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Open Source and the Internet of Things: A Growing Companionship

  
  
  

It was recently revealed that Linux-powered drones were released which has unveiled a new frontier for open source software. Drone control, once limited to proprietary software, has now entered the open source realm. This opens up new possibilities of more flexible platforms for many Internet-connected objects as well as sparking conversation among the open source community about its potential relationship with the Internet of Things (IoT).

Open source software has allowed drone builders and programmers to create a platform using a free open source software development kit. In some cases, individuals can operate drones from a smartphone or tablet and include sophisticated features in the drone’s operating system, such as gyroscopes, cameras, altimeters and GPS. Open software development kits have the potential to allow individuals to create drone applications suitable for use in a wide range of fields and with a wide variety of physical shapes. Open source powered drones are proving to be more cost effective and accessible, meaning that they can easily be applied in more areas and for more uses besides their traditional military applications.

Open source software can also be used to create a platform for other Internet-connected objects, such as cameras, automobiles and household appliances. Open source software offers nearly endless possibilities for programming everyday objects by removing the barriers and expense imposed by proprietary software platforms.

Leveraging open source software enables developers to create products faster, through bypassing the lengthy proprietary development process. As such, if a developer feels a certain industry is lacking a particular technological solution, they can speed up time to market by creating a product based from open source software. For example, the creators of the open source Axiom camera allowed developers to fill a niche in the camera market with a video camera capable of taking cinema-quality videos well beyond the capabilities of the digital cameras that were currently available from proprietary platforms.

By democratizing the programming process, open source software makes it possible for developers to take an active role in creating more IoT objects that will help them in both their personal and professional lives. 

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Government of India Embraces Open Source Software Initiatives

  
  
  

Recently, an IT services giant has put its support behind the government of India's new policy to make it mandatory for the nation’s government offices to use open source software. India’s government has put these new regulations in motion to provide a more efficient and reliable infrastructure for technology in the country and to increase job opportunities within the technology sector. 

As efficiency, transparency and security rise to the top of the priority list at the government level across the globe, open source software is becoming more widely used and accepted. India’s new mandate illustrates just how influential and mainstream open source software has become, and reveals its potential for a global impact on government security and improved cost efficiency.

In countries like India that have a high poverty level, open source software can provide a clear path to nationwide development as well as improving government services, infrastructure and employment. When software is locked in with a particular proprietary vendor, it often requires a specific skill set or education level to provide services, maintain the infrastructure and write programming.

Open source software, on the other hand, enables citizens in developing nations to create software with little training or equipment aside from a smartphone or a laptop. Rather than being locked into a proprietary vendor, open source software is accessible and available to all. This enables governments to take ownership of their infrastructure, deliver better services to its most needy citizens, and provide more employment opportunities.

 Open source software provides increased computing power and resources to both government agencies and citizens, enabling better delivery of services, more security and increased opportunities. India’s new policy shows an awareness of the benefits of open source software and its potential role in improving government and the everyday lives of its citizens.

Manual vs. Automatic Code Analysis : The Key Differentiators

  
  
  

Open source code is commonly found in much of today’s IT infrastructure. In fact, according to recent research from Gartner, 95 percent of mainstream IT organizations leverage some element of open source software.

With this prevalence comes increased responsibility. Web developers and businesses that adopt software with open source code must pay attention to potential security vulnerabilities and implement an open source software license management system to physically and legally protect their IT infrastructure.

Open source code—due to its very nature of being completely accessible to the public—is constantly being modified and restructured to add new features and capabilities. With these enhancements however, comes the possible introduction of new security vulnerabilities from a myriad of third-party components and license contamination, requiring constant monitoring by users.

As such, developers and businesses must conduct regular code analysis to ensure their software is clean and secure. This continual analysis can be done either manually or automatically and both ways have their benefits and challenges. Below are the key differentiators for each method:

Manual: Manual code analysis, which is conducted by a software expert, can provide a well-rounded view of overall code infrastructure and quality. This method however, leaves room for human error, as the code analysis is laborious and paper-based. The process is also much more time consuming compared to an automated option. Imagine a portfolio of ten thousand software files and spending just 5 minutes per file for assessing security or license compliance, that’s almost a week of non-stop work. In reality, it takes more than five minutes per file for a thorough assessment and then you have to add the reporting time and effort.

