Training for Something That Constantly Changes

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Everyone has been in a situation in which you recently purchased software or hardware is seemingly obsolete before you even get it out of the box.

Nobody likes to feel duped, especially when saving and planning to buy something, only to hear about the next version of the product from a way-too informed co-worker or in the latest issue of a tech magazine.

Such always has been a hurdle for end-users embracing open-source programs. If you can’t keep up with the pace of proprietary software, how can you keep up with a program that could be changed minutes after it is released?

With their source code on lockdown, proprietary giants can work on and refine a program for years before it is released, but if a bug or problem pops up for users (and it will), it can become a nightmare to solve.

Conversely, open-source programs are just that: open — individuals and groups instantly can change a program and re-release on their own if immediate problems come up. This creates endless fodder for both bloggers and users, but it ultimately confuses and stymies the not-yet converted. One of those places in which open-source designers and enthusiasts can meet is Eclipse, a community that provides tools and framework for open-source software developers.

Although not a direct solutions provider, Eclipse entirely runs on open-source software itself. It is like a virtual flea market for developers to choose and discuss their favorite operating system programs used to develop software.

As the head of IT at Eclipse, Denis Roy doesn’t sympathize with the opinion that open-source programs move too fast for the average person to keep up and that there are options out there for everyone.

“Keeping up is fairly easy,” he said. “There are really two paths someone can use when using open source. They can either follow the route to the latest stable nightly builds or be facing challenges of trying to keep up. That’s a conception of open source, that people always follow the leading-edge, tip-of-the-sword type of stuff. Whether it’s released fairly frequently, I think the other route you can go and the route that we’ve chosen is use vendor distributions of the Linux operating system so they don’t come out very often, but when they do, they are very polished, very high-quality, so it’s not like we’re constantly changing our infrastructure.”

Nearly everyone in the open-source community strives to find balance between the Wild West perception of open source and the current reality of it becoming a mainstream commodity. This is due to companies such as Red Hat and Novell, which offer open-source operating systems but with proprietarylike tech support and a structured release schedule.

By hosting an open-source community in which developers come to get the latest tools of the trade, Eclipse could choose to run and support any open-source operating system it chooses but stick with what can be called proprietary open source.

“It still allows us to use open-source technology as opposed to a closed, proprietary one, but we can still follow up on developments so we can still keep up to date as code is released and say, ‘Oh, this going to be released very soon,’” Roy said. “It gives us a heads-up as to what’s coming along but not a constant reminder to upgrade, which is detracting to our mission here.”

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