Open source is not always the answer

I’ve been a huge fan of open source software for years and have contributed back to a few projects including the Palm OS Emulator and pilot-link. I’ve used a number of open source projects in my own applications and, of course, follow the license for attribution (I don’t touch GPL code). Years ago when I was a lot greener, I used open source thinking that it must be perfect and treated the code at black boxes. This bit me on at least one project where we had to fix the code for years due to assumptions by the developer.

Now that I have more years under my belt and have done some of my own open source, I take a different view of open source. When I incorporate open source into my projects (with a few exceptions such as Sparkle that has been thoroughly tested), I closely examine the code and make sure I understand it. This takes time, but makes it less likely that I’ll get bitten. I’ve seen a number of projects where developers find open source, shove it in an app, and call it a day without understanding what it does. I found one piece of code that completely went against what Apple has said to do in determining if a feature exists on a device; in another application, I found extremely complex networking code that may have been unnecessary (networking code is hard and the more complex it is, the harder it is to debug).

The main thing to realize with open source is that it was written by humans that can make mistakes and do! I have a large collection of open source code on my machine for reference (someday I’ll catalog all that I’ve found) and use it to save time. I’m not saying that developers should reinvent the wheel for every piece of code, but they should be cautious when shoving code in their applications.

2 Replies to “Open source is not always the answer”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.