I scanned over the comments from the earlier post and just wanted to throw in my two cents about Open Source (although I’ll withhold comment on Free Software for the moment).
The reason Open Source appeals to me as a development model is because it seems to me that it is the most efficient software development method. Take the Linux kernel. The thing that keeps the Linux Kernel “nimble” and innovative is that anyone, at any time, can fork the code and write their own variant. That means that the Kernel Developers always have to be the top of their game, because the moment they’re not, anyone else can take over their technical lead. Bad for the developer’s peace of mind and their job security if they start to slack off? Yes. But good for making sure that Linux development happens at as fast a pace as possible? Absolutely.
GNU Emacs, a common Linux/Unix text editor, is a good example of this: Richard Stallman himself wrote much of Emacs, but some developers were not happy with his, er, management style - so they forked it into Lucid Emacs, which became what is today XEmacs. GNU Emacs and XEmacs today coexist, both adding features and both feeling pressure from the other to never fall behind. At the same time, because they both use open codebases, there is no “penalty” for switching between the two; even complex applications the plug-in mail clients worth in both of them. (For the record, I use GNU Emacs).
GCC, the main C compiler on Linux, is perhaps an even better example: GCC was forked, and the forked version ended up being better - so it was merged back into the ‘mainline’ version. GCC is a better piece of software today because of this.
Countless more examples exist. What makes them possible was that the source code was there for the taking: if you ever feel like you can do better than Linus co on the kernel, or the GNU team on Emacs, or anything else under an OSS license, then you can take that code and run with it. But can you do that with the NT kernel? With MSOffice? No… if the Microsoft team is not at the top of their game, it doesn’t matter: You can’t take your talent and produce a better Word.
I use Ubuntu as my primary OS, and this effect really shows. OSS is really “survival of the fittest,” a true free market unencumbered by the inefficiencies of file format incompatibility, reimplementation of secret network protocols, etc. The end result is that I’ve found I have significantly less tolerance for things to go wrong. The kind of UI ‘bugs’ that I experience with Windows are things that would make me instantly switch Linux distros- which means Linux distros don’t make those mistakes, or at least, they don’t for very long. Clippy would not have lived long - or existed- in a Linux distro; nor would the failure to integrate better Zip, ftp and remote access utilities. These are basic things in any Linux distro, and it still surprises me that any OS can get away with not including them.