Automatic: Automatic code analysis is entirely software-based and can generate a report on security vulnerabilities and licensing obligations of open source and third-party elements much faster than manual analysis. Automated applications such as Protecode’s Enterprise Analyzer can scan and report on a ten thousand file portfolio in less than a couple of hours. Still, someone needs to go through the scan results and identify unknown content (for example, when a file is marked as unknown, because it is not open source and has no other identifying information).

As such, a combination of both manual and automatic analysis is a best practice for garnering optimal, trustworthy results. Another approach to removing uncertainties around compliance and security vulnerabilities is to ask for an expert software assessment service such as Protecode Certified™, where machine scanning and expert sign-off on all files can produce an accurate picture of a software portfolio very quickly.

The Universal Impact of Open Source Software

  
  
  

Open source software (OSS) is changing the face of the IT landscape. In fact, IDC analyst Al Hilwa went so far as to state that OSS is poised to “eat the world” in a recent article

For example, imagine you work in the sales industry. It’s likely that the technology you use at your job each day is derived from open source code. In fact, the most notable customer relationship management (CRM) platforms in today’s businesses aren’t proprietary but instead, open source innovations—think SugarCRM or Zurmo. OSS is also making waves in the healthcare industry—a subject we’ve discussed recently on this blog—by way of creating big data analytics tools that help doctors more effectively aggregate patient data. As such, it’s important for not only IT decision makers or Web developers but for business leaders in a wide range of markets and industries to understand the immense omnipotence of OSS in today’s technology market. 


open sourceOSS is swiftly emerging at the forefront of technology across a range of markets and industries, replacing organizations’ former use of proprietary software. But, what makes OSS so favored over proprietary software?

 

Here are a few core differentiators between the two options:

Cost efficiency: To put it simply, propriety software, must be purchased. In addition, it cannot be modified to fit a particular developer’s or business’s needs without absorbing more vendor-specific costs brought on by additional hardware or software. With open source, developers and IT managers can include open source code into their project or business infrastructure free of cost —as long as certain rules are followed. For example, it’s important that businesses and developers understand the attributes of the open source content they wish to use, to ensure they’re in compliance with the code’s licensing obligations and free of open source security vulnerabilities. Once this is confirmed, code modifiers can integrate and configure the open source code however they see fit—free from vendor lock-in and hidden fees.

Community: A key differentiator of OSS is its supportive community base. Behind all OSS innovations stands an inclusive, encouraging team that varies in expertise, industry and ideas. For example, groups like the Eclipse Foundation invite community members to collaborate and contribute to what has become the de facto standard Integrated Development Environment (IDE). Conversely, proprietary software only has a team of company-specific developers, which limits brainstorming possibilities and outside perspectives. When developers choose to open their code to the public, masses of innovators are able to access the code and modify and distribute it in ways that the original creator may not have even imagined. The biggest game-changing aspect of OSS is, in fact, its openness. Due to its ability to adapt and integrate into so many different technologies, it’s been able to out-pace proprietary software that does not have this flexibility. It is clear, we are forging ahead into an open source world.
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Making Money from Open Source Software

  
  
  

When you hear mention of the term “open source” do you automatically associate it with the word “free”? If so, your assumptions are accurate as the majority of open source software is just that: free. But here’s the caveat emptor : Not all open source software is alike; in fact, it can be monetized when using a dual licensing business model.

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Gaining Profit: Developers can continue to contribute freely to the open source community under an open source license, but, with the addition of a commercial license, they can also profit from vendors that want to purchase their software to use in their businesses rather than to modify and distribute it.If you’re reading this and thinking, “But doesn’t putting a price on open source software undermine the ‘free and open’ core competencies of the open source community?” then let’s dive deeper into the reasons why developers choose dual licenses and the benefits of doing so:

Protecting Intellectual Property: Using both an open and commercial license gives vendors additional ownership over their products. By using the open source license, developers who wish to implement or modify the code must respect open source license compliance terms to ensure they abide by the code creator’s set of usage rules. The commercial license, on the other hand, allows the code originator to distribute the code as if it were proprietary, meaning that the buyers must purchase and implement the software without modifying the code.

Compatibility: Commercial licenses can help open source software become more compatible for businesses that prefer to use proprietary software—as businesses can purchase a commercial software package that comes complete with technical support, like that of a proprietary vendor. As well, the open source license allows the open source community to configure that particular code with new codes from different open source licenses. For example, the Mozilla Foundation operates on three different licenses to increase both its commercial and open source operability.

