not been high”
          Mozilla project started in 1998 – what’s it
            delivered, who uses it?
      • Just because source code is available doesn’t
        mean large nos. of developers will enhance it
    A centre of expertise in digital information management   www.ukoln.ac.uk
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    More Than Software
    There is more to the provision of quality IT services
    than just the software:
        • User requirements
        • Documentation
        • Ongoing support and maintenance

    Some comments:
     • End users tend not to be interested in open source
     • Software developers often don’t prioritise readable,
       user-oriented documentation
     • Software developers don’t like maintenance:
           Who is interested in maintaining software developed
            under TLTP, eLib, …? They’re not sexy anymore (no
            XML, no XSLT, no Java,…)
       • The software may be free – but the institutional
    A centre of expertise in digital information management www.ukoln.ac.uk
8         costs can be high
    What Do Users Want?
    Paraphrase of a recent conversation on train
    with IT Services director
    “We wanted to get rid of MS Office, due to the
    increased licence fees.
    A Student Union rep pointed out that the cost came to
    £9 per student, and this was very cheap as it
    provided students will experience of widely-used
    software, and this expertise would be a valuable skill
    to be mentioned in CVs.
    The Student Unions would complain strongly on
    behalf of the student body if MS Office were
    removed”
    A centre of expertise in digital information management   www.ukoln.ac.uk
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     A One-Dimensional Approach
     What should you choose:
       • An open source product which:
             • Requires special libraries to be installed
             • Requires manual editing of config files in a DOS window
             • The documentation was written by a programmer for
               other programmers
         • A free product for which:
             • No source is available
             • It’s used by millions
             • Widespread documentation is available

     Web site on your Palm:
         • BK: AvantGo link available
         • AS: Don’t use AvantGo – the source isn’t available,
            use Plucker
     A centre of expertise in digital information management www.ukoln.ac.uk
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     Free As In Beer
     Software which we don’t have to pay for can be good
     value, and is often what we want:
     ht://Dig
        • Open source software for searching Web sites
        • Most popular search tool in UK Universities
        • But no evidence of mods made within community
     Google
          • Popular global search engine & of increasing use
              to search University Web sites (e.g. Leeds, …)
          • Free (as in beer)
          • Closed and no control (algorithms secret and
              liable to change without warning, hosted remotely,
              no user groups, no financial relationships)
          • of expertise in digital
     A centre But popular! information management      www.ukoln.ac.uk
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     Managerialism
     Familiar grips?
       • “Why doesn’t senior management understand …”
       • “Why can’t I get the resources I need for my Web
          team?”
     Is it because of:
       • The single-minded approach of the open source
           lobby
       • The criticism from software developers of
           “managerialism”
       • The perception that open source software is
           intended to provide “jobs for the boys”

     Remember comments of Andrew Aird and Tracey
     Stanley: “the Web isn’t about technology”
     A centre of expertise in digital information management   www.ukoln.ac.uk
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         Why You Should Reject The
         Motion
         “The house believes that the future of Web in UK
         Higher and Further Education communities lies in the
         adoption of open source software”
         Reject this motion because:
            • This one-dimensional motion ignores many
              equally, if not more, important issues
                 • Usability  Skills     User requirements     Support
              • Ignores organisations’ culture, background,
                mission, expertise, …
              • Forces organisations into a particular approach,
                and denies them choice

Note that a mixed open / closed source environment is fine (and
                                                                 calls for
Apache A centre of expertise in– but that isn’t what this motion www.ukoln.ac.uk
        is excellent) digital information management
   13
     What We Should Be Doing
     Open source does have a place, but:
         • There is a need to acknowledge there is not just a
           single approach
         • We should be more tolerant in our
           communications
         • We should acknowledge people’s rights to
           disagree
         • We should be focussed and thoughtful in
           communications

     Comments on positive features of licensed software or
     reservations about open source software seem to
     generate reactions similar to George W Bush’s
      A centre of expertise in digital who criticise US
     reactions to those information management foreign policy!
                                                         www.ukoln.ac.uk
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posted:7/22/2012
language:English
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