Friday, April 27, 2007

Making the move to open source software (don't forget to FLOSS!)

As frequent readers may have detected, I make use of a fair amount of open source software (also called Free/Libre/Open Source Software or FLOSS) in my work. Sure, it's less expensive, but I tend to do it because of other advantages it provides.

You might get the impression that I think switching to open source (or, for that matter, switching to any new software) is easy, and you might be concerned that it's harder than I let on.

You'd be right to be concerned. Solveig Haugland has just published a good article called A very important post for decision-makers considering OpenOffice.org. Read it if you're even considering moving your company to a new system. (If you're only moving yourself, it's a lot easier; you become both the pilot test and the implementation, and you can control the speed and extent of your transition.)

If you'd like to dig more deeply into the economic impacts of FLOSS, you might be interested in Study on the: Economic impact of open source software on innovation and the competitiveness of the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sector in the EU, prepared for the European Commission's ICT Task-Force. The final report was published November 20, 2006. I can't get that report to load successfully this morning, but a September 26, 2006 draft of the executive summary does work.

I've not read the entire 287 pages, but I have read the executive summary. I'd like to highlight one point on page 12 of the report:


Avoid lifelong vendor lock-in in educational systems by teaching students skills, not specific applications...


Whether you're a fan of open source software or not, I think that's incredibly important advice. Some software, some products, some processes, and some technologies have incredibly long lives (I'm using an editor that traces its heritage back to the 1970s), but others come and go. It's much better when we, our employees, and our new hires understand general principles and then can apply those principles in specific cases than when we only understand specific cases and have to start all over when we face a new specific case. Think about that as you hire, as you train people, as you learn yourself, and as you consider what gets taught in the educational system where you live.

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2 Comments:

Blogger mario said...

Hi Bill, I'm a stundent interested in SD and also in OSS...

do you know of any good OS tools for SD??

27 April, 2007 15:59  
Blogger Bill Harris said...

Hi, Mario. Welcome.

Yes, I do. Check out MCSim. I've collected some links to make it easy to find, and I've blogged about it here.

You can see MCSim in action here and here .

Finally, you might be interested in my blog essay An accidental experiment.

Does that help?

27 April, 2007 16:34  

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