Closed Source: The Most Hated Tech Luxury of All Time
We all use software, whether we love it or not. The wars between open source and closed source have been around for a long time. It’s a debate over whether or not software should be available for everyone to use and make modifications to and how much power they should have over the software. The two big examples of open vs. closed source are Windows vs. Mac OS and iOS vs. Android. If you didn’t guess which ones are closed source, it’s Mac OS and iOS, the desktop and mobile operating systems created by Apple.
Which one is better is really a complicated question and one that can start some very heated nerd wars. Let’s start with open source. Open source can have all sorts of different meanings and permission levels. For example, in Android the source code which is the base code for the operating system developed by Google, is freely available to the public. Code writers can take the source code and develop their own “flavor” of Android. The operating system will most likely look and perform differently from other flavors. Because of this, all manufacturers have their own version (and in some cases many versions) of Android. So when you buy a new Android phone, even if it has the same version of Android it might not be the same as your old Android phone. This is one of the reasons some people don’t like Android because they have to essentially learn a new operating system every time they get a new phone. Windows is another version of open source. Though the source code isn’t publicly available, anyone can install it on virtually any hardware as long as it meets the minimum system requirements. Because of this, if there is a bug in Windows it can often take a long period of time before a fix is found, depending on the bug.
iOS is an example of closed source. The operating system is highly controlled by Apple and can only be installed by Apple on the iPhone, there is no publicly available source code. Also, you can’t tweak the phone except for the settings available in the OS. Some people have “rooted” their iPhones to do things they weren’t intended to do, but this often provides minimal results. People who want a phone that just works love iOS. Mac OS is also an example of closed source. Unlike Windows, it can only be installed on the Mac. People have built what they call “hackintoshes” which is essentially hardware close to what they believe macs use, but don’t always get performance exactly like the mac. Also, it’s a violation of the End User License Agreement. The advantage of having a computer OS that can only run on specific hardware and a very small selection of it is that if there is a bug it can easily be fixed because Apple knows what hardware they have and can narrow it down really fast.
So which is better? I can’t tell you which one you will like better but I can tell you what I like. I use a bit of both. I have a custom-built PC that I use most of the time but I also have a MacBook Pro for when I can’t be at my desktop and need a computer. I like them both. If I was made of money I would buy a Mac Pro and have Windows on it either via virtualization or bootcamp, because I will never be able to completely escape Windows. Sure, there are alternative programs but in some cases they just aren’t as good, even if they are written for Mac. Until we figure out how to end this war of closed source vs. open source, we will have this problem. Since I don’t do much source code tweaking, being able to edit the source code doesn’t really effect me. However, it’s not always good for one group to have complete control over a piece of software. Which do you like better?