words: open source rant
people need to understand some basic truths about open source vs. closed source
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November 12, 2003
by Anders Brownworth


All right, this has got to stop, I'm sick to death of this! There are a few generally accepted reactions along the road for world domination in the software arena. Let's try to recognize them for what they are and just move on. First is ignorance, then denial, next is assault and the last step is acceptance. I speak of Linux and Windows, or more broadly Open-Source Software and Microsoft.

It doesn't take a 5th grade education to see these basic truths:
  1. Open-Source software is almost always better in the long run.
  2. Windows is an excellent consumer operating system. (so is OS X)
  3. Linux is more secure than Windows
  4. In the long run, Windows doesn't have a chance on the server side.
  5. The total Linux GUI experience still sucks compared to Windows.
  6. Windows continues to reign on the desktop while Linux is eating up everything else.
Microsoft started in the denial phase. They wouldn't even acknowledge Linux existed. But somewhere along the line you started to see internal memos surface depicting Linux as something on the horizon. Before long, reports are published covering how Windows is better than Linux and we graduate to the phase we are in now, the denial phase. We have Steve Balmer (CEO Microsoft) telling us that he can't imagine trusting an open source project with security while we all sit around laughing and wondering what rock he has been living under considering the holes in Microsoft offerings. But in my opinion, the denial phase won't last long. We're quickly seeing signs of the assault phase. Shots are being fired, such as with SCO against Linux creator Linus Torvalds and crew. Microsoft won't be far behind. You'll see essentially baseless legal shots and other scramblings as the truth sets in. The plain fact of the matter that Open Source is better than closed in the long run and the momentum we have gained will see us through this unfortunate bump in the road. In the end you will see the acceptance principal kick in. Linux will be accepted, even by the big bad Microsoft. You will see Microsoft pitching tools advertised as operating on and interoperating with Linux in the name of "choice for the customer".

The best thing going about Open Source is not that it's free. It is that it's open!

Why is Open Source security better than closed in the long run? Simple explanation about software security: Closed is better than open in the beginning because the glaring security holes can be easily found and exploited in open source software while they remain hidden in closed software. Next, the gaping security holes get fixed in Open Source software because everyone sees them, but they remain in the closed code. Over time, the Open Sourced software becomes more secure. As one after another gaping security holes get discovered by chance in the closed code, the fact that other root exploits probably remain just under the surface erodes the temporary lead the closed code had and the Open Source code is easily considered more secure.

Millions of eyeballs have gone over Apache. (Open Source web server software) Only perhaps several hundred at the most have covered Microsoft's IIS. I, like the majority of people running web servers in the world, will always choose Apache over Microsoft's IIS. Can you imagine putting a Windows machine on the Internet running a website without a firewall? Never! But doing the same with Linux isn't so far fetched. (if you're running RedHat, you might as well be running Windows though, I'm talking real Linux. Read: Debian / Gentoo)