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Linux Evolution Reveals Origins of Curious Mathematical Phenomenon

Dec 04, 2008, 00:33 (1 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Lisa Zyga)

"The team studied Debian Linux, a free operating system continuously being developed by more than 1,000 volunteers from around the world. Developers create software packages, such as text editors or music players, that are added to the system. Beginning with 474 packages in 1996, Debian Linux has expanded to include more than 18,000 packages today. The packages form an intricate network, with some packages having greater connectivity than others, as defined by how many other packages depend on a given package.

""Open source offers a unique opportunity provided by the high completeness of data concerning open source (thanks to the disclosure policy of the open source terms of license)," lead author Thomas Maillart of ETH Zürich told PhysOrg.com. "Debian Linux allowed us to retrieve exhaustive information from several years ago. Many other complex systems are not so well 'documented.'"

"As the researchers explain, the Linux network is constantly changing: new packages enter, some disappear, and others gain or lose connectivity. Yet throughout the 12 years, the distribution of packages, as ranked by their number of incoming links from other packages, has followed Zipf's law, with a few very popular packages having much greater connectivity than most."

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