J. R. Swab

The Beauty Of Open Source

Categories: [Technology]
Tags: [open-source], [linux], [software]

What is Open Source?

Open Source is software whose code is not locked down. Anyone can look at the code, even you. This allows for many benefits over the proprietary alternatives. One such benefit is more eyes equal more chances of finding issues in the code. Issues that may lead to data breaches or loss of data from a crash. This was not always possible and did not exist until the 1990's when the internet started taking off.

Eric S. Raymond has a great quote for this in his book, 'The Cathedral & The Bazaar':

"Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow."

This means that what may take me three months to figure out may only take another person one day. This is because they may have already spent the three months fixing something similar in another program and can easily implement the fix I need. With proprietary programs the company (the cathedral in Eric's book) has to hire programmers to do the job. There is no way for the company know for sure if hiring ten people will get the job done ten times faster or take ten times longer. It often takes ten times longer.

"What one programmer can do in one month, two programmers can do in two months." - Fred Brooks

A secondary perk for me is that most of the time these open source programs will cost you no money to download and us. The programmers are often doing this in their free time with help of the hacker community (hackers don't break into computers crackers do; the media got it wrong). Since the people working on the program don't need it to support themselves they don't charge a fee for you to use what the created. Often they started making the program because it filled a need they had and it ended up filling the needs of many more people.

“Every good work of software starts by scratching a developer’s personal itch.” - Eric Raymond

One more thing before getting into the actual programs. As you spend time in the open source world, you will hear 'Free and Open Source'. The word 'free' here is not referring to the price you are paying but 'free' as in freedom. FOSS as it's often acronym'd, is an open source program where the programmer agrees to a set of standards as outlined by the GNU Public License. This includes many things but the main point I want to state here is that with FOSS programs you won't have to worry about data collection, spying, and other things of the sort.

Granted, most open source programs operate this way even if they don't call themselves FOSS. This is because many of the people working one open source programs don't want to spying in their apps and neither to do their users. Being open source anyone can see the code and if it is collecting data or spying on you.

Best Open-Source Programs

Let's list out programs that do what other, paid, programs do. All the ones I will talk about are free to use so if you can't afford the proprietary version, or don't want to pay for the next update, check out the ones here. They are just as good as anything you could pay for and every update that gets released is free (at least at the time of writing this).


VLC is:

a cross-platform multimedia player and framework that plays most multimedia files as well as DVDs, Audio CDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols.

I have used VLC even before I was a pure Linux user. It's the best program to play videos or stream online content. The streaming this does is not like OBS (which is also open source) where you stream your content but is where you stream other people's content to your machine. It's as simple as copy and pasting a YouTube link.

VLC can be used on Linux, Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS.


GIMP has been my go to photo editor for many years. Again even back before I used Linux. There is not cost to download this program and it can now do everything Photoshop does! There is a learning curve and if you already know Photoshop you will have to get familiar with some different terminology. However, there is a skin for GIMP that makes it look just like Photoshop so you don't have to relearn every icon.

GIMP can run on Linux, Windows, and MacOS


If you make videos, you should check out kdenlive. It's not as polished as some of the pay for proprietary stuff but I find it gets the job done. Just like GIMP there is a learning curve and you will have to learn some new terminology if you are moving from a closed source program.

Kdenlive can do everything I have ever needed to do. Things such as overlays, green screen removal, audio editing and a bunch of other stuff. As I said, it's not as good as the more popular software out there but it gets better with every update. It's the only video editor I use at this point.

WPS Office & Libre Office

Both are great alternatives to Microsoft Office. They both allow you to edit and save files in docx format or any other MS Office file type. I have used both and have them both installed. If you want a more modern feel to your office suite, go with WPS. They have done a great job keeping it looking like the more modern versions of Microsoft Office.

If you are more concerned about having a solid office suite that has been around for a while Libre Office is your go to. Libre is not as modern looking, having a style closer to that of older Microsoft Office suites but does everything so well you'll never look back.