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Hackers give proprietary programmers run for their money

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Jack Writes: It started innocently enough. A man wanted his company to replace his aging office computer with the new Intel-based Apple MacBook Pro, telling his boss that he could boot Windows XP on it.

Problem is, at that time, you couldn't. There was no software, method or boot loader that would allow Mac users to run Microsoft's operating system on the cool, sleek Apple hardware.

Putting money where his mouth is, Colin Nederkoorn put up US$100, set up a website (, urged others to donate money, and launched an open-source software coding contest.

Ever since its inception in late January to the award of the prize in mid-March, over $13,000 was raised. Giving a new meaning to Internet advertising, the list of all donors, both individuals and corporate, was published on the web, some including links to their blogs or company websites.

Nederkoorn's call to arms was a welcome cry to battle-hardened Mac users who love their machines, but were sometimes forced to use the Windows platform due to application software lock-ins for both the corporate environment (such as custom-made company programs) or entertainment (i.e. games).

When Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced the move to the Intel processor, everyone was hoping for immediate Windows compatibility. But things were moving more slowly than expected, especially since it was announced that Windows XP could not use the Mac's new Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI).

But as the open-source world has demonstrated, commercial or corporate limitations should not prevent the creation of hardware or software needed by the world's computer users. Despite corporate reluctance, users today can now make their own solutions if needed. And if they can't do it personally, there are enough people online who can.

Many people think of "open-source" as a term used by Linux zealots, fighting for justice and equality in a greedy corporate world. Some even equate it with a form of technological communism since it would not (allegedly) allow anyone to make a profit. Yet many companies today can profit from supporting open-source development, such as IBM, Sun Microsystems and Oracle.

Perhaps one of the best benefits of this open-source contest is that the code created can be shared and improved. And if corporate IT managers look around the web, there are an abundance of freely-available community created solutions, from web servers (, databases (, intranet applications (, productivity suites ( or even push e-mail servers ( that can be downloaded and implemented.

To help customize these applications for specific business processes, there are many Indonesian programmers and consultants who can help companies utilize them to the fullest.

More importantly, the open-source developer community can help dictate market trends. Not a month after the end of the XP-on-Mac contest, Apple Computer released their own free solution, dubbed Boot Camp, to allow users install Windows flawlessly on Mac hardware. Some PC games and programs actually ran faster on the Mac hardware than other computers.

As the creators of the Mac operating system, it would not be surprising if Apple had the solution all along and was just waiting for the right moment to release it. And based on the popularity of the contest, there was plenty of demand prompting the launch of Boot Camp to help expand the Mac's global market share.

What would happen if an open-source community did not exist? Or worse, software patents made it illegal or expensive to create innovative programs to meet our needs?

The world could become dominated by mega-software corporations, pushing their own points of view and profits, forcing people to pay handsomely for software.

For individuals and businesses, that would affect our bottom lines.

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