Dual licensing is a business-savvy route for many open source software developers. Dual licensing is equally beneficial to companies using open source in their projects.  For example, they can use a copyleft version of a dual-licensed open source package in their project, and once they are happy with the results, purchase the commercial version of the license, assuming one is available.  To better understand  open source licensing, you may want to visit our handy chart. If you’re interested in learning even more about open source licensing, click here

Disease Research: There’s An App for That

  
  
  

Recently, Apple revealed its ResearchKit for the iPhone, an open source project meant to help doctors aggregate patient data on common conditions such as breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s.  The new application enables everyday iPhone users to submit their health information, which the open source technology then aggregates in order to provide pertinent data for the use of healthcare researchers.  Open source software is using its dynamic and sizable data analytics capability to revolutionize information gathering in the healthcare field.

ResearchKit allows doctors to gather information such as height, weight, blood sugar measurements, and inhaler use. Through the application, the medical community can access larger pools of data than ever before. In the past, such information could only be gathered from medical institutions and it often lacked diversity which limited doctors’ medical insights.

The benefit of an open source tool is its ability to gather information from Apple users’ personal devices and translate and organize their data in order to provide more analytical power to healthcare workers. Furthermore, the open source standard which is the basis for this application has a dynamic and sizable data analytics capability. For instance, in the past data gathering and analysis have been time consuming aspects of health care research. With ResearchKit, patients and doctors alike can access data and tools almost instantly, all from a mobile device.

In this application, open source software has enabled people to freely modify and distribute software, which has lead to great strides in disease research—as big data tools have helped researchers obtain data faster and more efficiently. Open source tools, such as Apple’s ResearchKit, are enabling more urgent solutions to medical data analytics.

Now, researchers can start analyzing data faster as doctors no longer need to depend on obtaining this information from in person patient visits. Rather, chronic disease patients can upload data that can be immediately accessed by healthcare professionals. As such, data analytics and disease management alike are seeing real-time benefits from open source software.

The Open Source Community Support System

  
  
  

Whether you’re a novice Web developer or seasoned CIO, at some point you will require technical support with either a new IT development, task or project. What  type of support will you want? With open source software, the flexibility and choice is yours.

That’s because the open source community’s flexible software support resources - like commercial, paid and free options - tend to overshadow that of proprietary software vendors. Specifically, proprietary technical support is one-dimensional - a particular vendor can only provide guidance on a product-specific level, which engenders exorbitant consultation fees and limited customer support. In contrast, technical support from the open source community is fluid  - individuals can choose from support options that are backed by a readily available community of supporters.

Whether you need help choosing an open source license compliance vendor to audit your code or assistance with deploying commercial software, here are three different open source support options to consider:

  • Commercial support: This option is offered by the big names in the open source software community such as Linux. For instance, open source projects that use Linux software are granted commercial support as it comes along with the software as a package.
  • Paid support: Open source software is touted for its cost efficiency due to its free and open standards; therefore it may seem contradictory to have to then pay a consultant for technical support or ongoing maintenance post-deployment. But remember that the consultancy is backed by a large following of knowledgeable and experienced open source community members, and in the end it still proves more economical than proprietary software consultancy.
  • Free support:  A core competency of the open source community is that it preserves its “free” and “open” standards—that is, anything from support to code collaboration are available at all times This option is most beneficial to code creators and software developers who want to communicate via online forums, as the community is constantly accessible through online platforms—think GitHub or Sourceforge.

The open source community’s technical support methods tip the scale when weighing its benefits compared to proprietary software. What are your top technical support priorities?Tell us in the comments section below.

 

What Your CIO Needs to Know About Open Source

  
  
  

Today’s businesses are becoming increasingly familiar with the many benefits of open source software. In fact, 74 percent of IT professionals, in the U.S. alone, agree that the software offers better quality of continuity and control than that of proprietary. However, some CIOs are still skeptical about adopting open source software into their IT infrastructure as they’ve grown accustomed to their proprietary software vendors.

