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Dimitris Tsironis

Writing about world and technical stuff

Why Open-source Really Matters?

This is one of these endless battles in the history of humanity. Open-source vs. proprietary software; is one of the most vibrant disputes of all time. I tell you, it’s not an easy one and being a part of tech community, you feel obligated to choose a side from early on, as everyone is taking a stand on this subject (though it’s not required after all).

Love at first sight

I was always fascinated by the fact that you can find so many free things on Internet and that you can legally use and build upon. My first introduction to Linux was love at first sight and it’s been a while since then. I had a crappy desktop for six years that almost from the first day, didn’t bend to my will and I spent most of time trying to make Windows XP work as they supposed to. One day, I had enough with it and I installed Ubuntu 7.04 from a magazine CD, in order to test Linux.

I still remember that feeling that I can bypass everything proprietary and I actually don’t have to pay to make my computer work. I was using something cool that a common person, like me and you, have built in his free time. And it was really that faster than Windows. And that’s because, open-source software is the lovechild of developers - for most of us, it’s our hobby and you can tell from the quality of most open-source projects. Open-source is powered by love.

Discovering a new world

Until that moment, I though that software was a black-box that I would never able to learn, build or mess around with. It was destined only for highly-skilled human beings. Yes, I was playing games, using programs and Windows operating system itself, but I hand’t figure out what’s going on underneath it, it was like a cool magic trick. The command line was just a historical evidence of how the computers used to look like in the past.

Years later and probably because I messed around with Linux for a few years, I got better with computers. It started being my thing. I was tearing apart hardware for fun and learning some simple HTML and I wouldn’t never get better into it, if it wasn’t for open-source.

You see, the good thing with web technologies is that you have an extremely big amount for examples and implementations to copy and learn from. Just go to your favourite webpage and view the source. It’s there waiting for you to copy it, modify it, learn by its mistakes.

The web is completely open-source, you can literally see everything on a page.

Then, a couple years ago, I discover Github and weirdly enough, later I started using git. Initially, I was thinking Github was just a cool site with projects, but, oh! I tell you. It’s more than that. People don’t always understand why Github is so popular and useful for the tech community. And yes, I would say that Github could be useful, not only for programmers, but non-technical people as well.

For me, it’s the perfect collaboration tool. You can mess with code, make changes and send it to project’s owner for him to decide if he wants to make your chances a part of his project. But you have total freedom to do so and as a matter of fact you’re encouraged to.

Also, knowing that you’re code is public and everyone could take a look at it, forces you to become better and refine your work. Even more, it lets other people find your mistakes, propose improvements, solve bugs and help you make your software better.

But it’s not all about developing great software. Everyone needs to understand that open-source is the stepping stone of modern technology; Nasa, IBM, Apple, RedHat, Google, Facebook, Github, universities are using open-software or earn their living for open-source. Even Microsoft does! It’s one of the biggest markets out there. I know it’s counterintuitive to say that can actually earn more by giving away free stuff, but it’s kind of true.

So, next time you’re searching on Google for a nice restaurant, commenting on photo on Facebook, checking you phone for email, even driving your car, just think that you’re using Linux or some other form of open-source software.

Yeap. It’s that important.