My major project for the class this blog is part of involves a web presence to serve as an introduction to open source software (OSS). I will surely write more about this as time passes. In fact, much of my time is currently spent working on this project as it involves learning how to use and customize the Drupal content management system (CMS).
I’ve talked to many people about OSS and why I think it is so important and it is often difficult to convey the difference between OSS and proprietary software. I can think of many illustrations and examples, but have never found a decent analogy until today.
Here it is:
If software is the cake, then the source code is the recipe for that cake. A proprietary system is like a cake made by a bakery. We can purchase the cake and enjoy it, but we can’t have access to the recipe. That is usually OK, but what if we like the cake but need to change something about it, let’s say because we are allergic to nuts for example. The recipe gives us the opportunity to change the the cake for our own needs (or a whole community of people with similar needs). It isn’t even necessary to know how to bake to appreciate the access to the recipe, because someone else could modify and bake the cake – we could even pay someone to bake the cake for us. Access to the recipe makes the difference though. So it is with OSS.