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Free Software Worth Over US$19 Billion/AU$17 Billion

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Free Software Worth Over US$19 Billion/AU$17 Billion

PERTH - Monday February 13th 2012 – A recent cost and complexity analysis of a Linux Operating System has put a value on producing the software at over US$19 Billion (AU$17 Billion, EUR€14.4 Billion, GBP£12.1 Billion) in today's market.

The Debian GNU/Linux Distribution is one of the oldest Linux distributions, started in August 1993 by Ian Murdoch, a student at the time of Purdue University, Indiana USA. Debian/GNU Linux pulls together thousands of Free Software projects to produce a cohesive Linux Operating System. Debian also provides a base for other Linux versions, such as Ubuntu, and Linux Mint. What sets Debian part from many other Linux distributions is that it is 100% volunteer driven. Whilst various companies may sponsor some individuals to contribute, the entire Debian product is backed by a non-profit foundation called Software in the Public Interest, Inc (SPI).

Free and Open Source software is different from commercial software. It's licences applied by the developers not only permit but encourage free sharing of the software and the original source code. Furthermore, many of these licences permit the general public to make modifications to the software and distribute modified versions.

The upcoming Debian release has over 17,000 separate pieces of software. The cost and complexity analysis took just under two days of computation. Each software package was analysed by a tool called "sloccount", by David A. Wheeler, which extracted a count of the number of effect lines of software in each of the 17,000 packages. This tool applies a well established model for calculating the time and effort required to design, implement and test each piece of software. Finally a value for the average yearly salary of a developer was applied to this result.

Perth Open Source software developer James Bromberger produced these results after two days of analysis. The analysis showed that the next release of Debian, code named Wheezy (due out later in 2012), contains some 419 million lines of source code written in 31 different programming languages. If it had to be created from scratch today, it would cost over AU$17 billion dollars to produce.

"It's a vast amount of money, and clearly no company in their right mind would decide to undertake a project to write an entire distribution of this size - not even a subset of it" said Mr Bromberger. "Whilst it's purely academic, it's nice to get a sense of the value of such a global volunteer effort as it approaches its 20th year of development. All these billions of dollars worth of software is available for anyone to use – for free, as much as they like, and to share with friends or make improvements if they wish!"

Mr Bromberger has been a contributor to the Debian Project since 2000. He currently serves as the President of the Perth Linux Users Group, Inc. (PLUG), a non-profit association that holds regular free talks on Linux and Open Source projects. "I'm a big believer in sharing software code for the ideas, knowledge and concepts it offers. It's helped me learn a lot more about development, and it's helped create software that's significantly impacted the way the world operates”.

Details of the analysis are available at http://blog.james.rcpt.to/?p=446.

About Debian

The Debian Project is an association of individuals who have made common cause to create a free operating system. This operating system that they have created is called Debian GNU/Linux, or simply Debian for short. For more information see www.debian.org.

About Linux

Linux is a Unix-like computer operating system assembled under the model of free and open source software development and distribution. The defining component of Linux is the Linux kernel, an operating system kernel first released on October 5, 1991 by Linus Torvalds. It may be used, modified, and distributed — commercially or non-commercially — by anyone under licenses such as the GNU General Public License. For more information see www.linux.com

About James Bromberger

James Bromberger is a Free and Open Source software developer and advocate. He operates a Linux and Open Source Consultancy. For more information see www.jamesbromberger.com

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Name: James Bromberger
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Email: james@jamesbromberger.com
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