Open Source: Reclaiming our Heritage

2020-03-09 06:04 AM Comment(s) By Cavan Kelly

JC Kelly is reconfirming our commitment to open source software.  We’ve somehow allowed ourselves to drift toward proprietary products, and the results have been mixed.  It’s time to get back to what made us different, what made our client’s happy, and, as corny as it sounds, what fulfilled us.

Open source is not a dirty word.  It is not, as former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer once called it, “a cancer”.  It doesn’t mean the software is a weekend project for geeks. It doesn’t mean it’s low quality.  And it certainly doesn’t mean it’s free of cost - although it can be. Open source software has proven itself to be viable, reliable, and performant. If one could magically remove all the open source software from the world, the Internet would cease to exist. Open source software is a vital component of virtually every product that contains a microprocessor.

More than twenty years ago, we began deploying e-Smith Server to our clients as an alternative to the overpriced and underperforming Back Office Server from Microsoft.  When the e-Smith project was purchased by Mitel, it lost its way for a time and we moved on to Nitix from Net Integration Technologies Inc (NITI). Eventually, NITI management, seduced by the allure of IBM’s deep pockets, began primping themselves for a buyout. They instituted client access licenses (CALs1), a Microsoft “innovation” (talk about cancerous), and they spent time and effort building in Lotus Notes support, which absolutely no one wanted,  and thus chased customers and resellers away. Finally, management got their wish, IBM bought the company and within months Nitix was dead. The common thread, of course, is that these projects were viable until the traditional, proprietary companies got involved and destroyed, or at least mortally wounded, them.  The problem wasn’t open source, the problem was avarice.

What is open source?

Open source software is simply software that has had its source code (human readable code)  made publicly available and which is licensed under terms that allow anyone to use, view, modify, enhance, and redistribute that code as they wish. There are usually, but not always, conditions requiring that all modifications be returned to the project for the benefit of all. The obvious benefits include the ability to locate and fix bugs (the many eyes doctrine2) and continuity, should the project originators disappear or lose interest.  The ability to fork or use one project to bootstrap another is also invaluable.  Think, “standing on the shoulders of giants.”

And so we’re back to our roots.  We’re refocussing on products and companies that share our passion for value, quality and freedom. We’re still not promising to be the cheapest, but we will always provide value.

1CALs - Imagine buying a car and then having to buy a separate “license” for each family member to allow them to sit in a seat - that’s a CAL.

2With many eyes, all bugs become shallow.

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