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Open Source Programming

Open Source Programming Tools On the Rise 113

Posted by Soulskill
from the movin'-on-up dept.
snydeq writes "Peter Wayner takes a look at several open source development projects making waves in the enterprise. From Git to Hadoop to build management tools, 'even in the deepest corners of proprietary stacks, open source tools can be found, often dominating. The reason is clear: Open source licenses are designed to allow users to revise, fix, and extend their code. The barber or cop may not be familiar enough with code to contribute, but programmers sure know how to fiddle with their tools. The result is a fertile ecology of ideas and source code, fed by the enthusiasm of application developers who know how to "scratch an itch."'"
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Open Source Programming Tools On the Rise

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  • Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrEricSir (398214) on Monday April 18, 2011 @07:36PM (#35862012) Homepage

    Here is a very unscientific survey of worthwhile open source tools that have caught our eye.

    I guess CVS, Firefox, Linux, GNU Make, etc. didn't catch your eye years ago?

    • by headhot (137860)

      How about the ultimate in free tools, Python, Pearl, PHP.

      • by medcalf (68293)
        I think you mean Pithon, Perl, PHP.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        PHP? That piece of trash can die.

        • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

          by aztracker1 (702135)
          Agreed... I've always disliked it because most of the extensions are globally accessible, inconsistently named and implemented from each other, usually in favor of closer ties to underlying libraries over consistent conventions in the platform. People bitched about the MS-IE and Netscape API differences in the v4 days... imagine half of one and half of the other cut up haphazardly and thrown into one soup pot and distilled down, then half-baked with too much flower... that's PHP.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sarten-X (1102295)

      Years ago, they certainly would have been "making waves", but they aren't as impressive now. CVS is surpassed by Subversion and Git, with the latter mentioned in TFA. Firefox is rapidly becoming a bloated but unremarkable product. Linux isn't really a "programmer's tool", so doesn't blong on the list in the first place. GNU Make has certainly earned its place among the annals of history, but it's only had four minor releases in the past decade. These projects are important, but hardly eye-catching for an ar

      • by MrEricSir (398214)

        Thanks for repeating my point in different words!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        GNU Make has certainly earned its place among the annals of history, but it's only had four minor releases in the past decade.

        So?

        If there isn't any bugs that needs to be fixed and no extra features to add, why would you need a new release?

        Make 3.83 - Changelog:
        * Updated year in copyright string.
        * Updated version number.

        Is that what you want?

      • CVS is surpassed by Subversion and Git

        If by "surpassed", you mean "better", then sure. No doubt.

        Of course, there's no statistics, but I would expect CVS to still have a very strong (declining) showing, possibly still more than the other two combined.

        Basically, the problems with CVS are really for big projects. If there are lots of developers and/or lots of stuff is happening, lots of bufixes on branches, forks and so on.

        For small projects, almost any versioning system will do, CVS was there first and there'

        • by DdJ (10790)

          For small projects, almost any versioning system will do, CVS was there first and there's no really compelling reason to move...

          Actually, RCS was there before CVS (and even that wasn't the first, cf. "SCCS"), and for a lot of my own personal use, when nobody else is editing the files and I just need a revision history and protection against accidental edits, I still use it. It can even be awesome for managing config files (IMHO).

      • ....Linux isn't really a "programmer's tool", so doesn't blong on the list in the first place. ...

        Maybe not, but I find I'm much more productive under Linux than I was under CP/M or MSDOS...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 18, 2011 @07:38PM (#35862032)

    We use open source in business because it does the job and doesn't require a PO and all the hassle that goes along with that process.

  • by Chuck_McDevitt (665265) on Monday April 18, 2011 @07:39PM (#35862048) Homepage
    I'll bet that lots of enterprise use of Open Source tools is due to the price tag, not the ability to fiddle with the source code.
    • by clang_jangle (975789) on Monday April 18, 2011 @07:57PM (#35862170) Journal
      While that's almost certainly true, it really doesn't matter at all. Everyone benefits from wider deployment of FOSS, whether or not they're using it "for the right reasons".
    • by Anonymous Coward

      This.

      I have crap to do - a lot of open source stuff just works without tinkering and I don't have to contact an admin to get a license key for myself and every one of my testers and developers. Yes, you could point to my IT staff and say I should fix that so its easier for me to get pay for software, but that brings us back to my original point of I have crap to do...

