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From the Frontiers of Research to the Heart of the Enterprise
O'Reilly Open Source Convention
Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina
July 22-26, 2002 -- San Diego, CA



Using the Source: Software Archaeology for Users of Open Source Software
Glenn Vanderburg, Independent Consultant

Track: Operating Systems and Applications
Date: Tuesday, July 23
Time: 1:45pm - 5:15pm
Location: Sea Breeze II

One of the most common arguments for open source software is that the source code is valuable and useful. If you need support, bug fixing, or new features, having the source means that you can do it yourself, or pay someone else to do it for you.

Many companies and organizations, however, have difficulty understanding the value. And many that use open source software never take full advantage of the source code, treating open source systems as black boxes very similar to proprietary products. One big reason for this is that most people, even many experienced programmers, find the source code daunting. Studying a large package of someone else's code is difficult, and learning it well enough to find problems, fix bugs, and add features with confidence seems like a big challenge.

In truth, though, it's not as hard as it may seem. This talk will present techniques for *reading* software and quickly learning about an existing body of code so that you can change it safely and quickly. The talk will focus primarily on Java-based systems, but there will be discussion of other languages. A case study and demonstration of the techniques will pull the concepts together and show them in practice.

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