May the source be with you

From time to time I see the comment advocating a closed source program, with the response “as I’m not a developer it doesn’t bother me whether or not I have the source code”. I believe that that view is wrong, and that there are many occasions where non-developers will find benefit from having access to the source code.

For example,I’ve just found that Kmail will not auto-complete email addresses from an LDAP KDE resource. A simple bug; although strictly speaking it’s not a bug, as it was a deliberate feature. Fortunately there is a fix, with a modification made to one of the components. Unfortunately this fix has not found its way into Debian Lenny or Squeeze, and Sid is now KDE4.

I could install from the KDE SVN repository, but that version has not been tested with Debian, and I don’t really want to have such a significant part of a production server to have come from outside of Debian. Perhaps I am being overly cautious.

Anyway, I changed to /usr/src and ran apt-get source kdepim to download the source from Debian. I used “find” to locate the offending component, and used diff to determine what differences there were between the modified KDE version and the standard Debian version. I was pleased to note that only one line had changed. I copied in the new component and ran apt-get build-dep kdepim (with help from Dominic in #surrey). Then a quick ./configure, a very slow “make”, and a quick sudo checkinstall make install and the fix was made.

There are many many more benefits to open source than the ability to modify the source, but I just wanted to point out that, even for non-developers, there is a very real and very direct benefit to having the source.

May the source be with you.

Update - the actual patch may be found here.

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