If you’ve been trying to make the case for open source software, but your CIO still isn’t convinced, strengthen your argument with this list of benefits:

  • Improved security measures: Open source code tends to be more transparent than proprietary in detecting security flaws; that is, issues can be found and fixed by in-house IT personnel or outsourced to a third party, such as an intellectual property software audit service. For instance, potential security problems are identified and solved more efficiently as there is no need to wait for a proprietary software company to notify your company about a software bug.
  • Compatibility: You can always find an open source software that best fits your product environment or IT infrastructures, unlike proprietary software, which is built to be compatible with specific environments or systems. In addition, proprietary software only offers company-specific features as a means of staying competitive with rival developers. With open source, an organization can configure and modify the software to meet pertinent business needs.
  • Cost savings: Overall, open source software costs less, as hidden fees associated with the vendor’s marketing and development strategies are less prevalent. As well, company’s can add features and scale to open source software without paying for an expensive upgrade or investing in an entirely new proprietary software solution. That is, open source software enables businesses to adjust their IT needs while experiencing more potential for ROI.

Now that you’ve got a powerful stance on the advantages of open source software, it’s time to learn about compliance and management. Inform your CIO about resources that help you implement an open source software adoption process so your business can reap the benefits of open sources software worry-free. 

GitHub: Now Supporting Open Source License Compliance

  
  
  

OctocatAsk any developer where to turn for access to the latest software code for open source projects, and you’ll likely be directed to GitHub—one of the largest providers of open source code online.

While GitHub has always been a great site for developers to come together, network and share code, up until a few years ago, the website had a problem. Though it was easy for developers to share code, finding the right software license to go along with it was much harder. The majority of downloads on GitHub, therefore, were taking place without the critical software license component.  

Why was this a problem? A software license is one of the most important aspects of any open source project. This document certifies a developer as the original creator and owner of the code, and it grants specific permissions as to how others can use it. There are many different software licenses solutions available, among them General Public License, or GNU, which allows use of the software on condition that the resulting code is also put back in the open source world with the same license (copyleft license). Other common licenses are the Lesser General Public License (LGPL) that allows usage of libraries without requiring divulgence of source code (weak copyleft) , or permissive licenses such as MIT and Apache.

While licenses are not required for open source projects, developers are strongly encouraged to use them as, without one, open source code that is placed into the public domain via a  service like GitHub is essentially unusable by anyone else.  

In July 2013, GitHub addressed this problem by releasing a tool called choosealicense.com that makes it simple for developers to pick a software license for their code, and to understand how their code can be used. And just recently, GitHub released new data which shows that the service is accomplishing its intended task of increasing open source license usage with developers. In fact, license usage has increased by at least 20 percent since the tool was released, indicating that a greater number of developers are now using it.

At Protecode we’re thrilled to see more developers using software licenses for their open source projects. Check out our resources on license compliance here, see a nifty infographics on the licenses and forges here or watch our webinar on composite projects with licensed and unlicensed code here.

Google Code Is Closing: Here’s Where to Migrate Your Projects

  
  
  

Since 2006, Google Code has provided the open source community with a project-hosting platform on its website for managing code, licensing options and community collaboration. Project-hosting websites such as this are important to the regulatory practice of open source software license management as the code repositories that reside there provide developers with licensing options for their codes as they are created.

However, due to the increasing abundance of spam and abuse emerging on Google’s hosting site, it has decided to end its code development support entirely come Jan. 25, 2016. In fact, the site ended its support of new project creation just recently, on March 12th.

Google Code’s shutdown means developers need to transfer their data off the hosting site to an alternate project management platform. This project migration shouldn’t be too difficult for developers, though, as Google is providing an exporting option to the well-known project website GitHub, while another popular project-hosting site, SourceForge, is offering an importing service for the seamless relocation of projects from Google Code.

GitHub and SourceForge are both prominent repository sites that offer comprehensive licensing options and guidance for their users. Here’s a bit of information about each:

  • GitHub: Choosing a license is an important step in open source software creation as it protects the creator’s innovation and preserves copyleft practices valued within the community. As such, GitHub created this simple to use web page to aid community members in choosing a license best suited to their needs. For example, if code developers are most concerned with sharing improvements, GitHub suggests the GPL (v2 or v3) license.
  • SourceForge: This code repository website offers licensing options similar to GitHub’s. When developers accept SourceForge’s terms of use, they are obligated to choose from a variety of OSI-approved licenses. Like GitHub, this website offers its users the freedom to choose the license that works best with their projects’ goals. In contrast, other hosting platforms—like the Apache Software Foundation (ASF)—provide developers with code-creating resources but they must operate on an Apache license. For code creators looking for more expansive options, a more liberal platform, like SourceForge, is the best choice.

If you’re a developer who needs to transfer your work-in-progress off of Google Code, try moving to GitHub or SourceForge. For more information, check out our infographic on open source forges by the numbers.

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