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Old 07-15-2011, 03:34 PM   #1

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the lack of free software in specialized areas
A few years ago, I made a thread asking if free/open source will ever catch up to its commercial counterpart. The consensus was that FOSS is already at part with proprietary software in many areas. I definitely agree.

For example: many people say Firefox is superior to IE. OpenOffice.Org is considered a good replacement for MS Office. R is the de facto standard for statistical packages. Blender is right up there with Maya and Bryce, not to mention that it has a very small installation footprint. And Scilab is considered to be just as powerful Matlab, if you don't consider its minor shortcomings.

However, what made these software so successful is that they were developed by large companies. In contrast, there seems to be a large gap between FOSS developed by smaller groups and similar commercial products. For instance, Photoshop is the considered the industry leader in graphics software. It goes without saying that GIMP is the open source Photoshop alternative, but it seems to be far behind CS5. The fact that GIMP 2.8 keeps getting delayed doesn't help the issue. The same can be said for antivirus programs. This page lists a bunch of them, but only a couple are free/open source. ClamAV seems to be the most popular free program; however, it has a relatively low detection rate and lacks a GUI. Elcomsoft's Advanced Archive Password Recovery is the best known ZIP password recovery package, while the best FOSS equivalent I know of (FCrackZip) seems pretty primitive in comparison. And don't get me started on the lack of free games. While there are game companies that have generously release the source code to some of there games, such as id Software and our very own 3D Realms, they can be counted on two hands.

So my questions are:

1. Are antivirus programs, graphics software and games hard to develop in general? (I don't know that much about software development, so I don't really have the answer to this one.)
2. Are people less willing to contribute to free software projects? (I'd say "yes" because folks are motivated by money.)
3. Will free software ever catch up to commercial software in all aspects? (I think the answer is also yes; however, it will be a very long time. I'd imagine that an automated software development system would be a great benefit to the free software community once we advance to that level in AI research.)
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