Open Source at Qsine

Is Open Source Engineering and Manufacturing Software Viable?

The Case for Open Source:

The idea of making developments public so anybody can use it has been around for a long time but the Internet has changed the way people collaborate. Open source channeled through the Internet is really in the infancy stage but it is popular enough now that it certainly will persist if not thrive.

The Internet's greatest power creates the biggest problem. Many people can get involved in a project so tremendous mind power is potentially available. The vast number of people turns management into an issue because not all minds are great and not all will agree. Furthermore, I have often found that the best technical minds are not the best management minds. However, where there is a will, there is a way and people have found creative solutions to problems more vexing than this.

At the moment, I barely understand the concept of Open Source much less have a grasp on its potential. My feeling is that open source will grow to be bigger than most people think. Much the same way that people really had no idea where computers would go back in the days of the Homebrew Computer Club even though they were extremely enthusiastic.

There is great potential for sharing ideas openly. Open source is a very communal idea. Almost anti-capitalist. Currently, it certainly has more momentum in software than it does in hardware but both areas are growing. Open source is most famous for hobbyists writing programs in the evenings and on the weekends. Notable commercial enterprise like Red Hat are businesses based on providing services for Open Source software. At the risk of being flamed, I also see where there are commercial opportunities to develop Open Source software.

The following pages are dedicated to building a case for Open Source CAD, CAM, ERP and CNC software and controls developed using commercial funds. While my focus is for engineering and manufacturing software, it applies for any market segment that uses high cost software.

The fact that there are so many profitable CAD, CAM and machine control companies around indicates a high need for these tools. Personally, I am not against corporations making profits. On the contrary, I believe corporations need to make profits; healthy ones if they can. It keeps people productive and employed and it creates the economy we all need.

The key point about profits is "if they can". If their business model turns obsolete because of technical innovation, then they respond or perish and rightfully so. So profits are not a point of contention driving the open source development but an opportunity to make it worth jumping in. All of the profits bode well for the share holders of these companies. But the profits that they are holding up for everyone including their customers to see, make them a target to anyone who has a strategy to kick their butts.

So how do we beat them? Be better than they are and more efficient. Steal their customers and they lose. How are these corporations going to compete with a not-for-profit organization setup by their customers? They have to offer a superior product with better support that, in the end, is more productive. So being free for download is not the advantage of Open Source. The products must be world class, productive, and need to be tailored to the needs of the users. Corporate developers will be hard pressed to compete with tools being made for the benefit, not the profit, of the owners.

The profits the software companies are currently making will wind up staying in the pockets of their customers... to be spent on something else.

At this stage in the game, I feel I'm sticking my neck out a bit by saying "Someday free will be best" but there are trends proving that free is getting better. Very much better. Most people using computers for a living have heard of Linux and the truth is I don't want to restate the story of Linux. In all honesty, I still have to research and learn the in's and out's of open source licensing. However, I see several open source projects that are becoming contenders in their fields or producing very professional results.

I don't know if Qsine can make a end to end open source project happen. I do know we have talked about extensively here and see a number of merits with the idea. I also know we could contribute in a number of areas. I have no problems turning the idea over to someone better qualified than us to take the project on. The purpose of this page to start people thinking about the project and if in the end it makes sense to enough people, then we do it.