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NY Times: Open-Source Software Arouses Researchers' Curiosity

Apr 20, 2000, 14:43 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Virginia Postrel)

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"When technology stocks took their sharp tumble last week, many companies appeared to lose one of their most important assets -- the ability to lure talented employees with options. To attract and hold the best, you have to offer the chance to strike it rich."

"Or do you? What are we to think when the best of the best -- the elite programmers that industry wisdom deems 100 times more productive than the typical competent coder -- donate their precious time to develop software anyone can use without charge? That is the puzzle the open-source movement, most famous for the Linux operating system, presents to economists."

"Unlike most commercial software, which comes as incomprehensible "ones" and "zeroes," open-source programs always include the source code, written in a programming language like C++. Any programmer can look at the code and change it to fix bugs or add features. Programmers contribute such patches to the user community by sending them to a central authority, recognized as the project leader. That person (or small group) decides which changes are good enough to become part of the recognized version of the software that is available to everyone. For instance, Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, screens patches for the core portions of that operating system."

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