Do you use open source software/hardware?

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  • Do you use open source software/hardware?
  • spicer

    I’m looking into how open source hardware / software may effect product design and development in the home in the coming future (for a university topic), but for some quick research thought it would be interesting to see what some of you may have used it for in general, be it at home or work.

    I myself have only really used Blender, GIMP, open office etc and arduino (created an automatic rear derailleur shifting system and a face tracking webcam with arduino), and have so far spoken to a graphic designer, architect and automotive test engineer who have used an array of OS programs such as CAD plug-ins and automotive simulations. Any insight into what you have/could use it for, or what you have seen it used for in industry could be very helpful, or if you have an opinion on the subject.




    Open source software is ubiquitous for web applications. A huge number of web servers use Linux and Apache, and PHP and Java are heavily used. Java is used throughout the financial services industry, for example.
    And of course the most common phone operating system in the world, Android, is largely open source.

    Premier Icon BaronVonP7

    Stuff I use all the time and in my last place pretty much everyone used:
    Shrewsoft VPN Client
    Thunderbird Portable

    Limited use:
    Pentaho BI suite – the Kettle/Pentaho Data Integration ETL tool seems (on limited use) very good – some how less “painful” than SSIS for small projects but still very powerful.

    One of the attractions of open source is that it’s more transparent (which is a double edged sword).

    I think if you approach “open source” options with the mindset of long term “permanence” and “maintenance” you might be frustrated and disappointed with the offerings and their “longevity”.

    If, perhaps, you’re more zeitgeist and use the tool to do the job, understand the environment from which it comes and which it exists (and the opportunities for collaborating in the support and development), then open source stuff can be a real winner.


    Very vague question, as above you could ask “do you know you use open source…”

    A few very, very common bits of open source most people will use – e.g. linux kernel (android phones), webkit (basis of nearly every modern desktop/mobile browser), a lot of web stuff etc…. Many iOS and android apps also contain open source. Check the “licenses” or “about”/help section of nearly any modern application and you’ll find the licenses of open source that’s been included.

    I use a lot of open source, from common consumer stuff like the above, to desktop apps like you list, through to libraries and compilers to do my job, and code published under a permissive license to either study or re-use.

    As well as applications, libraries and tools I also see open source OS used widely.

    Seriously, it’d be harder to find software I use that’s entirely proprietary.

    A few examples?

    In chrome? go to chrome://credits/
    In safari? Help->acknowledgements
    In firefox? All open – about:license

    A big issue is not all open source is equal. Just cos I can see the code doesn’t mean I can use it. It may be GPL (and I don’t want to release my code), or have no explicit license (and therefore copyright, like any other text, “look but don’t touch” effectively) etc.


    Many thanks for the replies guys, useful content as always 🙂

    I’m interested in the desktop apps as you have said IA, in relation to how people may start using them to develop their own physical products in the household (eg creating a CAD design in Blender, and making the physical model using a 3d printer from the RepRap project) rather than software based products such as web applications, or those Baron has suggested- although I will be including limited content on creating the applications themselves (e.g. using the popular app “prototyping on paper”) and modifying them (e.g. android ROM’s).
    A big part of what I’m interested in is the shift in manufacture from factories to the household (however large or small that may become).
    I won’t be going too deep into the software side of things, and will be focusing mainly on open source hardware and the applications commonly used in conjunction with it (rasperry pi, arduino, open source 3d printing etc).


    OK, another question then, where do you draw the line between hardware and software?

    E.g. the LEON cpu cores ( ) – opensource code describing hardware product. These are widely used in the space industry, often commercially licensed implementations however, but the core is open….blurry lines.


    I tried to initiate open source engagement at work. The resistance was immense with no justification. I pointed out we use things like apache right across the board but it made no difference. Open source is a dirty phrase in large enterprises. Very odd.

    Premier Icon mikewsmith

    Exactly what samuri said in previous experiences with people equating Open Source to bedroom level development and COMMUNISTS WHO EAT BABIES. (One supplier who had a particular dislike didn’t see the irony that their website was written in and hosted with Open Source software)

    Personally in the small IT(type) consultant space we can’t buy every product to work with every situation so I use Open Source stuff loads to handle a huge variety of files from different people (3d stuff being the main one)

    At an enterprise level it comes across that the right solution is the key, presenting a piece of software as Open Source & Cheap/Free isn’t worth much as licensing costs can soon be dwarfed by implementation and support. There are some open scheduling tools about that we looked at, next to them were some of the big guys in the industry using them and charging handsomely for their expertise in set up and analysis.


    I’m using Linux to write this at home (Debian on Linux). At work we have lots of Linux servers and a smattering of Linux desktop machines. Some of these run open source code (Gerrit, Opengrok, Jenkins); others are sat in build farms running gcc & friends all day. There’s also lots of proprietary software around.

    I used to have a work-supplied laptop that ran Linux which I used for development, which was great, but I gave up when I became a manager as it was just too hard. If there was an email client that could understand calendars and delete emails,as well as Outlook, I think I could live my life with almost entirely open source software. But it’s not straightforward or even possible for everything.


    Open source is a dirty phrase in large enterprises.

    Not all. We are allowed to use OSS but do have to be very careful (for licence purposes) about what we can use.

    Premier Icon andytherocketeer

    And your TV? Have a nose around the settings menu. Probably find a GPL text in there too, cos the TV probably runs Linux kernel of some kind.

    Your internet router. Probably the same.

    As for space industry? Yep we use Leon processors on board a lot these days. Yep, quite a bit of the ground infrastructure is Linux based too. Simulators, control systems, data processing,… (as well as closed systems… VMS, Sun/Oracle, etc., even a hint of Windows too)

    MySQL, could go on.

    99% of what I do at home is Linux and all the open source that goes with it.

    Got Kubuntu on the netbook

    Open Office on the spare PC

    Oracle’s JDK, Dr Java, Eclipse etc


    I use a massive range, and this will be by no means a comprehensive list.
    – Ubuntu Server Edition
    – Python
    – GitLab & GitLab CI
    – Vagrant
    – SequelPro
    – OpenOffice (can’t wait to bin this one after uni)
    – Jekyll
    – A range of Alfred workflows
    – Nginx w/ uwsgi

    That vast majority of what has already been listed too. However, the most of the stuff above probably makes up the majority of my daily workflow.


    Have you looked at any of the Hackspace setups? They would strike me as the halfway house between ‘man in a shed’ and business. That’s where you find the geeks pushing the limits of what can be done with your own (shared) resources. I know my local hack group have a 3d printer and other computer-controlled equipment and they run pretty much everything open source.


    Not all. We are allowed to use OSS but do have to be very careful (for licence purposes) about what we can use.

    The key I think is how it is marketed. As someone pointed out above, lots of enterprises use open source software, they just don’t know it a lot of the time.

    A great example for us was our old Bluecoat web proxies. Cost, I dunno, about quarter of a million to implement quite some time now. First time I saw some raw error logs coming out of one of them I recognised it immediately as Squid proxy format.

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