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2. Availability of Source Code

A fundamental difference between running experimental Linux versions and beta-testing most commercial operating system products is that Linux comes with source code. Users that run experimental versions have at least enough proficiency with the development tools to get it compiled. And as there are thousands of people who have contributed bug fixes and enhancements, there are clearly orders of magnitude more people able to do so than (for instance) there are for any Microsoft product.

Run virtually any commercial OS in beta-testing, and you can watch it crash, but have minimal capability to either diagnose the problem, or change the behaviour. With Linux, you have the source code, which is the ultimate tool to help figure out the incorrect behaviour. You may even be able to fix the problem yourself.

Perhaps you don't have the skills yourself to fiddle with the sources; the fact that there are a variety of independent third parties who can do so removes the "worst case" risk that something bad happens and nobody is able to support it.

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Contact me at cbbrowne@acm.org