Open Source

Open Source is defined by Wikipedia as "an approach to the design, development, and distribution of software, offering practical accessibility to a software's source code." The "Source Code" of any given software is the core coding - the very structure - of that software's existence. Everything in a piece of software is built on and around its code. When the source code of a software is given out freely to the community, this allows those with the desire to utilize the work of others in creating their own software. Thus, "open source" software contributes to a constant cycle of what Web 2.0 characterizes: contribution and collaboration.

The popular web browser developed by Mozilla known as Firefox is a great example of an open source product. The code for Firefox is distributed freely to any and all who wish to use it. The implications of this have spread far beyond what anyone first imagined what open source might mean. The Firefox addons site is devoted to distributing free, powerful, and useful plug-ins for Firefox, such as the extremely effective Adblock Plus. But addons aren't limited to utilities; they can be literally anything. These useful tools are written by people from all over, from private developers to school kids to corporations. Their contributions, made possible by open source programming, have made Firefox the most extensive and customizable browser available.
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Another amazing application of the Firefox code is the open source music player Songbird. It was developed using the source code of Firefox, which can be clearly seen through many of the traits they share; Songbird has addons as well as a built in web browser. Physically, Songbird is built a lot like iTunes, a popular, feature filled, but closed-source music player. But, more importantly, Songbird has improved upon much of what iTunes offers, and is constantly growing as a result of many peoples' efforts to add to it, as opposed to Apple's efforts to improve iTunes, which aren't based on community-driven motivation, but rather interest in profit.

So, in a nutshell, the open source movement is a drive to promote, create, and share free software with the community, under the premise that the sharing of ideas and products will snowball to build bigger and better things every day.


There are many sources for open source software. A few that we use here ar school are:


  • A poorly organized but expansive directory of open source projects and software.

The Linux Game Tome
  • An expansive gallery of primarily open source games written for Linux, Windows, and OSX.

  • Free and open source office utilities equivalent to commercial products like Word, Excel, and Power Point. Neooffice, found in the computer labs, is an example of OpenOffice.

  • Open Source Alternatives to commercial software.

  • The open source operating system.

Open Source Applications Available in MHS

As open source applications become more readily in the school we will posting information about them either on this page or elsewhere in the wiki. Applications posted elsewhere in the wiki are listed at the end of this page.


The GNU Image Manipulation Program or GIMP is an Open Source application available in the computer lab. GIMP has numerous similar characteristics to Adobe Photoshop. However, there is one significant difference: GIMP is free. It can be downloaded from here for either Windows or MAC operating systems.

GIMP can be very useful in the classroom. It could be used in classes structured around photo editing and business. People in business classes could use this program to design a logo or to create a business card. Another reason this program is useful is because GIMP has 'layers' when simple programs like Paint do not. Having layers make it easier for the user to organized the changes to the photos and enable you to keep the original image safe if you decided you don't like the changes you made. GIMP can also be used to make animated GIF's as well as help you optimize your graphics for Web publishing.

GIMP is very robust and we are not going to spend too much time and effort to help you learn because what you need to learn depends on what you want to do. We do help you get started with this introductory video.

There are many video tutorials available on the Web. Poke around and find what is best for what you want to do.

Links to Other Open Source Applications Descriptions

Audacity: a podcast creation tool similar to GarageBand.