[plug] explanation of free software, OOo in particular

Peter Wright pete at flooble.net
Thu Dec 27 16:03:57 WST 2007

On 27/12 14:30:28, Gregory Orange wrote:
[ snip ]
> He's asking questions about free software, freeware, open source
> software, "Who Writes this Open Office?", etc - all quite valid
> questions which I can answer usefully, but not succinctly. Can
> anyone point me in the direction of a nicely written article or page
> on the topic?

Actually, OpenOffice is probably a bit of a special case - it may be
misleading to represent it as a *typical* example of open-source
software (whatever "typical" might mean in this context :)).

It might be worthwhile showing him both OO and KOffice (and perhaps
the quasi-"Gnome Office" of Abiword/Gnumeric/Evolution), for
example, and discussing the differences in their histories.

You could explain how one (OO) was originally developed by a
commercial closed-source German company (StarDivision) which was then
bought out by Sun, who thought it'd be most useful as a thorn in the
side of Microsoft, so they tried to sprinkle the magic open-source
pixie dust on it (which didn't work quite as well as they'd hoped),
and Sun is still (AFAIK) funding most core development, though I think
there is now a fair amount of volunteer work on the non-core stuff.

...And then compare it with KOffice, developed by a fairly small team
of volunteers specifically to work within KDE, probably a *much*
smaller codebase, almost certainly fewer features, not as
cross-platform (though that may change with KDE4) but probably a much
more coherent and maintainable product.

Something like that may help to convey the idea that there can be
_very_ different reasons and motivations behind different pieces of
open-source software. I think it'd pretty clear even to most end-users
that OpenOffice is more heavyweight (in both good and bad ways) and
has more commercial polish than KOffice, while KOffice (especially
running within KDE) feels more lightweight and "native" to the desktop

Hope that helps a bit, or at least opens up another way of thinking
about the topic :).


PS. You could also compare Firefox with Konqueror in a very similar
way - one derived from an open-sourced commercial product, the other
built as open-source from scratch (and later used as the basis for a
closed-source commercial browser, Safari).
independent consultant, n. Someone whose income is derived from
multiple sources, not just one. Often derided by people with "real
jobs" until those same people are invited into their manager's office
shortly before their fiftieth birthday. See 'self employed'.
		-- The Devil's IT Dictionary

More information about the plug mailing list