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Community Versus Funding: What Open Source Needs Most

  
  
  

At the recent Open Daylight Summit, Margaret Chiosi, the Distinguished Network Architect said, “We don’t need money. We need participants. We need people to work on use cases and bust things out.” In other words, the open source community is at a point where it needs involvement more than dollars.

Open source increasingly depends on end-users who will create code, contribute documentation, and innovate to make open source projects relevant and useful. In order for open source to continue its upwards trajectory, fully engaged end-users that together create a vibrant and active community are necessary.

Open source adoption is expected to continue to expand, with many high-profile companies either making their source code available and accessible to others or making the move to using open source software in their projects. However, this growth and wider acceptance has also put the open source community at somewhat of a crossroads. It’s all well and good for developers, executives and network architects to embrace open source however, the energy of the open source standard depends on end-users to propel its success by making real contributions.

Open source is in need of more than money to guarantee its continued use and growth. Open source depends on changes in company culture, acceptance across a wide range of users and integration with the ways people work and use software to continue growing. This means the community needs to focus on attaining end-users who will continue to put their own mark on the software they use by modifying the code, writing new functionality and providing documentation that allows other users to get on board and understand how it works.

The next frontier of innovation for open source code isn’t about spending more money, but about dedicating more time and energy at the community level. End-users must move beyond passive use of product and grow their own skills, capabilities and interests to become active members of a thriving and innovative open source community. 

Open Source Software’s Role In the Sciences

  
  
  

Open source software is creating a strong presence in nearly every industry and market imaginable, from healthcare to telecommunications to government—and now, the sciences. Open source is being leveraged in scientific fields to improve procedures, data analysis and collaboration for researchers and scientists.

The sciences, like open source, thrives on innovation and the exploration of new ways to manipulate matter or raw data.  Recently, we have seen instances in the science world where open source software is making waves. Below are just a handful of ways in which the sciences are benefitting from open source:

Meteorology  Open source technology is making it possible for students and instructors in weather forecasting to more effectively share and process data. Using open source allows data to be shared and visualized by everyone in the meteorology community, enabling the entire community to use one tool to visualize data and track the weather, rather than being tied to numerous proprietary systems.

Sea Navigation  OpenCPN, an open source tool that does plot charting and navigation for both pleasure and commercial seagoing vessels, allows sailors to more effectively and accurately navigate without having to rely on proprietary tools. This allows experienced sailors on vessels of all sizes, shapes, and types to access high-level charting and navigation data and collaborate and share information across vessels, improving safety and accuracy on the seas.

Night Sky Exploration  It used to be that scientists, both amateur and professional, had to go without realistic views of the nighttime sky if they didn’t live near an observatory. Now, the open source Stellarium software allows students and scientists to view a realistic night sky in 3D on a computer, similar to what they’d see through a telescope. The open source tool creates a realistic planetarium experience on a smartphone or tablet as well.

US Air Force Lab  An open source project provides a platform that allows local and remote users to share data and participate virtually on research projects. OpenSim is virtual reality software used to create a “virtual” lab space for scientists and engineers to collaborate in.

How Open Source Is Improving The Way Businesses Visualize Data

  
  
  

It was recently reported that the Colorado-based startup, SlamData is working on creating an enterprise version of its open source analytics platform. Their solution allows users to see and understand NoSQL data and this will now enable larger businesses to visualize data more effectively. The platform will enable large businesses to visualize semi-structured NoSQL data by adding proprietary security and management features to the main open source platform.

There are many benefits that implementing open source data visualization tools can have on businesses. Potential benefits include:

More efficient data gathering. Open source tools enable larger amounts of data to be collected and processed in a way that is easily viewed and digestible. Rather than relying on static pictures of data, open source tools enable data to be viewed dynamically and distilled in ways that fit specific business goals.

Spot trends and patterns earlier and act on them faster. The right data visualization tools allow people to spot correlations between different processes and operations of the business. This leads to faster action on key information because trends and patterns can be identified more accurately and earlier. For example, if a company is experiencing revenue growth or loss in a specific area, data visualization could help leadership uncover the many factors that could be leading to those changes so that they can put a plan in place to maximize or reduce them for greater business success.

Use data to create a well-rounded picture. Data visualization via open source technology allows executives to build a more accurate model of the business based on a larger amount of accurate data, and to create an action plan based on correct and up-to-date information. Rather than focusing on one piece of information in a vacuum, accurate, dynamic data visualization enables executives to see how every part  of the business affects each other and is affected by outside factors as well, making for more accurate planning and strategizing.

