Open Source Software – an Educator’s Overview

I have always been keen on taking advantage of free offers. Given the choice between a fast food meal with a freebie or one without, I’ll plump for the mystery envelope every time. It’s human nature, and marketers know it well.

Even in 1979, when I bought my first home computer, there were user groups who supplied type-in listings for a nominal charge. When I bought the first of a series of Atari ST computers in the ’80s and ’90s, I was a regular customer and contributor to a public domain (PD) software library. Fast forward to the end of the ’90s and I was distributing the source code to a number of simple educational flash games to other teachers over the internet.

So that’s my credentials. Like many others, however, I have received much more from open source software than I have ever put in. For the uninitiated, it is worth explaining a few definitions here:

Shareware Software: is free to try, but there is a moral obligation to register your software with its creator and receive upgrades and support in return for a fee. The evaluation period may last for a reasonable length of time after which some features of the software may become unusable.

The Public Domain: if the creator of a work relinquishes all his rights to his intellectual property, it enters the public domain and can be used by others to create derivative works or profit from it without payment of any fees or need for some form of license.

License: many creators who wish to share their intellectual property with others will give away limited rights that allow the user to do a range of things – but still maintain overall control of the way their work is used. Many open source software developers will use the GNU Public License (GPL) as a framework for stating how their work can be used.

Open source software does not have to be synonymous with poorly written undocumented utilities that nobody else wants. Here are a few of my favourites:

Open Office: a fully-fledged office suite, word-processor, spreadsheet, presentation software and graphics package. The fact that these programs will export both PDF format to be read by Adobe Acrobat reader and SWF flash files for use on the web makes them incredibly useful to me. They are the main application software that I use on my laptop.

The GIMP: an image processing package with enough features to rival Photoshop. For younger artists, my daughters love Tux Paint with its variety of stamps and special features.

Moodle: an open source content management system specifically designed for educators. There are plenty of other open source CMS packages available for blogging or running your own web portal.

Using Offshore Software Development

IT outsourcing or offshore software development is one of the quickest ways to get a job done and it will also prove to be less expensive than hiring your own staff. Whether you choose to go with the simple way of hiring a person to do a single task or hiring a firm for a large amount of work, using offshore software development as a means of expanding your business and saving money can prove to be very fruitful for your company.

Sites like freelancer and Elance allow you to hire someone for a single job. People from countries like Pakistan, India, the Philippines and Ukraine will bid on the job. These bids are visible so you benefit from everyone getting into a bidding war to get the job. As a result, you save money through IT outsourcing and you pay these people directly. No need to worry about meeting minimum state requirements for pay or even having to worry about taxes because it doesn’t apply.

If you are looking at setting up an office in a foreign country, it can often be difficult. This is because of language barriers and the political uncertainty of some countries, like Pakistan. You don’t want to go through the expense of setting up an office somewhere only to be involved in a political battlefield a month later. Using organizations from India like NASSCOM or Russia including RUSSOFT will let you experience offshore software development with helpful backing that takes care of all of the uncertainties for you.

Offshore software development can be both a time and a money savings for you, as long as you know what you are getting. There are definitely ways that it can be beneficial by using IT outsourcing but you need to know what you are getting yourself into, as well. There are some cons that you need to be aware of.

The time difference and language barrier of working with offshore software development can work to your advantage or not. The time difference means that people are working around the clock for you, whereas locally they must go home at some point. This also means that if you need to reach out to them during your business hours, they may be sleeping. Your options for handling this means as much as a 24-hour delay in communication or you working around the clock, too. The language barriers may not be as significant as you would expect as many of these people who participate in IT outsourcing speak very good English. Their grammar, however, may be severely lacking. Depending upon the offshore software development project they are working on, it may not even come in to play, but it could.

When you are aware of all of the pros and cons, you can then make an educated decision of whether offshore software development is right for your company or not. Your competition is most likely using them and saving a lot of money doing so. It can be a very lucrative business move, however anticipating potential problems before they arise will make the move even more lucrative.

Software Development and IT Services Are Not Just For Information Technology!

A large number of people are involved in software development to a variety of industries and services. There is no limit to this profession since the advent of computers and the Internet. Some of the most prominent IT outlets for the software specialists are financial services, banking, archives, federal agencies, governmental offices, and public services. The profession is not limited to this alone and can be seen active in many other areas or disciplines that include commercial activities, education, entertainment, travel and transportation etc. It is of interest to delve into the activities of contracting and contract vehicles that control the management of our financial and legal sector as this is quite significant in the governmental agencies who deal with a large number of companies and organizations in the course of governance.

Many organizations have evolved in providing services of information technology to the Government and as such have become authorized bodies for various federal and state departments all over the nation. The job of managing such affairs that are always open to the public domain and criticism is quite difficult and requires a great deal of ethics and comprehension. The legal needs of such organizations are therefore vast and they must be fully aware of the various laws and procedures in serving contractual obligations of any Contract Vehicle.

The professional organization that deals with contract vehicles is obviously interested in having the most qualified ethical staff that they can get for the type of services they are engaged in. Consequently the people who work in such companies providing database services to the governmental agencies need to be highly competent and knowledgeable and must be chosen with care. The training imparted by the Information Technology agency has to be of premier quality and consistent output. Come to think of it, the job requires more or less the same acumen as in the legal profession and it can be truly equated to that level of expertise and integrity. In conclusion, if you find a certain company retained by the government agencies the trust level must be very high and that IT Services or software development organization must be placed on a fairly high pedestal within the Government circles.