Winter 2004-2005

Open Source Software Development
by Yuwei Lin and Enrico Zini

A recent concern in software development is to develop software for diverse user needs. This idea of customizing software is crucial because once a custom software is made, not only can users benefit from a specially designed product and work more efficiently with it, but also the technologies themselves are advanced (e.g. Special features are tailored) because of the localization of the software. To bridge the communication gap between developers and users, a viable way is bringing both users and developers together into the development process. This type of community-based development is more likely to lead to a sustainable design, an ultimate user-centered design. Developers are able to pick preferable software from a pool of packages and tailor them for a specific group of users.

The recent project Custom Debian Distribution has developed a range of custom software for implementation in specific areas. Debian GNU/Linux is a project that symbolizes community technology at both macro and micro levels. At the macro level, we see diverse actors involving in the Debian project. More than 16,000 different software packages maintained by more than
1,000 independent volunteer developers creates a big universe of software.

For example, in the field of education, an internal Debian project has been developed called Debian-Edu, to extend Debian GNU/Linux into an operating system that is designed to fulfill the requirements of small non-profit organizations. The goal of Debian-Edu is a complete system for all common tasks that educational organizations need using 100% free software.

Yuwei Lin is a Researcher in the Science and Technology Studies Unit at the University of York, UK. Enrico Zini is a free software developer and advocate for Debian GNU/Linux.



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