Government Adoption of Open Source Software Continues In The U.S.

  
  
  

open source governmentRecently, the Sunlight Foundation, the Congressional Data Coalition and the OpenGovFoundation announced that constituents of the U.S. House of Representatives can now choose open source software over proprietary software to better suit their technology requirements and projects.

“Members, Committees, and staff within the U.S. House of Representatives are now able to use official resources to procure open source software to fully participate in open source software communities, and to contribute software code developed with taxpayer dollars back to the public under open source license,” a June 2015 release stated.

But the U.S. government is just one of many across the globe that are increasingly turning to open source software to reduce IT costs and improve their overall processes with more advanced technologies. We have looked at the government in India who has recently introduced a new policy to make it mandatory for the nation’s government offices to use open source software across the board.

Because open source software enables users and developers to collaborate in an open forum manner, oftentimes the software experiences more rapid innovations than proprietary software, which must be managed, updated and maintained by a closed vendor.  As such, open source software is growing increasingly attractive to government members due to its efficiency, reusability and accessibility.

For example, now that the U.S. House of Representatives can leverage open source software, members and committees are able to create tools that benefit taxpayers more suitably than proprietary software could allow. Tools based on open source software—such as the Sunlight Foundation’s tool that alerts users about legislative changes, new regulations, court decisions, etc.—allow the House to quickly and easily share new technologies with the greater public.

Additionally, open source software is also providing improvements for government officials behind the scenes. For instance, the technology is often touted for its ability to streamline data aggregation and analysis. As a result, government officials are able to gain access to real-time analytics which enables them to receive information faster and more easily than with proprietary software that might not have the same speed or quality.

The government’s endorsement of open source software is a milestone for the greater coding community as it substantiates its true value compared to proprietary software.

What are your thoughts about open source software in the government? Share them with us in the comments section below!

The FCC Takes a Step Back From Open Source Innovation

  
  
  

Open source code is one of the most vital drivers of the U.S. technology industry. We depend on open source code to economically and rapidly create software that is more complex, in many ways more secure, more resilient and more aligned with the needs of everyday software users than proprietary code is. It’s for this reason that open source code is soaring in popularity right now, and why many companies are incorporating it into their solutions.  Given these facts, the recent decision by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has raised eyebrows and more. 

Concerned about potential uncontrolled radio emissions by Wi-Fi devices, FCC recently took action to limit the use of open source code in devices that use Wi-Fi connectivity.  Under the most recent set of rules imparted by the FCC, all Wi-Fi-enabled devices that use the 5 GHz band will be required to run on authorized proprietary software as opposed to open source solutions. The ruling will crack down on software like the open DD-WRT router as well as OpenWRT software.  

The FCC ruling is interpreted by some open source and OpenWRT enthusiasts as a major step backward for open source innovation and one that the majority of developers will find to be extremely limiting. While it is designed to protect consumers from using products that can cause radio frequency interference or contain software vulnerabilities, in effect, it will limit the creativity that was unleashed by the opening of the GPL router code in what was originally in a Linksys product and was later inherited by Cisco. Other open source Wi-Fi software such as CyanogenMod that have found applications in Wi-Fi hardware devices such as basestations and handsets will also be affected. 

It is too early to see the impact of the ruling on the open source Wi-Fi community.  Some expect that the ruling could be confined to the baseband processing segments a Wi-Fi application, essentially those modules that directly control the radio emissions. Knowledge of the code portfolio that is deployed in a Wi-Fi device, and understanding the different open source components and their licensing obligations (that is, is any open source code used in the baseband processors and if so, does the code have to be opened up to the rest of the world) will become critical with device manufacturers too.

What is certain is that if applied broadly, open source communities will have less say in the development of new software branches, and the process of developing software updates will become much more difficult and time-consuming—not to mention expensive.

 Do you have any thoughts on the recent FCC ruling? We want to know how your company will be impacted. Share your thoughts with us in the space below.

 

How Open Source Can Help the IoT Industry Reach Full Potential

  
  
  

The Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to be one of the most powerful technological innovations to date. In fact, its reach will be so extensive—encompassing billions of connected endpoints across the globe—that it will completely change the way companies and consumers connect with one another and share information.

There is still a lot of work to be done before we get to that stage. Right now, for instance, there is a major lack of interoperability between connected endpoints. As outlined in a recent report from the McKinsey Group, as much as 40 percent of the potential value in IoT technology will depend on unlocking interoperability. Devices, in other words, must be able to communicate with one another to drive next-generation IoT interactions (like smartphones connecting with local traffic systems).

