Better Living Through Open Source: The Directory - InformationWeek

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12/28/2007
12:37 PM
Serdar Yegulalp
Serdar Yegulalp
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Better Living Through Open Source: The Directory

A common question I hear when people want to make the jump to open source software as a standard -- either to step away from Microsoft or from proprietary software as a whole -- is this: "OK, what do I use now?"  Sites like Open Source Living were built to answer that question.

A common question I hear when people want to make the jump to open source software as a standard -- either to step away from Microsoft or from proprietary software as a whole -- is this: "OK, what do I use now?"  Sites like Open Source Living were built to answer that question.

OSL is a recently established directory of open source software -- stuff you can use without having to pay for it and without worrying about proprietary software issues.  Most of the criteria for inclusion in the OSL revolve around the nature of the licensing for the product -- it has to be freely redistributable, not discriminatory in its licensing, with source code available, and so on.

To that end, the programs already listed in the OSL are something of a "who's who" of open source success stories: Firefox, OpenOffice, 7-Zip, and so on.  A fair number of Mac-specific open source programs are also featured: Camino, Vienna, and NeoOffice.  The layout and design of the site is friendly and clean; it doesn't look like something that was thrown together in an afternoon. 

The OSL was originally derived to list free programs (regardless of their source or licensing provisions), and so there are still a few programs listed in the OSL catalog that are free without being open source (like Irfanview).  Over time, though, they will be dropped in favor of applications that are entirely open -- and since I'm an Irfanview user I'm curious to see what could eventually replace it.

I like resources like this for two reasons.  One, even someone like me can remain unaware for a long time of a well-developed and highly useful open source project, and it's a pleasure to stumble across such a thing in a forum where other people already have vetted it for quality.  A listed project that I'm now curious about, Haiku, picks up where BeOS left off, and if done right could be a serious desktop contender.  That's a long way off and won't come without major hurdles, but my attention has definitely been captured.

Two, it's a way for newcomers to open source -- people who simply don't know what's out there -- to get introduced to the available applications without having to dig through an installation repository or just stumble around.  They can find out relatively quickly what's worthwhile, what other people are using and benefiting from, and what applications cover what sort of duties (like the difference between OpenOffice or Scribus).  Perhaps in the future we'll see features like detailed community feedback or comments on each entry, but for now the forums on the site are handling that job.

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