Space colonization and Open Source software

On August 25th, 1991 a Finnish guy with the name Linus Torvald made notice for the first time of what would be known as first version of the Linux kernel, which was released a few weeks later. Though Torvald claimed that it was just a hobby, Linux would become a popular alternative operating system (OS).

In contrast to many other operating systems, Linux is open source. This means that everyone is free to use it, to change it if one desires so and to distribute it to others. However open source software (OSS) shouldn’t be confused with free software, though much OSS is also free.

The primary advantage of OSS is that because the source code is free, bugs are easier to detect and if one has found (s)he is allowed to repair the bug, and to distribute this improved version. The result is that OSS, and open source operating systems in particular, are often more reliable and less vulnerable for attacks than proprietary software.

A second advantage of OSS is that the licenses to use it are much cheaper than proprietary licenses. This is of particular interest for space settlers. Space colonization is expensive, and we should do anything to keep the start-up costs as low as possible. And since space colonization heavily depends on computer systems, and all computers need an operating system, using an open source OS such as Linux will significantly to reduce to costs of colonizing space.

During the last two decades OSS has proven to be a good alternative for its proprietary competitors. More than 95% of the worlds largest supercomputers are running on Linux, and these computers are expensive investments.

Critiques of open source software often argue that the high prices of proprietary software licenses are justified by its development costs. Well, this holds true only to a certain extent. Once a piece of code has been written, it can be reproduced at virtually zero costs. Of course the writers of software codes should be paid a decent price for their work.

But you pay your lawyer only for the hours (s)he has used for your case. Similarly we can pay programmers for the time they have put in writing their code. And the price-per-hour should take into account the relative complexity of the job.

See also

Smartphones in space


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