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Open Source Essay

Just today I turned in a paper at school, thought you guys might like to read it too. It's supposed to be an example-based essay.

I Wrote:
Open Source

With the rise of the internet, it has become easier and faster to share information and material. This has led to the creation of several open source projects which are thriving today. “Open source” means that the source code must be provided openly to anyone, which makes the project free and modifiable. Because of the nature of the idea, these are usually, but not limited to, computer related projects including personal computer (PC) games, 3D modeling applications, sound mixing software, and even advanced ventures such as 3D plastic printers or entire operating systems such as Linux. Many of these free cyberspace programs are so proficient they compete with commercial equivalents.

One of the leading areas of open source development is in the game field. Many of the games are clones of commercial predecessors, but are still as good as the original. Some early clones include OpenArena, a first person shooter (FPS) that tries to emulate the feel and gameplay of Quake III Arena. Earlier specimens are SuperTux and SuperTuxKart, which obviously echo Super Mario Bros. and Mario Kart.

The community driven development often leads to unique ideas about art and gameplay. Warsow, for example, uses cel shaded graphics to achieve the clean, cyberpunk look inspired by Fabrice Demurger’s E-novel, Chasseur de bots, and uses trick-jumps from both Unreal Tournament and the Quake series. Nexuiz, which has morphed into Xonotic, is one of the few games that is entirely open source, including the art. The theme of CodeRED: Alien Arena follows a 1950s sci-fi look, while possessing a slower pace than Warsow and Xonotic.

Warsow and Xonotic both use an editor which has been made available by the developers called NetRadiant, allowing for the creation of game levels and terrains commonly known as maps. Previously a commercial product, it was released as open source and highly modified by the open source game developers. Its release to the public has brought the projects more maps than they could make otherwise, which in turn makes the games more successful.

Some of the games mentioned above use 3D player models, which must be imported from a graphics application. Blender is the most popular and powerful open source tool for that today, with the ability to model, UV unwrap (advanced method for aligning textures to models), texture, rig (applying bones to a mesh), run fluid, smoke, cloth and soft body simulations, calculate particles, animate, render, use node-based materials and composite (after effects), and sequence (scene editing). Blender also has a physics engine which can be used with user-friendly logic bricks to create realistic interactive environments.

The Blender Foundation has created three films using their software: Elephant’s Dream, known as project Orange; Big Buck Bunny, known as project Peach; and Sintel, known as project Durian. While Elephant’s Dream was their first project, Big Buck Bunny was used to illustrate the (at the time) new hair particles. Sintel was the first of their films to use the Blender 2.5 series.

In addition to graphics related projects, the open source trend has expanded to the music industry. Audacity, a simple but useful sound editor has the basic cut, copy, and paste features but also has noise reducing scripts that remove static background noise. It can also open a wide range of file types and save files in as many types. Linux MultiMedia Studio, more commonly known as LMMS, is aimed more to be a sound mixer. It comes with many tracks right out of the box and has support for MIDI keyboard devices (a common type of piano-style keyboard which can plug into a computer).

A more recent manufacturing endeavor is the RepRap Project, which is a 3D plastic printer capable of reproducing most of its own parts. The plans are all licensed under the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL), a very common license for open source projects. The concept of a 3D printer is to take plans made on the computer through a modeling program like Blender, and send it to the machine which will create an actual object from the plans. The RepRap Project’s machines mainly deal with plastic, although it has successfully made a circuit board with a conductive solder.

One of the largest open source achievements yet is the Linux operating system (OS). An operating system is the environment that a computer runs all its other applications inside of, such as Microsoft’s Windows or Apple’s OSX. To create an entire OS is a great achievement for the open source communities, and most of the first open source releases are for the Linux platform.

Why do people help develop these programs? For most of the developers, it is a hobby. Many of their jobs are in the same field, and this is their way of using their skills on something that is fun. For me, helping is also a way of giving back. People put time, work, and occasionally money into these so that others can enjoy them for free. Simply using the open source application promotes it, but if one wants to improve it he or she needs to jump in and contribute something to the cause.

I am actively involved with the development of Xonotic and use NetRadiant, Blender, and Audacity frequently. Together, the open source community is a close knit group of dedicated artists, musicians, engineers, and coders who design projects in the fields of graphics, audio, manufacturing and computer programming. The communities are very much alive and prospering, producing many creative and dynamic open source projects in cyberspace.

Was three pages printed out. Did I cover it?
Also I'm supposed to do a revision sometime, anything major that would help the paper (keep in mind my professor is not a nerd)? Wink

I've got some suggestions for you.

You should look at some academic open sourced work, largely in the areas of biology and chemistry simulations. This would include particle/protein/molecular docking simulations. For specific examples look at AutoDock / Autodock Vina and P-tools. Its about more than games, graphics and sound!

You could also try comparing open source with the way publications and information are handled in academia. Tie them together with freedom of information, science and the benefits to mankind. Oh also look out for companies trying to criminalise academics for pointing out flaws in their systems. I had an article for that but I cant remember what it was Tongue

These are just a few suggestions to expand your scope. I could probably give some more, but I'll see what other suggestions get posted. Also if thats the whole essay, theres no way thats 3 A4 pages! Whats your font size?!
Hey, want to learn to map? You might want to start here and here!

Looks good. I'm not sure if this is outside the scope of your course, but it may also be interesting to talk about how F/OSS is used commercially, and by whom. Saying "Company X's infrastructure is almost entirely open source" can sound very impressive Big Grin (where company x = one of Google, Facebook,, etc).

Embedded devices are also interesting, and can be used to explore the ubiquity of F/OSS, particularly Linux. Examples include Android (Google), MeeGo/Maemo/Symbian (Nokia et al, all three are open source), and a number of others. Even the Amazon Kindle runs Linux Tongue

Off the top of my head I can also list some other really cool F/OSS that could be helpful - Apache, Nginx, OpenBSD/other BSDs, Firefox, Chromium, JQuery, LibreOffice/OpenOffice, GNU, PHP, Python, Java, a tonne of databases, etc.
[Image: vN3NkMA]
(Idea stolen from Mr. Bougo. Hehehehe)

Over three pages of print... double spaced lines. Forgot to mention that.

Anyway got my grade back, my teacher's only critique was that my thesis was slightly off, she was expecting more of a "why open source projects are so proficient." 98 out of 100.

Thanks for all the FOSS examples... but I don't have room to add them even if I wanted too Exclamation

Funny that you of all people commented Sepelio, I started probably around the same time you finished Wink

Well glad to hear it went well. Interesting that she chose the 'why they are so proficient' when she could easily have worded it as 'why they are not very proficient'. Its fun to see how the essays could have been differently flavoured Tongue
Hey, want to learn to map? You might want to start here and here!

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