The best free open source software for Mac OS X

If you live and work on a Mac, you'll want to try these 10 killer open source apps -- InfoWorld's top picks

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Then there's Boxee, a venture-capital-funded startup that wants to help you share your video and music consumption with your close and personal friends. If you join, you start out with the founder Avner Ronen in your friendship circle. Buried under all of this amity is the Boxee application, which is built on top of much of XBMC. The company continues to support the XBMC code base, contributes some of its own code into the commonweal, and is listed as one of the supporters of the project.

There are two ways that the XBMC platform encourages simple contributions. All accept skins, which are mainly rules for how to display the information on the screen. The second is with true plug-ins written in Python; these are mainly tools for sucking down lists of content sources from the Web and arranging for them to play. Or you could just start your very own fork.

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The Plex media center project spiffs up the XBMC code base for Mac OS X.

Unlock the world of open source with Fink

Underneath the gooey, wet Aqua skin of Mac OS X lies BSD Unix, an open source operating system that began long ago at Berkeley. Steve Jobs adopted it at NeXT, and when NeXT acquired Apple (though, technically, Apple acquired NeXT), all the BSD infrastructure came with the deal.

BSD Unix has many close cousins, such as Sun's Solaris, and many not-so-close cousins, such as Linux. All of them are filled with open source software. The Fink project brings all of this software to the Mac, modifying the code so that it will compile and run on Mac OS X and providing tools that help with installation.

Fink is the command-line version of the package manager for the muy macho, and Fink Commander is an aging push-and-click tool that allows the Fink command line to remain hidden. Either tool will unlock most of the wonderful open source Unix software for the Mac. Kind programmers modify popular Unix tools to work with Apple's peculiar way of naming the directories and then store them with Fink.

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