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The secret of open source code software

Over the last decade, the world-wide popularity of open source code software has grown considerably. Organizations like the Free Software Foundation have been leading the charge resulting in an ever-increasing fan base along the way. So, what is "open source code?"

Source code is used to describe the underlying computer programming code that makes a program do what it does. It represents the coding work performed by software engineers before being compiled into a form a computer can follow. To open the source code means to make the code available to anyone who wants it thus revealing the software engineer's work. Access to the source code brings the ability to modify the software usually adding or removing functionality.

Compare open source to closed source or proprietary source code. Like the recipe for extra-crispy chicken at KFC, the source code for most software is often kept secret by many companies for at least one big reason. The company profits by selling licenses to use the software so protecting profit sources is important.

A nice result of the open source movement has been the creation of a wide range of completely free software. What kind of software is available? Just about anything a person needs. Operating systems are widely available as are many applications that will do the job as well as their closed source, sometimes costly counter-parts. No special computer is needed. As a matter of fact, most open source software will run on almost any PC that will run Windows. With a little effort a person can have a computer loaded with completely free software.

The one area open source has lagged behind Windows software is in gaming. There are some open source games available but they mostly do not have the depth of current Windows-based games.

Ron Poland is a professor in the Computer Information Systems AAS program at Clinton Community College. Poland is certified in company repair and networking by the Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). He is also a Cisco certified network assistant. Questions may be sent to him via e-mail at ron@ronpoland.com.

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