    • by Jaime2 (824950) on Monday April 18, 2011 @08:09PM (#35862294)
      I'm not so sure.

      I work for a huge company. The corporate standard for software development is Java, so you'd think there would have a bunch of open source tools in the processes. Instead, they are heavily into the Rational tools suite and run apps on WebSphere. On the other hand, my division writes software on .Net, but we use SubVersion, NAnt, NUnit, and Wix. Our tool set is frowned upon precisely because it's free. The enterprise attitude seems to be "if it doesn't cost an-arm-and-a-leg and doesn't come with an 800 support number, it can't be any good".
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by QilessQi (2044624)
        Then your enterprise attitude is woefully wrong.
        • Agreed, however, that is the case for most environments... I wish MS had resisted the Alt.Net community a bit more. Not that I don't welcome MS being responsive to the developer community, I just find a lot of their actions had the effect of reducing independent progress, even when tied to their platform. I still don't have a server infrastructure for asp.net (mvc or not) for mono that's compelling enough to not just buy a web edition server license of Windows with IIS. Part of it is cost, I do know I'v
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Lots of Rational's tools are built on Eclipse and various projects from Eclipse, all of which are Open Source.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        You might be an outlier, but ask yourself this, if only because so few people do....

        If these solutions were still free, but came with the 800 support number, would they still frown on it? If the answer is "no", then consider that the free part might just be a side-effect of them expecting professional support resources for the development software they rely on. That's far more rational than these attitudes seems on the surface when you frame it as, "they hate it cuz it's free".
        • by Anonymous Coward

          The same people happily use non-free software for which there is no support number. They also use non-free software that is so crappy that their free counterpart would be less hassle even *without* a support number. Work with SourceSafe once and you know what I mean.

          On the other hand, they do not use these tools because they're non-free. They use it because "everybody uses them so they must be good", because they are extremely reluctant to change, and because when they change, they would flock with the next

      • by CalcuttaWala (765227) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @07:41AM (#35866216) Homepage
        The ability to buy a product through a purchase order and have access to customer support is sometimes very important to large corporations. I had once used a legitimately downloaded PGP encryption product as key component of a complex Cash Management application in a global multinational bank but the biggest challenge in getting it accepted as a part of the solution was the lack of a purchase order. I remember the IT Head of the bank almost pleading with me to get a commercial product but because PGP had already been integrated with the system, the difficulty of a change was immense. I believe that the bank finally got someone do download PGP and sell it to the bank for $10 through an invoice before the row was settled !!
      • by ELitwin (1631305)
        Do you have any job openings at your company?
        I'm feeling a bit too happy in general, and am looking to add some misery back to my life.
    • This. In all commercial software shops I've worked so far, price was always the primary reason to go with open-source tools and libraries. Mucking around with code was useful at moments, but compared to cost savings a distant second.

      • by sjames (1099)

        Price is generally the first factor to get Free software in the door. Some of the coders may be interested in the hackability, but that rarely sways the managers.

        Not having to do compliance auditing for the license is another big win. The tools are free to copy and use at will within the company. No need to worry about BSA paratroopers crashing through the skylight and demanding to see actual physical license certificates and such.

        Assured continuing availability is another big win. No vendor can force you t

    • I can deal with the dollar cost of proprietary tools, what I find harder to deal with is the administrative overhead of getting corporate approval for a license, periodic renewal or maintenance, licenses for my coworkers when they want to do something similar to me, and evaluating the tool vendor's commitment to maintaining the tool. All of that (except the commitment to maintenance issue) is absent in FOSS.

      It's nice to be able to "scratch an itch" and fix a bug in a week if it really needs fixing, instead

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Come for the price, stay for the quality.

    • by grcumb (781340)

      I'll bet that lots of enterprise use of Open Source tools is due to the price tag, not the ability to fiddle with the source code.

      That's fine as far as it goes, but one of the major arguments for choosing a Free tool chain is the ability of anyone at all to improve it, which means that improved quality can be had effectively for free.

      So you're essentially asking us to decide between 'less filling' and 'great taste'. It's a useless distinction, because the software wouldn't be free if it weren't open.

      The fact that the majority of people/companies can simply act as freeloaders is one of the magical outcomes of the gift economy on which

    • I'll bet that lots of enterprise use of Open Source tools is due to the price tag, not the ability to fiddle with the source code.

