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Engineering LibreTexts

4.2: Open Source

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    Learning Objectives

    After studying this section you should be able to do the following:

    1. Define open source software and understand how it differs from conventional offerings.
    2. Provide examples of open source software and how firms might leverage this technology.

    Who would have thought a twenty-one-year-old from Finland could start a revolution that continues to threaten the Microsoft Windows empire? But Linus Torvalds did just that. During a marathon six-month coding session, Torvalds created the first version of Linux (Diamond, 2008) marshalling open source revolutionaries like no one before him. Instead of selling his operating system, Torvalds gave it away. Now morphed and modified into scores of versions by hundreds of programmers, Linux can be found just about everywhere, and most folks credit Linux as being the most significant product in the OSS arsenal. Today Linux powers everything from cell phones to stock exchanges, set top boxes to supercomputers. You’ll find the OS on 30 percent of the servers in corporate America (Lacy, 2006), and supporting most Web servers (including those at Google, Amazon, and Facebook). Linux forms the core of the TiVo operating system, it underpins Google’s Android and Chrome OS offerings, and it has even gone interplanetary. Linux has been used to power the Phoenix Lander and to control the Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers (Brockmeier, 2004; Barrett, 2008). Yes, Linux is even on Mars!

    How Do You Pronounce Linux?

    Most English speakers in the know pronounce Linux in a way that rhymes with “cynics.” You can easily search online to hear video and audio clips of Linus (whose name is actually pronounced “Lean-us” in Finish) pronouncing the name of his OS. In deference to Linux, some geeks prefer something that sounds more like “lean-ooks.”1 Just don’t call it “line-ucks,” or the tech-savvy will think you’re an open source n00b! Oh yeah, and while we’re on the topic of operating system pronunciation, the Macintosh operating system OS X is pronounced “oh es ten.”

    Figure 10.1 Tux, the Linux Mascot

    Tux, the Linux Mascot

    Andrés Álvarez Iglesias – linux-logo – CC BY 2.0.

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