I often have mixed feelings on open source programs. I both love them and hate them at the same time. You see some of the tools I use the most are open source. These tools are easy to use, very functional, and worth their weight in gold. That is the “love” side of open source, Firefox, Thunderbird, nmap, ncat, putty, and many more. The hate side is when these great tools turn to a more Closed source. You may ask why is this bad? Well often they loose their appeal and drive, and ultimately their features.
Now I must make myself clear, I do not have this feeling toward open source code or scripts or such. I am really speaking to software made and released under the GNU or GPL (general public license). What really upsets me is when an open source app turns into a closed app, or even worse goes to a commercial license that one has to purchase.
Now I understand the business side of this. In fact, I can’t understand how some people would even release an application under the GNU / GPL when they could just sell the thing. But, my complaint is when a fantastic software app is taken out of the community and then attempted to be sold. This entire rant is based around the Oct 2005 announcement from Nessus (www.nessus.org) that they were no longer going to release under the GNU. This was a very upsetting statement to me. I use Nessus very frequently for some of the work I do. It is a great product / project and I have added / modified things to fit my needs an have even given back to the community.
In the case of Nessus there is an upcoming release of 3.0 that will no longer be open source. For those unfamiliar with Nessus, it is a security vulnerability scanner that can test your network and servers. Nessus was recently acquired by Tenable. This purchase left a split in the plug-in / vulnerability test feeds. Some were available via purchase and some were available for free. This split was the beginning of the change. You can read more here (www.newsforge.net)
The great thing about open source is that there is aways a way to make a better mouse trap. And already the community has started up a new fork for nessus called OpenVas (www.openvas.org) and a few more branches of opensource nessus. The problem with this is now there are multiple versions, multiple feeds, multiple environments. So this great product is now split into a few small open source projects of which one may or may not stand out.