Opensource != Open

I have been involved (sometimes trying to get involved) in a number of open source projects and have noticed that the label “opensource” does not necessarily mean that you have an “open” project which you can download the code, compile it and get co-operation from the project admin(s).

First my success story. I worked with David Wolldrich to get support for the Borland C++ compiler for the ceeFit opensource project (http://ceefit.woldrich.com/) and was surprised at how open and helpful David was. Not only was I honored to work with such a smart guy and leanred a bunch of things looking through the code and going through the expereince, but I also enjoyed his humour and helpful guidance and promptness. That (in my opinion) makes the “open” in opensource real. Thank you David Wolldrich for an excellent experience!

My second experience (ongoing) has not been so pleasant. I have discovered that some projects on sourceforge.net there is the appearance of “opensource” but in reality it isn’t “open”. In these “dark corners” of opensource land you have free binary downloads, partial source code downloads, and project admins that do not want anyone else poking around in their project (it seems). In this specific case, this project itself is based on a popular engine that was itself open-sourced years ago. Not only do you not get all the code, but the answers to my questions were incomplete. Sending multiple emails with different questions and comments and got one answer back which basically consist of one or two sentences which themselves gave me the feeling that they don’t want anything new from outsiders. Most recently (by posting in the projects forums because I got no email replies to some questions) some other member finally admitted that parts of the project are “closed source”. I am sure there are reasons etc… but lets face it, this isn’t “open source”.

Unfortunately I doubt there is much of an accountability mechanism for stuff like this and basically there appears to be such “opensource” projects out there that “nobody else” can be part of. I guess I’ll just have to download the updated source code and merge in my code changes every release, recompile the project (with binary lib files for the parts that there is no source code for)  and use that. Not so “open”.

I still however enjoy the lyrics of the “free software song”, and won’t let these “dark corners” ruin the not so dark ones. “Share the software”.


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