Wednesday, March 30, 2016

But what if you don't want proprietary geospatial software?

In my various blogs, I've mentioned a couple of geospatial software vendors - many mentions of local company ESRI, and a recent mention of Pitney Bowes (and its product MapInfo). There are other vendors, including Smallworld (from General Electric, not Disney).

Ideally, these and other companies would want you to buy their proprietary geospatial software and use it.

But what if you want to go open source?

There are geospatial open source options, including the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (and GRASS GIS), ILWIS, and the QGIS project.

If you've used Red Hat Linux or other open source programs, you know that open source does not necessarily mean free. Open source software may include charges for support, as well as for consulting and other things - and, of course, you have to hire people to actually use the open source programs. And there are free packages (such as Google Earth) that are not open source, but proprietary.

So what's the difference?

Open source software is written by a community rather than a development team associated with a single software company. Participants from all over the world contribute via the Web. Some do this as part of their “day jobs,” while others volunteer.

A project steering committee or other group keeps order and manages contributions, bug lists and source control. Because the source is available, changes to a local implementation can be made immediately, though changes to the accepted current version may take time to be incorporated....

[O]pen source advocates suggest that programmers are more diligent if they know the world will be seeing their code.

And in certain cases, open source people can become really famous - well, almost as famous as a cartoon character.
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