Aside from interoperability, the McKinsey Group also mentions the following roadblocks that are restricting the growth of IoT technology: inefficiency surrounding the collection and utilization of big data, expensive hardware like RFID tags and, of course, privacy and security concerns surrounding connected devices.

Overcoming these roadblocks will be no small task. Manufacturers can more quickly circumvent these obstacles than might otherwise have been possible through the use of open source code. When open source code is integrated into the framework of an IoT product, the product becomes open to crowdsourced innovation.

With the help of an intellectual property software audit service, companies can freely integrate open source code into their products’ designs without having to worry about losing track of where the code has been employed. This can help mitigate problems related to software licensing and intellectual property rights.

Healthcare Industry Turning to Open Source for Efficient IT Solutions

  
  
  

ehealth, open sourceIf we turn back time two years, the healthcare industry was beginning to get its feet wet in the big data analytics pool. According to research from PwC, in 2013, 79 percent of healthcare executives anticipated increasing their technology spends in the areas of analytics, improved electronic health record (EHR) capabilities and other IT initiatives

Flash forward to present time and the healthcare industry is starting to adopt an increasing amount of open source software for the purpose of streamlining procedures, gathering more insightful patient data and reducing IT costs.

Today, open source is a commonplace element found in much of healthcare software. Why? Because open source enables developers to get products to market sooner, and the software itself is more conducive (than proprietary software) to immediate patches in the event of a security breach or other malfunction because teams of technologists can gain access to the code. These two advantages are enormous benefits in the healthcare industry because doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers need 24/7 access to up-to-date and secure patient information in the most efficient manner possible.

What’s more, the cost efficiency of open source software—compared to proprietary software that is bound by licensing fees among other cost raising factors—makes it an attractive option for those in the healthcare space. For instance, even the U.S. military uses open source technology for its healthcare solutions to cut costs and improve efficiency. As well, open source healthcare technology for the military will enable faster responses to threats as well as continuous collaboration and development on the implemented software—something that wouldn’t be so easy to do with closed, proprietary software.

In the United Kingdom, the National Health Service (NHS) has launched Code4Health, a pro gramme to promote the use of open source technology to deliver quality solutions for the health and care community. Code4Health aims to build on the growing movement of like-minded individuals and organizations who want to come together to share ideas, change working practice and build software solutions to improve healthcare. At Protecode, we have been collaborating with the NHS to launch a competition, intended to highlight licensing and security vulnerabilities that should be avoided by Code4Health collaborators as they develop and contribute their software to the community. With its rich asset and resource catalog, Code4Health invites software players to a collaborative and cooperative environment in which to create open technology solutions for the health and care community. 

Furthermore, other open source healthcare tools like GNU Health streamline and improve procedures for practitioners, institutions and governments of all sizes and in all locations globally. This innovative open source project makes healthcare technology easily accessible for third-world countries and rural locations across the globe that might not otherwise have access to decent tools. As such, open source is unifying the global healthcare industry and creating free and accessible tools that everyone can use, not just the institutions or governments that can afford hefty technology budgets.

Open source software is revolutionizing the healthcare industry and offering solutions where there previously were none. Read more about open source innovation in the healthcare space here or read our recent whitepaper Healthcare Driven by Open Source.

Three Steps to an Effective Software Auditing Strategy

  
  
  

code organizationRight now you are looking to integrate open source code from a third-party provider into your own software. Before you do so, however, there are some important things to keep in mind.

First and foremost, open source code typically comes with licensing restrictions and intellectual property rights. Remember that you are using someone else’s code, so its creator may have specific instructions as to how it should be used or attributed. The last thing you want is to be hit with a lawsuit for failure to comply with the rules.

Further, not all open source code is safe to use. It’s important to thoroughly vet all open source code for vulnerabilities that could otherwise provide backdoor entry for hackers or malware into your software.

Keeping these points in mind, stay on top of every open source solution that your organization is using. Here are some steps to include in your auditing strategy:

1. Choose the right auditing service: Chances are likely that you will be working with more than one code provider that you need to monitor. Look for an auditing solution that comes with a real-time reporting component. Using this service, you can track and generate reports for all the open source code in your enterprise.

2. Audit early, audit often: One of the biggest mistakes that developers make is that they lose track of the open source code at a certain point in the development process. Don’t let this happen. Continue to audit your software so that you can ensure it is legally sound and secure. In a recent webinar we explored how often is enough when it comes to auditing your software.   