      Familiarity counts for a lot, too. When I was in college, the svn/make/gcc combination for C-based projects was very accessible. Microsoft recognizes this, and provides free developer tools for many Universities in the hope that their toolchains will become familiar standards. To a certain extent, that has worked.

    • I think that it depends on the enterprise.

      Last year I was doing Java CAPS work and you don't get much more enterprisey that that. Under the hood JCAPS uses lots of open source stuff,. For example, if I recall correctly it uses some of the Apache Commons libraries and it certainly uses stuff like Ant.

      However, the powers that be wouldn't let me use them, their logic being - if there's an issue in an Apache Commons lib then Sun (now Oracle of course) have the horse power to fix it but we don't. If we hav
    • by Migala77 (1179151)

      I'll bet that lots of enterprise use of Open Source tools is due to the price tag, not the ability to fiddle with the source code.

      If free-as-in-beer or free-as-in-speech were the issue, Open^H^H^H^HLibreOffice would be the corporate standard. Open source programming tools are simply among the best available. Right now, without any further need for fiddling. They became the best because the programmers developing them are the same as the programmers using them. They can scratch their own itch. Often only a (very) limited group of FOSS-users knows how to program, and how to 'scratch their itch' if there is something they feel needs impr

    • by knarf (34928)

      Even more important than the price tag is the fact that with free software you don't expose your company to the risk of license compliance audits by software vendors. You can skip the whole useless license bookkeeping you need when using proprietary software. You can just plunk a new machine on a desk, install the usual bunch of software and start using that machine for what you bought it for. This is freedom. This is free software. Freedom to use *your* computer at *your* terms.

  • Programming tools are one of the areas that hasn't gone to the cloud. And that open source tools are free as in money and are of good quality makes it an easy choice.

    • Programming tools are one of the areas that hasn't gone to the cloud.

      distcc [samba.org] and (sun) grid engine [sunsource.net] don't count? Both of them can be used for distributed compilation, etc.

    • Nothing has "gone to the cloud" .... most people run stuff on thier computer ... or on a local server, still ....

      • Really? Where do you think most people get their email clients from? Gmail, hotmail, yahoo, etc?

        • 44% use Outlook/ThunderBird/Etc other on their PC

          36% use Hotmail or Yahoo on line ....

          6% use a smartphone ....

          The Cloud is growing but not as fast as people think

          • So it's not growing as fast as people think?

            36% of the people are using cloud based services through Hotmail, Yahoo, GMail. Additionally, a fair amount of your 44% of "Outlook/Thunderbird/Etc" clients, are also likely using cloud based services. For example, the email on the machine I'm sitting on is "Outlook", but the server it's connecting to is in the cloud.

            36%+a portion of 44% isn't "Nothing". It's quickly approaching a majority.

  • but programmers sure know how to fiddle with their tools. The result is a fertile ecology of ideas and source code, fed by the enthusiasm of application developers who know how to "scratch an itch."'"

    The quotes at the end just make it sound even more like it's a euphemism

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Whether it be the annual Summer of Code, Chrome, adWhirl server, or practically any portion of Android (who for its apps, Google recommends using Eclipse mentioned in the article), Google is all over open source. Factor in previous contributions from IBM, Sun and others, alot of corporations now see that open source is a viable option since big names are backing these projects.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "...programmers sure know how to fiddle with their tools."

    [chuckle]

    • by Eccles (932)

      Given the typical programmer's social skills, it's due to lots of practice. /programmer :-(

  • We're seeing some cool new programming environments show up too.
    I've always preferred Visual Studio and I never did like Code::Blocks or DevC++ but I found CodeLite [codelite.org] relatively recently and I love it!
    I find Visual Studio's price tag combined with the gradually improving open source tools make it difficult to stick with VS but maybe that's just me.
    • I have been pretty happy with SharpDevelop for C# development.
    • by mirix (1649853)

      Qt creator looked pretty snazz last time I played with it. Cross platform is a nice bonus too...

      Qt [nokia.com]

    • I find the fact that VS crashes about 3 times a day for more annoying. And the fact that upgrading VS does not change the crashing behaviour one bit. For other-than-.NET work I use PSPad, and I did not find a good alternative on Linux (other than PSPad on Wine).
  • by Quantum_Infinity (2038086) on Monday April 18, 2011 @08:30PM (#35862502)
    I highly doubt that open source tools are used because they allow themselves to be modified. What percentage of people actually look into the code and modify them? The main reason is that most open source tools are free and have absolutely zero delay in being available. Download, install and code away! In most cases, you don't even have to install, just unzip and you are good to go.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I highly doubt that open source tools are used because they allow themselves to be modified. What percentage of people actually look into the code and modify them? The main reason is that most open source tools are free and have absolutely zero delay in being available. Download, install and code away! In most cases, you don't even have to install, just unzip and you are good to go.

