Lowell Deeds

The latest on real estate recordings and new technology from the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds in Lowell

October 5, 2006

Open Source and ODF

by @ 11:54 am. Filed under Technology

ODF and Open Source are computer software terms that you’ll be reading about with more frequency in the coming months. They mean very different things but many people use them (incorrectly) as synonyms. Open source software is more a philosophy than a thing. According to the Information Technology Division of the Commonwealth (ITD), Open Source Software refers to “software whose underlying code is available for inspection and modification by the licensee, may be available for re-distribution and may be deployed without a license fee.” Perhaps the best way to understand Open Source philosophy is to compare it to traditional software development, commonly called Proprietary Software. Proprietary software is “typically subject to a use fee under a license that limits access to and modification of the underlying source code and restricts redistribution to others.” (per ITD). Until now, most software is proprietary which is a direct outgrowth of our intellectual property laws that have existed since the enactment of the U.S. Constitution. Traditionally, the government has extended protection through copyright and patent protection to those who devote their intellectual energy to creating something of value. By protecting the developer’s right to distribute it, the government provides an economic incentive to that developer and others to create things. The Open Source movement pretty much discards that philosophy in favor of one that sees better societal value in the ability to collaborate and improve upon the work of others. So the underlying “source code” of open source software is available to anyone who is interested. People other than the developer can identify and fix bugs, improve the underlying code, create ancillary modules, and do any number of things to improve the product. As for ODF, that’s a much more specific term. It refers to Open Document Format which is a non-proprietary format used for saving and exchanging documents, spreadsheets, databases and other typical files used in a standard office. Space does not permit me to write more about it here, but check back next week for a lengthier explanation of ODF. In the meantime, you can learn more about both of these topics on the ITD webpage but remember, Open Source and ODF are two different things.

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