3. Thoroughly assess your auditing results: Once your new software has been developed, look back and check your results so that you can take immediate action and resolve any issues or vulnerabilities before your product is released. This is the most important step, as you don’t want to let any errors slip through the cracks.

In a recent webinar we outlined easy steps to streamline your next audit and have put together an easy-to-follow infographic.

Open Source Players Show Dedication To Heightening Security Measures

  
  
  

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the Core Infrastructure Initiative, a group formed last year after the Heartbleed bug targeted vulnerabilities in OpenSSL encryption software, has invested $500,000 in three new projects aimed at improving the security of open source code. Participants in the Core Infrastructure Initiative include large corporations such as Microsoft, Facebook, and Cisco Systems; it is managed by the nonprofit Linux Foundation. This collaboration demonstrates a desire from both the open source community and technology leaders to preserve free and open standards while continuing to make security a top priority.

The three projects receiving support from this investment include a testing method that finds security vulnerabilities in software like OpenSSL; a tool that makes sure the software end users receive has not been tampered with; and testing tools that ensure the accuracy of software bug reporting. Combined, these three projects can help further security improvements in open source software, allowing developers to continue to employ open source standards and end-users to enjoy the benefits open source has to offer while limiting security vulnerabilities.

In the wake of recent cyber attacks and security breaches, many business leaders and proprietary software developers have expressed reservations about the security and safety of open source software. Nevertheless, open source has been gaining steady ground and investments of money and resources make it clear that the open source community and its supporters are committed to improving open source security measures.

Open source code is available to be studied, examined, thoroughly tested, and modified. While some may see this as a liability, it also represents a great strength. Various factors make open source software a secure choice:

  • A wealth of technology knowledge: Open source, by its very nature, invites the best and brightest technology experts to participate fully in testing, modifying, viewing, and debugging code. Because experts can work in community to ensure the software stays secure from development through delivery to the end user, open source benefits from collaboration between individuals with a variety of skill sets and areas of expertise.
  • Dedication to improving security:  The open source community has the ability to learn from past breaches and directly use that information to make future offerings more secure, as evidenced by the exciting projects currently underway aimed at improving open source security.
  • Ability to resolve breaches through patching: If vulnerability is identified in open source software, it can be remedied quickly, often immediately. This process is quicker than if users have to wait for a proprietary software vendor to find the issue and release a patch, and it can minimize damage and losses in the event of a breach. In this way, open source software can adapt quickly to increasing and changing security threats to become safer over time.

As investment and innovation in open source security increases, open source has the potential to become safer and more secure than ever before, making it more desirable for companies that are concerned about today’s changing threat landscape. 

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Open Source Software Hits the Open Road

  
  
  

Open source software is bound for the open road—literally. As the automotive industry increases design and production of electric cars with an eye toward environmental responsibility, it is also adopting an open source standard for producing these vehicles. 

Electric car manufacturer, Tesla Motors has recently been in the news as they have chosen to open source their electric vehicle patents. This is an unprecedented step in the automotive industry and has raised questions around Intellectual Property ownership. Another automotive company, OSVehicle, has its hopes set on creating a 'do-it-yourself' car kit and has released an open source car platform which is quick and inexpensive to build. We have looked at other industries like Telecom where they have embraced open source to deal with increasing complexities as they strive for agility and innovation while controlling costs. 

Electric cars currently represent only a tiny slice of the automotive market. However, by offering an open source electric car kit to consumers, vehicle manufacturers could find themselves breathing new life into this segment. A complete open source kit that costs less than $10,000 and enables someone to build their own electric vehicle in an hour or two could find a home within many market segments, including automobile collectors, do-it-yourselfers and environmental activists.

Many people who might be put off by an electric car for reasons such as cost, lack of roadworthiness, availability, or design esthetic could be attracted to them in part by the open source model. An open source kit would enable car owners to imagine, modify and build their own vehicle and participate in the car's creation process on a level not currently available on the typical gas-powered vehicle lot.

Open source electric vehicles could also provide another transportation solution in urban areas. Gas-powered vehicles are often out of reach for people living on limited incomes, leaving them with few transportation options. An open source electric vehicle could provide a low-cost, accessible transportation option to help people get from one place to another, all without increasing the environmental burden on already-polluted cities.

Open source electric vehicles could provide great benefits to consumers, empowering people to “leverage the power of information to build, maintain, and modify accessible and working vehicles as they see fit.” Open sourcing these platforms expands their reach and creates endless possibilities for innovation, expanding our relationship with the Internet of Things (IoT).

© OSVehicle

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