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FEATURE Open source

FEATURE Open source turns 20 IAN PAUL reveals how Linux, Raspberry Pi, Chromium and more are influencing PCs Open-source software runs something in your life even if you don’t realize it. Raspberry Pi fans take advantage of it. Linux and BSD open-source servers run our websites and corporate networks, as well as in-flight entertainment units and computer kiosks. Open-source software sits at the core of Android phones. Even popular browsers are open-source, including Mozilla’s Firefox, Opera, and the Chromium project, which feeds into the not-so-open-source Chrome browser. Open-source software such as Linux is so critical to developers that Microsoft even integrated it into Windows 10 with Bash on Ubuntu on Windows. The term that helped define all this technology was born 20 years ago. Notions of ‘free software’, where 66 TECH ADVISOR • MAY 2018

FEATURE users could view a program’s source code, already existed thanks to the efforts of Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation. But on 3 February, 1998, the initial members of the Open Source Initiative gathered to coin and adopt the term ‘open source’, and the Open Source Definition published a few days later helped create a mass movement around the notion of exposing software’s source code. Linux creator Linus Torvalds soon embraced the term – the Linux Foundation’s work revolves around opensource code. Over time, open source has even slowly expanded to include hardware as well as software. Open-source software is now a foundational element of our computerized world thanks to the efforts of numerous organizations, independent developers, and regular users. In honour of the twentieth anniversary of open source, here are highlights. Open-source operating systems When it comes to open-source software and PCs, one major project comes to mind: Linux, also known as GNU/Linux. Other examples such as the BSD variants (like FreeBSD and OpenBSD) exist, but Linux and its various distributions stand out. Linux operating systems were once considered unfriendly to novice users, but those days are long gone. Most people start with the user-friendly Ubuntu, currently at version 17.10. But there’s also Debian, which Ubuntu is based on (yes, there are distributions based on other distributions), and hundreds of other options, as this Distrowatch list details ( If you want to try MAY 2018 • TECH ADVISOR 67

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