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LinuxMedNews: Free and Open Software Basics

Nov 28, 2000, 23:53 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Saint)

[ Thanks to Saint for this link. ]

"While relaxing this past Thanksgiving with my family, I asked my Ph.D brother how he liked Linux Medical News newsletter he replied that he liked the letter, particularly when my Chihuahua Cindy speaks, but the articles 'are like a new language. I still don't quite get what open source means.' He's not alone. It is time to review the basics."

"Software is the stuff that drives computers, much like music on a Compact Disk drives a stereo, or a TV set requires a broadcast in order to be meaningful. Software is composed of odd little sonnets to a computer that are frequently laboriously constructed by a programmer. Here's a short example of the software that drives part of LinuxMedicalNews. You don't have to understand any of it, just know that it exists:

            <dtml-in "objectItems(['Poll Question'])">
              <dtml-var question><br>
               <dtml-in "objectItems(['Poll Response'])">
                  <input type=radio name="responses:list" value="<dtml-var questionId><dtml-var id>"> 
                  <dtml-var response>
               </dtml-in>
            </dtml-in>

"The above is referred to as 'source code' since applying a computer to the statements (code) above makes the computer perform useful work. In this case a small part of what makes the poll on the front page of LinuxMedNews work. In the terms of computer programming, it is the 'source' for achieving that work. As you can see from the source code example above, the intricacies of the source code can be quite complex and hence, time consuming to make. But once created, it can easily transmitted by floppy disk, CD-ROM or the Internet and be reused by others. It can also be extended, changed or fixed if it has an error. It becomes a concentrated piece of knowledge, and one less thing for a programmer or software engineer to spend time on. Good source code can greatly accelerate what an engineer can create in a reasonable period of time."

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