Chapter 9. Of Windows and X11

OS X comes with great applications, and a trip to Apple’s App Store can bag you quite a few more, but there’s also a flood of applications available to you solely because of OS X’s Unix core. Many of these are applications that have been around for a long time, and many are flowing in from other members of the Unix family, including Linux and FreeBSD.

What’s different about these applications is that they’re not commercial apps like Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop, they’re not shareware like Graphic Converter and Fetch, and they’re not free, public domain applications. Most of the programs available to the Mac community from Unix are a part of the active open source movement. They’re free to download—including source code, if you want it—but there are constraints on what you can do with the programs. If you’re a programmer and make any modifications, you are obligated to share those changes with the rest of the open source community. It’s certainly a very different distribution model for software, but don’t let the lack of a price tag fool you: open source applications are often as good as, or even better than their commercial counterparts. Added bonus: having large teams of programmers building open source apps means that if you do report a bug, the fix can appear quickly, even sometimes the same day—a level of responsiveness that Apple and Microsoft certainly can’t match.

Much open source software comes from university research. This chapter ...

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