It has been over 30 years since Richard Stallman [I was told by a woman recently in Barcelona that I sound like him when I speak Spanish] started a free Unix-like operating system called GNU. There have been many flavors of the operating system, different licensing and also many free applications. A spin off was Linux by Linus Torvalds started about 20 years ago. Generally, though, OpenSource is where people work together to develop software and offer it freely to anyone. The main restriction in licensing is that users of the software must share what they change and develop. Related is the Free Software Foundation (FSF).
As an engineering design company we at Haynes-Bent, Inc. need to be versatile. On a project last year, I had an engineering student employee come on board. Normally we had used Microsoft work stations but the current project actually needed some of the Computer Aided Design (CAD) software that could export file formats such as .stl for 3D designs. This required Linux so we looked at a user friendly version. The company has been using Linux since inception for servers and 3D Electromagnetic (EM) simulator platforms. But employees were more comfortable with Microsoft for E-Mail, internet etc. Looking at Ubuntu, we thought it was a very simple setup and all necessary software was there and ready to use. One of the software pieces necessary is a spreadsheet program. We chose LibreOffice having previously used the OpenOffice suites for years but was being phased out in favor of LibreOffice. The current project required some spreadsheet work and LibreOffice has the Calc program for that. Some solutions to linear equations was necessary and I had used the Solver application in Microsoft Office in the past but did not know if it was available in LibreOffice. As many times is the case, though, I was surprised by the availability of very similar applications and Calc had a solver that worked just fine.
For years Linux application groups have been competing with the major software providers to bring useful applications to users. There are some quirks to the software but generally they work well unless you desire some of the special features such as graphics or template libraries. One must be aware of security risks but that comes with all offered software. The difference with OpenSource versus other vendors is the world is available to scruitinize the code offered in repositories looking for vulnerabilities and loopholes. With bought software, the code is not usually released and thus one does not know what security issue (sometimes intentional) may be. In short, OpenSource software has and is becoming more of an alternative to what is available in the market.
Ronald Kollman – RF Hardware Designer and President of Haynes-Bent, Inc.
Haynes-Bent, Inc. – Radiofrequency (RF) hardware design, EMC/EMI analysis and 3D Electromagnetic simulation. We also provide Technology advise for investors and executives and software services from embedded to network servers.
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