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For Newly Initiated: An Open Source Primer

The term "open source" refers to software designed to be used and changed freely by consumers and developers. Open source code is usually distributed to developers over the Internet, and applications are governed by a type of license not normally applied in the commercial software world: one which requires that all users receive the source code.

The theory behind open source software is that when developers can access the source code--the underlying code that makes a program run--they can easily adapt it and fix bugs. Open source proponents believe the refinement and improvement process occurs more quickly and efficiently than with proprietary commercial applications. And for that reason, many believe open source software is more reliable and secure for consumers.

The best-known open source software is the Linux operating system, which was pioneered by Linus Torvalds in 1991. Prior to that, Richard Stallman, in 1984, launched the GNU project to develop a free Unix clone. The Internet is also a classic example of open source; the code of most Web pages is accessible by clicking on a pull-down menu from a browser. And the widely used, Apache Web server, is an open source solution.

Aside from Icecast and Vorbis, open source examples in the streaming media field also include "Darwin", the QuickTime server Apple released into open source. The server also uses standard protocols for transmitting QuickTime files. Darwin developers quickly created versions of the server that run on Linux, UNIX and Windows NT/2000, in addition to Apple's own operating system.

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