Open-source software has revolutionized our lives, although many may not be fully aware of the impact it is having on broadcasting.
Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation, is often quoted as saying “free as in freedom, not free beer”. The FSF further makes the point that free software is about having control over the technology we use in our homes, schools, and businesses.
As far as I’m concerned, the open software movement is one of the greatest technological innovations that society has seen for a generation. At the click of a button, I can download an entire GNU tool kit allowing me to write, compile, and debug code in C, C++, x86 assembly, and many other languages. From there I can understand how the Linux operating system loads after the x86 reset vector is executed, I can understand the nuts and bolts of how windowing systems works through GNOME, and even analyze and adapt raytracing and rendering algorithms with OpenFX.
Not only does open-source code allow us to delve deep into the source code and compile it, but there are also hundreds of thousands of developers all adding to the thousands of projects throughout the world, mostly contributing their time for free. Why do they do this? Well, they certainly don’t do it for the money!
Adding back to the community is often seen as an altruistic endeavor, and I’m sure there may well be other reasons for burning the midnight oil writing code for your favorite open-source project, but my point is, the open-source community has contributed more than they probably realize to the development and adoption of IP in broadcast television.
Even if you’re a broadcaster, vendor, or service provider who is using proprietary tools or third-party licensed products, there’s a high probability that somewhere in your organization you’re using code that is benefiting from open-source development. Proprietary code certainly has its place and there are well defined and agreed arguments that justify closed systems, but open-source tools greatly benefit all parts of the IT infrastructure, from virtualization to operating systems, and networks to IP monitoring.
So, what has this got to do with broadcasting? A lot! As more broadcasters move to IP, they will be using many tools they may not even realize are open-source. From Nmap to Netstat, and Nagios to Wireshark, all these open-source tools are revolutionizing the way broadcasters think and work.
Maybe you’re a vendor or service provider using open-source tools and you are already contributing to your favorite community project, and if you are, you should be shouting this from the roof tops. But if you’re using these tools and haven’t got around to supporting, donating, or submitting code, then maybe you should give this some thought?
We all benefit from open-source and in my view, we should all contribute something to its continued development. Remember, it’s free as in freedom, and with freedom comes greater understanding, development, and the potential to explore!