18th May 2012

    Open Source vs Proprietary Software

    Thoughts By 5 years ago

    It wasn’t so long ago that nearly every software product we used was the result of a company paying for programmers to build a product they could sell, however recently times have changed, and with movements like open source and the FSF (Free Software Foundation) we have a choice between proprietary and open source software. I recently reviewed the kind of software I use frequently to see how well I was adopting open source software, and it turns out that recently I have begun to switch back to proprietary. Here are the results:

    ProprietaryOpen Source

    App Store

    No Open Source Alternative currently exists, and this is not a surprise as Apple aggressively protect against reverse engineering, and doubly so when it comes to interacting with their financial processes
    MailThunderbird: This is a viable alternative, and I loved using it on Windows however it was clear that OSX version just couldn’t match the native Mail application offered by apple
    Safari: It should be noted that Safari is based on the WebKit rendering engine which is open sourceFirefox: Like thunderbird, I used to use this on Windows, but I found the OSX version chewed up massive amounts of memory (I caught it using more than 1GB of RAM at times), I don’t think it can measure up to Safari on OSX
    Address BookWhile open source address books probably do exist, none would integrate into the Apple ID to allow for synchronisation between iOS and OSX
    iCalAgain, while open source calendars do probably exist, none would integrate into the Apple ID to allow for synchronisation between iOS and OSX
    iTunesSongbird: A good music player but I don’t trust open source software to sync music to my iPod adequately
    Terminal: It should be noted that terminal can be used to run many open source commands made for UnixNo open source alternative available for OSX as far as I am aware
    System PreferencesI wouldn’t trust open source software to provide a viable alternative to Apple’s own System Preferences
    Why Bother?TextEdit: This may seem like a proprietary app but it is in fact open source, despite being supplied by Apple
    MSN Messenger: Microsoft provides this app for free, and it is up to date but it lacks support for multiple chat protocolsAdium: My favourite chat client, supports MSN and Facebook (as well as others) and is based off the open source messaging library pidgin. Unfortunately it can sometimes lack the bells and whistles of later MSN clients but it is forgiven due to its support for other chat protocols.
    Transmit: Lots of great features and can integrate into the FinderFileZilla: A stable and often updated FTP client, while it doesn’t have the bells and whistles of Transmit it provides reliable and solid service, I have never felt let down by it so I continue to use it
    No proprietary software availableArduino: An IDE that allows you to write code and interact with Arduino devices. It could definitely be improved, but because Arduino devices themselves are open source (even the hardware) it is unlikely a proprietary IDE will enter the marketplace
    Airport UtilityNo open source alternative exists
    Disk UtilityNo open source alternative exists
    Quicktime: The standard media player that comes with OSX, but has problems playing nearly every format availableVLC: What can I say? This just plays anything and everything, in addition it transcodes and can do network streaming
    Google EarthMarble: I have never tried marble as a replacement, but until Google Earth stuffs up I will have no need to
    SkypeWhile open source alternatives to Skype somewhat exist to enable chatting, there is nothing that comes even close to Skype’s video calling functionality. There may be other networks that do the same thing, but I am focusing on the Skype network in this case.
    uTorrent: While it seems to run faster than Vuze, it has similar features, and I would only trust a BitTorrent client that is open sourceVuze: A BitTorrent client written in Java that is constantly updated and always provides quick and stable torrent downloading
    Activity Monitor: Apples standard activity monitor, it can tell you about RAM, CPU and network activityMenuMeters: I have never tried it, but the standard one from Apple seems to do me fine so I won’t change until I am compelled to
    XCode: Lets you code and build for iOS devices and OSX. It should be noted that GCC and LLVM are both open source compilers, which Xcode uses extensivelyThere are alternatives that can highlight syntax and pass code off to compilers, however nothing that can satisfy all of an iOS developers needs
    Charles: A network protocol analyser which lets you view network traffic in real time. Contains a simplified interface and many bells and whistles.Wireshark: An open source alternative to network analysis, however its interface leaves a lot to be desired on OSX
    TextWrangler: A syntax highlighter for writing code in a variety of languagesSmultron: I used to use Smultron before TextWrangler, however it had a number of problems, development work has since ceased
    VMWare Fusion: Virtualisation software that allows you to run other operating systems on OSXVirtualBox: Written in Java so runs a lot slower than VMWare, a bit too slow for my liking
    Photoshop: Premiere image editing softwareGIMP: An open source alternative that unfortunately falls far behind photoshop in terms of features, it may be quite a few years before GIMP can catch up to features like Content Aware filters
    Illustrator: Premiere vector graphics softwareSkencil: Like GIMP it falls far short of its proprietary cousin
    WordWriter: Open offices reply to Microsoft Word, written in Java, unfortunately it insists on using its own formats by default, and sometimes doesn’t read Word documents correctly
    PowerpointImpress: Open Offices reply to Microsoft Powerpoint, written in Java, it has the same problems as Writer
    ExcelCalc: Open Offices reply to Microsoft Excel, written in Java, it has the same problems as Writer
    CalculatorWhy bother?
    Steam: A client for interacting with the Steam game servers and storeYou can’t really make an open sourced version of Steam due to its anti-piracy measures
    As far as I know there are no viable proprietary solutions to this server softwareXAMPP: OSX Apache MySQL PHP and phpMyAdmin software, all open sourced server platforms
    I am not aware of a proprietary software competitionHex Fiend: An open source hex editor for directly interfacing to the binary and hexadecimal breakup of files
    Autodesk AutoCAD: Computer Assisted Design SoftwareGoogle Sketchup: Software for creating 3D models in and sharing to the google sketch up searchable database, unfortunately does not support most CAD formats so it becomes impractical unless you are modifying other Google Sketchup drawings
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