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FOSS - Free Open Source Software

Craig James published an article that explains how free software development works. It's called the Care and Feeding of FOSS (or, The Lifecycle of Software Technology).

For years people have asked me why developers work so hard to create open source software. I had lots of answers but none seemed to satisfy. James hits it right on the spot in his discussion of natural lifecycles for software.

  • Stage 1. Invention

  • Stage 2. Expansion and Innovation
  • Stage 3. Consolidation
  • Stage 4. Maturity

You should read the article to see how he describes each stage. His main point is that capital investment drives new software invention but as software matures it moves into the open source domain. It makes sense. Who would contribute money to any company about to create a new word processor today? Instead we see programs like AbiWord and OpenOffice taking the place of MS Office.

As software becomes generic, it becomes free. This is a good thing if you are a software user. You may not like the idea if you are a software inventor.

I'll share one cool piece of FOSS with you that I used this week. It's called g4u. This is hard drive cloning software. It's incredibly easy to use, it works and of course, it's free. To use it you download a floppy disk image and use it to boot your computer. You can then send or receive an image of the hard drive from any ftp server by typing one command. It's not as fancy or as fast ad Norton Ghost but it's a good example of a FOSS software package in development moving towards maturity.

One goal I have this year is to write more about good school technology management practices. Drive imaging is #1 on my list for all schools large or small. Once you start using imaging software you'll wonder how you ever lived without it. Put g4u in your bag of tricks. You'll like it.