May the source be with you: an intro to open source software

Funny open-source cartoon with Tux
Open source software: anyone can edit it and make it even more awesome. Here’s a rundown of why.

Open source software. Sounds like another tech buzzword like agile development, MVC frameworks, waterfall models, and so on.

But really, it’s much more cool than all of those.

Simply put, open source software is software that anyone can edit. And because of that, it’s awesome. Read on to see how your favorite open source software (Firefox and Android, for example) works.

How it works

I think it’s easiest to explain open-source software with a little story. Get some popcorn – this has action, drama, and copyright infringement.

The future of smartphones

Google Android and Apple iOS fighting
Move over, Android and iOS. You have company.

Right now, if you want to buy a smartphone you have two main options: iPhone and Android. If you’re feeling brave, there’s Windows Phone. Not much variety.

All that is about to change.

This coming year is going to see the release of new, free smartphone operating systems that seem poised to change the world of smartphones – for the better. Let’s take a look.


Ubuntu, the wildly-popular open-source operating system for computers has been spreading rumors that they’re going to release a version of the operating system for smartphones. The phones aren’t out yet but folks around the internet say they’re definitely in the works.

Firefox’s new release strategy

Back in the day (and by that I mean a week ago), new versions of Firefox were released “when they were ready” – that is, when all the features they wanted to put in were in it. That’s called feature-based releases, and most developers use that strategy.

But there’s another release strategy that focuses on releasing new versions every so often. Some features might not make a version, but that’s OK; a new version is coming in x weeks so it’ll be included then. This is called fixed releases.

Firefox 4 is out

It’s been about a year in coming (it was in beta for a full year), but Firefox 4 is finally out and can be downloaded at The open-source web browser’s latest version is a gigantic step forward from the 3.6 version (the old stable version from a year ago, which is pitifully outdated by now.)

What’s changed

  • Firefox 4 is about 3 times faster in page loading and JavaScript performance than 3.6. This means your favorite web apps and websites are – get ready for this – 3 times faster than before.