Seeing the Dawn of Vista by the Light of Open Source
by Mark Rais, senior editor and author of Linux for the Rest of Us 2nd Ed.

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At the time it simply seemed like a good idea.  Allow the software code to be readily available on the internet for other colleagues and software engineers to review and improve. 

In doing so, Linus Torvalds, the initial author behind the Linux operating system, used a method of collaborative software development that began to change the face of the entire IT world. 

But this concept of collaborative development of code open to all, today loosely termed Open Source, had its foundations rooted in many other precedents as well, including the GNU project (dating back to 1984 and dedicated to the creation of a free operating system and applications). 

What we can see in the increasing expansion of Linux use is a validation that experts from around the world can indeed collaboratively create software, which is both sound and viable.

What is unique in today's reality is that in many ways the innovations and the community teamwork that exists around Linux dramatically distinguishes itself from the very model of development used to create Vista. 

Instead of a massive shop of thousands of developers working frantically to meet marketing deadlines and business goals, Linux software development is highly diversified, numerically greater and contextually faster.  When an innovative engineer devises an improvement, that solution will be available to others around the world nearly instantly. 

The marketing for Vista touts 5 years in development.   Ironically, the method for development of Open Source software may be more economically viable than such long cycle OS development in the new global market.

Today, Linux is used across many large enterprise initiatives with substantial benefit.  Similarly, countless new software projects have since derived their source for inspiration and innovation from the software community at large, who contribute their talents and experience collectively.  What makes all of this possible is the premise that when the software code is made available openly it becomes a catalyst for innovation and mutual exchange. 

"when the software code is made available openly it becomes a catalyst for innovation"

The software becomes a tool that is not restricted and can be freely shared and adapted (customisation at its easiest) to specific needs.  While at the same time the enhancements and many creative and pioneering iterations are given back in a way resulting in a continual cycle of improvement and enhancement.  People who contribute gain by having the ability to also utilise the software code that countless other experts also helped create.

Open Source software development had not only changed the perspective many have had regarding the methodology for large scale collaboration, it has substantially increased the mutual relationships between people across cultural and national boundaries.  The collaborative spirit is a key ingredient in the success of Open Source. 

As a result, where there might have remained a selective few applications that could address specific software needs, such as business tools including spreadsheets, mail servers, etc.  Now there are actually hundreds of thousands of options, customised versions and uniquely tailored choices. 

Where customisation and localisation were once the bane of software development teams, today the burden is lifted when teams in a specific country or region localise the Open Source code for themselves and then share it back to the original project.  The Tamil localised version of Linux is an example.  In India substantial localisation efforts at a regional level are generating more language and dialect specific versions faster than any one single software company could have ever implemented.

The Key Distinction
Perhaps the key distinction with Open Source and Windows Vista is that so many of the Open Source projects either are or derived their roots from highly skilled developers writing code on their own time.  People motivated not by a paycheck but by something less tangible but perhaps more valuable. 

This is an area few of the marketing men can understand.  But the motivations are a signifier that the Open Source revolution is not simply a hobbyist endeavour but a serious reflection on what software development and the industry as a whole is changing into.

To the World
What the premise behind Open Source provided was not only a unique economically viable method for solving software development costs, it spun off unique methods by which international and cross cultural collaborative projects could take place. 

There are numerous Open Source projects that are dedicated to creation of collaborative tools to help further the viability of Open Source.  From web content and learning management systems to powerful collaborative tools such as various wiki and blogging software, Open Source has an expansive array of tools to help perpetuate further communication and development.

The result is overt.  Where just over one decade ago, Linux was a newly devised operating system that few had heard of let alone used, today Linux runs significant systems for many large enterprises including:, IBM and Oracle, Novell,, Walmart, ILM, and thousands of other organisations.

Perhaps it is now with the dawn of Windows Vista, that we can most effectively see the world wide radiance of the Open Source revolution.


This brief opinion piece should not be construed as factual information. It contains the opinions and personal experiences of the author at the time of publication. However, the opinions and personal experiences that have been posted do not necessarily express the opinions of Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds. IBM is the registered trademark of International Business Machines. Microsoft, Microsoft Windows are trademarks or registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation both in the United States and Internationally. MS is used in certain cases to further denote Microsoft Corporation. RedHat is the registered trademark for RedHat Inc. All other trademarks or registered trademarks in this opinion piece belong to their respective owners.

Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds. Microsoft, Windows Vista, Vista are trademarks or registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United Statest and Internationally. All other trademarks or registered trademarks in this opinion piece belong to their respective owners.