Look, Use the Source . . .

Once you've downloaded that new software, you'll no doubt be anxious to take things out for a spin. The truth is that there is an amazing amount of software available for Linux. If trying out new things is exciting for you, I can pretty much guarantee that you won't get bored anytime soon.

Much of this software is available as source?not surprising because the GPL license (under which much of the Linux software out there is distributed) requires that you distribute source along with the programs. There are also open source projects that have no relation to the GNU projects that employ the license as a means of copyright. Then there are other open source projects that use BSD-style licensing, artistic licensing, postcard licensing, and many others; all distribute their programs in source format.

At first glance, this may appear to be nothing but a nuisance, yet source makes software portable. The number of platforms on which a single package can be compiled tends to be much higher because the applications can be built using your system at your operating system level with your libraries. It means that if you are running VendorX 8.1, you don't need to go looking for the VendorX 8.1 package.

Here's another reason. It takes developers time to provide packages compiled and ready to run on multiple platforms?time they may not have, particularly if they are doing this without pay. Consequently, developers sometimes have source code available that is much more recent than the precompiled packages they offer. Why? Because they haven't found the time to build the packages for all those platforms. Here's a plus side you may not have considered: If at some point you decide that you want to try your hand at programming, open source means that you too can get into the game.



As crazy as it may sound, building from source is not all that complicated, and many of the steps required are common across most source distributions. At first it may sound difficult, but no more so than any of the myriad things you've learned how to do with your computer over the years. I admit that compiling from source isn't as straightforward as downloading an RPM package and installing it, but it does open up thousands of possibilities.

Here's an added bonus?if you can build one software package, you can pretty much build them all.