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Wheeler: Process Released for Evaluating Open Source Software/Free Software

Sep 10, 2003, 10:00 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by David A. Wheeler)

[ Thanks to David A. Wheeler for this link. ]

"Open Source Software / Free Software (OSS/FS) has risen to great prominence. Briefly, OSS/FS programs are programs whose licenses give users the freedom to run the program for any purpose, to study and modify the program, and to redistribute copies of either the original or modified program (without having to pay royalties to previous developers). Many quantitative studies have shown that, in many cases, using OSS/FS programs is a reasonable or even superior approach compared to their proprietary competition.

"This paper describes how to evaluate programs, including OSS/FS programs, to determine which one (if any) best meets your needs. This paper is intended for those who already know how to evaluate proprietary programs, but are not sure how to evaluate OSS/FS programs. Significant technical mastery of software development isn't required for most of the process described here, but technical knowledge about software development is certainly helpful and there are a few (marked) steps which are best performed by someone knowledgeable about software development. For those who want more details, this paper includes many links to supporting material.

"The basic steps for evaluating all programs, both OSS/FS and proprietary, are essentially the same. I suggest the following steps: identify candidates, read existing reviews, briefly compare the leading programs' attributes to your needs, and then perform an in-depth analysis of the top candidates. You can think of this as "IRCA": identify, review, compare, and analyze. The rest of this article is, in fact, organized by these four steps, followed by a wrap-up..."

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