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EOS Editorial —The Times They Are a Changing

EOS Editorial —The Times They Are a Changing

In the 1964 Bob Dylan song The Time's They are A-Changin' it says, "Come gather 'round people, wherever you roam and admit that the waters around you have grown, And accept it that soon you'll be drenched to the bone. If your time to you is worth savin' then you better start swimmin' Or you'll sink like a stone. For the times they are a-changin."

When the gifted songwriter first sang those words Linux didn't exist. For that matter neither did Linux kernel creator Linus Torvalds. However, now halfway through 2006 the Open Source ranks are growing by leaps and bounds, and if you don't consider this new breed of Open Source solutions in your IT decision-making process then you'll surely sink like a stone.

The year Dylan wrote his famous tune computers were rare. It was the year IBM launched the 360, which included free software with source code. With computers expensive and scarce it didn't matter about the software partly because the computer was the limiting factor. But it wouldn't stay that way for long. See, it was around then that Intel co-founder Gordon Moore suggested that integrated circuits would double in complexity every year though the price would stay the same. Today the One Laptop per Child (www.laptop.org) initiative is taking flight to produce and distribute low-cost laptops running Linux and Open Source applications for less than $100. Who would have thought this was possible 10 years ago when laptops were in the thousands of dollars.

As hardware became more widely available commercial software started to become an issue. In the 1970s there were concerns about whether or not software should be copyrightable since some software vendors started to press the issue. Volume II, Issue 1 of the Homebrew Computer Club Newsletter reprinted "An Open Letter to Hobbyists" letter dated February 3, 1976 from Bill Gates that said, "Hardware must be paid for, but software is something to share. Who cares if the people who worked on it get paid?" That may have been the beginning of the debate that grows every day especially since hardware prices have dropped like a stone yet the cost of the commercial operating system hadn't. The question is will Open Source help commoditize software and if so is that a good thing?

I'm writing this article with a free word processor (OpenOffice.org) that rivals those of the commercial ilk. I can run it on either my free Linux operating system or my commercial Windows operating system. I send copy to my editor via a free mail server (Sendmail) where it's probably laid out with a commercial editing package on a commercial operating system spawned from a FreeBSD licensed operating system on proprietary hardware (Apple). Which brings me to my point. The new world of computing has a lot to do with Open Source of which Linux is just one of many successful examples.

In 2003 when we started publishing LinuxWorld Magazine we highlighted Linux because it was noticeably the most successful Open Source project. However, what we would have cited as the most popular Open Source projects then are a bit different today. For example, the popular Firefox browser is a raging success used by Windows, Solaris, and Linux users alike. So is OpenOffice.org, with its 2.0 version, which has started to demonstrate real maturity as an office productivity suite. Robust J2EE applications are built using Eclipse and rich Web sites are deployed under free content management systems like Joomla!, Drupal, and WordPress.

So as the last chapter on LinuxWorld Magazine has been closed we start a new and equally exciting chapter of the Open Source story that not only influences the Linux user but those running on other platforms. As we move forward with Enterprise Open Source Magazine I hope to be able to highlight technologies and solutions like Linux but also other Open Source solutions that might appeal to enterprise users on other platforms. You see Linux was the first shot across the bow, and I believe that more and more users will continue to mandate open products.

In the coming months I expect to showcase an powerful and evolving cast of high-quality open software and success stories on how they're changing the IT landscape. As I close our inaugural editorial for Enterprise Open Source Magazine I have to wonder if the ending of Dylan's song will ring as true for Open Source:
The line it is drawn, The curse it is cast. The slow one now, Will later be fast...
The order is rapidly fadin'. And the first one now will later be last. For the times they are a-changin'.

More Stories By Mark R. Hinkle

Mark Hinkle is the Senior Director, Open Soure Solutions at Citrix. He also is along-time open source expert and advocate. He is a co-founder of both the Open Source Management Consortium and the Desktop Linux Consortium. He has served as Editor-in-Chief for both LinuxWorld Magazine and Enterprise Open Source Magazine. Hinkle is also the author of the book, "Windows to Linux Business Desktop Migration" (Thomson, 2006). His blog on open source, technology, and new media can be found at http://www.socializedsoftware.com.

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