The Open Source Census Report

I’d never heard about the Open Source Census before when I fell over a mention of their recent report somewhere. Their mission is to get “enterprises” to install their little client which scans computers for open source products and reports the findings back to a central server.

Anyway, their current database consists of a “mere” 2300 machines scanned but that equals a total of 314,000 open source installations. 768 different packages are identified. The top-10 found products are:

  1. firefox 84.4%
  2. zlib 65.75%
  3. xerces 61.24%
  4. wget 61.12%
  5. xalan 58.19%
  6. prototype 57.03%
  7. activation 53.01%
  8. javamail 50.15%
  9. openssl 46.45%
  10. docbook-xml 46.27%

Ok, as an open source hacker and a geek, there are two things we need to do here: 1) find out how our own projects rank among the others and 2) how the scanning is done and thus how good it is. Thankfully all this is possible due to the entire data set being downloadable for free and the client being fully open source.

find out how our own projects rank

“curl” was found on 18.19% of all computers. That makes it #81 on the list, just below virtualbox and wireshark, but immediately above jstl and busybox. This includes “All Versions” of all tools, and for curl’s sake that was 22 different versions!

I found no other project I do anything noticeable in. Subversion is at #44.

how the scanning is done

It’s quite simple. It scans for file names based on a file name pattern and then it pattern matches contents of those files. It also extracts version numbers for the files using those regex patterns. You can see the full set of patterns/rules in the XML file straight off their source code repository: project-rules.xml.

how good is it

With this specific patterns for binary contents they of course need special human treatment for many versions and that is of course error-prone. That could explain why no curl version of the latest version (7.19.0) was reported. It will also cause renamed tools to remain undetected.

In my particular case I would of course also like to know how much libcurl is used, but they don’t seem to check for that (I found several projects besides the curl tool that I know use libcurl).

All this said, I didn’t actually try out the client myself so I haven’t verified it for real.