Thank you for participating in the Novena Hacker Laptop contest. We asked you why you love open source and you answered by starting a great discussion.
Picking a winner was not easy and several responses would have been worthy of winning.
Here are some of the responses we considered:
I love open source because as its name implies open, completely transparent. Don't like a feature in the code or on a project? Well you can remove that feature because its all open source. Is there a bug in the code? You can fix it yourself or someone in the open source community can help. We as makers all love to help out in the best way we know is possible. That's the beauty of open source. Is there a feature or part you want to add to your project or someone project that you are going to build? Well there is a whole open source community to help guide you through the process of adding it, or if you want to do it yourself you can because the hardware is open source. For instance if you wanted to add say a Bluetooth card to this laptop it can easily be done due to the fact that its all open source hardware. Most of all what I love of about open source: hardware, firmware and software; Is the fact that you can modify it in anyway you seem fit as long as you give attributions to the original creator of the project if you decide to post your design and build on instructables, element14 or GitHub. That ladies and gentlemen is what I love most about open source the fact that its open to modifications, free to use the designs like PCBs and its complete transparency in the way of its code. You can literally see the code and figure out exactly what its doing either by read comment notations or by looking at the code itself.
I literally use open-source software everyday. From operating systems to compilers and libraries to hardware cores and text editors, open source has allowed me to do so much without the hurdles imposed by closed source software. I started experimenting with Linux in the late 1990s and quickly learned there was great potential in sharing and collaborating around open-source software and open-source hardware projects.
Hmmm, Why do i love open-source. The main reason is just for the fact the products are geared to by useful to the masses. So that typically means it does 98% of what i want it to do. So having open-source allows my to get that 100% usefulness. I've been part of the RepRap community for a while now and its a great example of how open source can benefit the masses. FDM/FFF printers have progressed tremendously over the years and a huge reason is for the developments coming from that community. Great businesses have also evolved from the community such as Lulzbot https://www.lulzbot.com/ which is one of the premiere 3d printer manufacturers while staying true the the open-source community it came from.
Open Source allows for collaboration in ways that proprietary hardware and software do not. Putting the information in the public domain allows for hackers to manipulate the code or hardware in such a way that suits there needs perfectly, and let them publish this information back into the public domain, where another person can add, take away, or tweak any part of it to suit their personal needs. This collaboration and fluidity allows for open source products to evolve much faster, better suiting consumers, and making a much happier environment all around. There is also a huge community around open source hardware and software, allowing for beginners to pierce into unfamiliar territory with a much smaller learning curve than diving head first into a companies software that you can not see or closed source hardware. I am a very big supporter of projects like Arduino and Raspberry Pi that serve this educational purpose. I am an aspiring engineer, and I love to learn and get my hands dirty. A supportive community with many people contributing really helps me when I reach a stumbling block or come to realize I have hit a wall. I find that open source is a product for the people by the people, ever changing and evolving to suit the needs of the consumers who are actively using it. This is why I love open source.
I live and breathe Open Source!
When I first started, code was (mostly) open and free - the hardware manufacturers were making their money on their hardware sales. My first general purpose computer I built by hand (from a kit) and programmed on a hex keypad in machine code (Z80). Later I remember copying assembly language code snippets, macros, and indeed complete programs, from hard copy listings - from books, magazines, newsletters, and other 'coders'. We shared.
Then came the 'dark ages' where software became proprietary - mostly propagated by Mr. Gates. It took the brilliance of Mr. Torvalds, supported by the many GNU programmers who built the tools necessary to make his linux kernel useful, to bring us back to the light.
I now, since 2005, exclusively use linux on all my 'general purpose' computer hardware - from servers to desktops to laptops, and even my phone! - although I started with linux much earlier, even building a custom linux kernel for a Compaq Proliant 4500 server (abeast!!), booting off the smart array controller (which Compaq said was not possible!) in 1998.
Hardware is now following software's lead - not only circuits, but even freely reproducible PCB designs and full 'products'
Open Source is the future - and I'm glad to be a part of it
I know people who come up ideas all the time that with a bit of effort could become patentable. Some people are excellent at this.
Publishing it prevents others from patenting it, thus freeing everyone to use software and hardware building blocks that might otherwise be hoarded but never patented, or patented to the detriment of the public.
I'm not saying nothing should be patented, but things like the spring-back when scrolling with a touch-screen were patented to the detriment of the majority of the public since perhaps more than 50% of the world do not use Apple products and have no desire to do so (this is just an example).
Most importantly, Open source levels the playing field. We do not need to have vast resources as individuals to compete with businesses. And I agree with mconners completely it is really great to see businesses contributing to open source too, not just tweaks here and there but contributing entire projects such as OpenCV and OpenH264.
The sharing culture has always been present in the engineering world particularly with electronics since many consumer products shipped with a schematic taped to the inside of the enclosure.(Admittedly governments were needed to force some manufacturers to license their designs for semiconductors, which then sped up progress in the electronics world for everyone). We then saw the same thing with software, and APIs. We have the EU to thank for the Software Directive, although it was subsequently repealed and replaced a few years back with something less fair (just an opinion). So more work is always needed, but at least the culture and engineering spirit and open source legends still exist that will always fight for more openness. So Open source is important but so is the publishing of information to allow interoperability.
But there are other (e.g. non-electronics/software) disciplines that refuse to share as much knowledge, stating that their designs are a big investment with many man-years of effort that must be protected. It might be true in some instances, but probably a lot of businesses in such disciplines and the institutes that work to protect their members are working against the public.