      Exactly. Commercial software has a price, which usually means begging up the chain long past the point where the software was needed. As a developer, I need it here and now. With open-source tools, my only impediment to productivity should be websense.

    • by sakti (16411)

      Your doubts are misplaced. The #1 reason is access to source code. Not so much to modify or fix bugs, though I've done both at time, but for documentation. The documentation written as such universally sucks and never really matches up with what the software actually does. The only real documentation is the software itself. If you don't have access to the source so you can see what the hell is going on you don't have usable documentation and are just guessing.

      • by cobrausn (1915176)

        The #1 reason is access to source code.

        [Citation Needed]

        I only say this because of all the programmers I know who use FOSS (which is quite a few), only one has ever regularly peruses the source code. The rest of us just use the provided documentation. I think maybe once we crawled through code to find a bug, only to find out it was a bug in our code anyway. The biggest motivating factor for us using FOSS in our toolchain is that a) it's free, and b) GPL doesn't touch the final product, just the tools. Having access to the source code is mor

    • by williamhb (758070)

      I highly doubt that open source tools are used because they allow themselves to be modified. What percentage of people actually look into the code and modify them?

      It doesn't really matter what the percentage is, because there's a strong positive reinforcement loop. If an open source programming tool has a wide audience, then it has a wide audience of programmers -- just what it wants to recruit to improve the codebase! That makes it a little different than, say, an open source spreadsheet attracting a million more accountants. For programming tools there really is a much stronger positive feedback loop between popularity and rate of development.

    • Not only do I look into the source code of the build & deployment tools, but I also look into the source code of the standard libraries, and even the OS itself... but then again, I can't just blame my bugs on "the crappy MS Windows platform" -- my customer's know better.
  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Monday April 18, 2011 @08:46PM (#35862678)

    What the world would be like without onerous patent systems.

    • Not for everything. Think, if a bunch of organisations use Eclipse IDE, they all will happily contribute to the project either through code or through cash. Open source is good for software like this. On the other hand, it's not good for a competitive market like an MMO or RPG game. You could, in theory, argue that open source game engines are viable.
      • Open source is good for software like this. On the other hand, it's not good for a competitive market like an MMO or RPG game. You could, in theory, argue that open source game engines are viable.

        Yep, the game engine, and the physics engine, and the network platform, and the rendering API, and the anti-cheat code, and the installer -- Know what? It takes "a bunch of organizations" to create closed source MMOs and RPGs, or any game that's sufficiently complex anyway. Why re-invent the wheel when I can license Bink Video, Havoc, Unreal or ID-Tech, for much less and have a fully functional game to market in a fraction of the time?

        Now, what if all that bad-ass tech was free-libre-open source? The

        • That was indeed my point. I was merely not aware of successful open source game engines.
        • Case & Point: I purchased

          "Case & point"? Are you planning on casing the joint, then pointing at it?

          Try "case in point [thefreedictionary.com]". Because using an idiom twice, with it incorrect both times, really ruins any point that you hoped to make.
  • Open source is largely about scratching your own itch. One would only expect that open source programming tools would be of much higher quality then open source in other categories.

    I am but a young'in(~30 sun cycles) but I can't remember a time when commercial compilers and tools were better then open source ones.. Of course, I do have a Beardy Unix Guy, so my opinions are widely different from some MCSE I guess.

    • I am but a young'in(~30 sun cycles) but I can't remember a time when commercial compilers and tools were better then open source ones.

      Depends on what functionality you need from your compiler. Both Microsoft and Intel provide C++ compilers that perform link-time optimization. GCC only supports link-time optimization on C code. This can be a pretty big deal for large OO systems, as the practice of writing many small member functions frequently leads to excessive code fragmentation.

    • Yes, it's a really recent development. All of the major Unix vendors would supply their own compiler and build tools, tuned for the platform. Graphical IDE's were pretty much a Macintosh thing, and stone-axe primitive compared to the laser scalpels out there today - but lightyears better than the hex code editors and assemblers used on other personal computer platforms.

