Interesting Open Source Books

A couple of interesting books on Open Source Software that I’ve read recently.

Karl Fogel’s Producing Open Source Software should be essential reading for anyone involved in an Open Source project (or planning to get involved in an Open Source project). Fogel has been an important contributer to a number of major Open Source projects and this book distills his experience into three hundred really useful pages. It covers everything from the technical infrastructure that a project needs to the politics of working with a team of volunteer developers. The whole text is also available online but you should really support the author by buying a copy.

Then there is Dan Woods and Gautam Guliani’s Open Source for the Enterprise. This book looks at ways that companies can make more use of Open Source Software. The main premise of the book is that the major difference between Open Source and proprietary software is in the level of “productionisation” (horrible word, but I can’t think of anything better). The authors think that most proprietary software is easier for people to use as it has better installation mechanisms and more detailed user documentation. Comparing successful end-user Open Source projects like Firefox and OpenOffice with their proprietary rivals Internet Explorer and Office, I don’t think that this is a completely convincing argument, but it’s certainly an interesting viewpoint and the book is well worth reading.


  1. Perhaps “usability” is the nub of their argument? (Not that I’ve seen it). I would agree that in the majority of cases commercial software has a better user experience than open source software, in terms of documentation and installation (although not necessarily stability). Indeed, I don’t use desktop linux just because I’ve found it such a pain in the neck to set up. (This was a long while ago, I admit!) Anyway, most of the apps I use don’t run on linux so it doesn’t matter.

  2. I don’t think that usability is the problem. If you look at Firefox and OpenOffice and compare them to IE and Office then I find the Open Source apps easier to use. Sure, they work differently to the Microsoft apps, but that doesn’t necessarily make them less usable – it’s just that you might not be used to their way of doing things.And desktop Linux has come on tremendously over the last few years. The Gnome project in particular has put a lot of effort into the usability of its desktop applications. I’ve been using Red Hat and Fedora for years now, but I’ve heard great things about Ubuntu recently and I’m seriously considering giving it a try. I’ve even heard Mac using talking about switching to Ubuntu as apparently everything “just works”.

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