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Computer software development is a big business in society today. People are making millions, even billions of dollars a year for software development. However, there are those people who do not get paid a thing and often times do a better job than the multi-billion dollar corporations. This is a lot like custom made cars. In a way, software is a lot like an automobile.


Automobiles are very complex machines, designed to do a specific task, which is basically to move people and things from one place to another. When getting a new car, it is expected to be reliable. Over time, whether from unseen defects or just from use, flaws are found and need to be remedied. When these flaws are found, most people will take their car to a mechanic of some sort to be fixed. Others will fix the problems themselves. Also, most people never make any changes to a car for the entire life of the vehicle. When a major problem arises, or there is a newer, better model of the car available, they will just trade the current car in for a new one. Once again, there are a select few who, rather than getting a completely new car, make constant modifications to their car so it never is out of date and if some major problem arises, they will do everything in their power to fix it.


All of these descriptions of cars and car owners very closely relate to software and software developers. The “most people” and their habits are a lot like the trends with commercial or closed source software. Think of the engine of the car as being the source of the software. The engine makes the car run and the source code is what makes software work the way it does. A lot of people never even open the hood of their cars. When something goes wrong, they expect someone else to fix it. Likewise, most people never touch the source of the software they use. If they find a problem with it, they contact whoever made the software and expect them to fix it. If there is a major problem, they just find a new program that will do the same job, a lot like trading in a car. The same goes for when software becomes out of date. With the speed at which software is upgraded, there is almost always something better that can be found, whether it’s a completely new program or just a newer version of a program that you are used to using.


In actuality, commercial software is a lot like a car with the hood welded shut. People can not fix problems or make the program better even if they wanted to. This idea of welding the hood shut is part of what makes multi-billion dollar corporations. They make it so that you need to buy a whole new car just to get an oil change. With software, they will often times give a discount of some sort if you own a previous version; but still, it is not much more money than you would get for trading in a used car for a new one at a dealership.


Shining brightly in the black hole of hood welding and commercial software is the world of custom cars and open source software. There are the select few people out there who have decided, that rather than fueling the big corporations for often times flawed software, they would make their own software. This software can be modified or taken from by anyone who wants to help further the technology of computer software. In a way, this is a lot like people who build custom cars. Instead of buying an expensive car that will need to be modified to fit their own needs, they build their own car exactly how they wish it to be. There is a slight flaw in this analogy. Unlike commercially made cars, commercial software cannot be modified, legally. People who wish to make their own programs will either have to start from scratch, or pull from another open source project. Also, work on cars is typically done individually, not in such a huge, widespread group as open source is.


A final key to open source is the intent to better software technology. Virus makers are not welcome in the open source community. This fits well with the analogy. No one wants people to be opening the hood of their car to rip out pieces and break things. The only time they want someone under the hood of their car is to help fix problems or make the car run better.


It is now clear how computer software is a lot like a car. No one wants to have a car with the hood welded shut, or have people opening the hood of their car to mess things up. So, before going for the big name expensive software, check for some nice open source programs and beware those people who make malicious software.


This is very good. I've bolded places that are particularly compelling. TheKemBlog

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