      The explosion of high quality dev tools in the past 10 years is unreal... from Eclipse to X-Code, from GIT to Firebug, it's a developer's wo

  • Programmers use open source tools because they're good and they're free, no one uses work time to modify programming tools because it's not cost effective or sane.

    However, unlike a lot of open source software, development tools are actually used by their developers so they're pretty much always good. They fit into a programmers workflow, and they're free. Eclipse may be a memory hungry pig, but Visual Studio tends to copy from it rather than the other way around.

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Eclipse may be a memory hungry pig, but a lot of programmers use Emacs as their dev environment. Besides the fact that you can tweak Emacs to do absolutely anything, you have great debugger and compiler integration right out of the box, and it also has a pretty good text editor.

    • by polymeris (902231)

      Programmers use open source tools because they're good and they're free, no one uses work time to modify programming tools because it's not cost effective or sane.

      The reason OSS programming tools are good is because some programmers *do* modify them. Compare to other software "niches": There isn't any, as far as I know, where OSS so clearly beats proprietary software. In some OSS is catching up, though.

      • I don't know that that is even so clearly true.. I can start a new web project in VS and have it running locally in under a minute... this is simply not true of eclipse and any web dev. Same goes for zipping up the source tree, having a friend unzip, and opening the project/solution file... in Eclipse you generally have to setup/change your workspace to load a new project... revising your ant scripts can be a pain imho as well. There are some niceties in Eclipse over VS, but hardly a clear win.
        • I have yet to find any OSS IDE that beats VS, including Eclipse. Eclipse is much much slower than VS, doesn't have nearly all the same capability, and doesn't look nearly as good.

          • by Eskarel (565631)

            There's a few things in eclipse which VS still can't touch. Mylin for instance is pretty incredible. There's also an awful lot of things in VS which should be included by default but which are instead left to third parties(Resharper for instance is lovely but shouldn't exist). Eclipse has also come up with a few features which VS has then copied.

            VS is definitely more polished, and there's some things that particularly the higher level subscriptions can do which are pretty fantastic(intellitrace for instance

      • by Eskarel (565631)

        I don't think that very many of their users actually modify open source programming tools, the vast majority of users of all open source tools don't actually modify them and programmers aren't all that different.

        What is however true is that the people who do modify them, tend to also use them. Eclipse is written in Eclipse, the people who make subversion store their source code in it, etc. Annoying glitches and blatantly missing features get ironed out because they directly affect the people who write the s

  • Nerds using nerdy tools- whats so surprising about that? If more grannys are drawn to Open Source, that would be news!
  • Craft Guild (Score:3, Insightful)

    by oldhack (1037484) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @03:37AM (#35865286)

    Most of us pay our bills building god-awful websites and writing financial/accounting stuff. It is, intellectually, drudgery. Those of us in better situations, and others who manage to find energy, write tools to make the drudgery bit more palatable.

    It's a labor of love.

    Or sadism in Larry Wall's case.

  • by maxm (20632) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @06:30AM (#35865962) Homepage

    These days you don't have to choose. I run Win 7 on my machine and a virtualbox Ubuntu on that. So I develop in Ubuntu, and any kind of multimedia stuff is handled in Windows.

    The great thing about development on Unix is that it is all just there. apt-get install xxx and you are ready to go. Versions are automatically upgraded. If you prefer working in a windows environment for some part of your project, you can easily do it by sharing drives and networking.

  • by Aceticon (140883) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @07:48AM (#35866282)

    FOSS tools are widelly use in enterprises because of three reasons:

    1. They're free: no need to justify a budget for them and the cost of failure (i.e. if it doesn't work for the company's needs) is low (all you loose is time)
    2. They're used in many places: so your new developers often already know the tools in question because they used them somewhere else. New developers are much less likelly to be familiar with specific third party tools since they probably haven't used them in a previous job or at home.
    3. Trying them out is easy: it's usually just a question of downloading them, installing them and trying them. FOSS tools usually come with simple and/or well known licenses (GNU, Apache) which probably have already been checked by the company's legal team for another tool. Compare this with tools from 3rd party vendors which often require getting in contact with the vendor in question to arrange a trial (if at all possible) and include a proprietary license, different from everybody else's.
  • programmers sure know how to fiddle with their tools.

    There's an understatement.

FORTRAN is a good example of a language which is easier to parse using ad hoc techniques. -- D. Gries [What's good about it? Ed.]

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