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Bossies 2012: The Best of Open Source Software Awards

It's back -- and bigger and badder than ever! Our sixth annual Bossie Awards call out more than 100 open source products in seven categories

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Most people are using this to set up self-organizing wireless repeating networks in their home, but from time to time the networks jump the fence and start mixing. Dreamers suggest that one day there will be enough AutoAP-flashed routers to meld together into a seamless internetwork that doesn't need the big ISPs. People will have an "Internet" that simply exists and doesn't need a central corporation to carry the bits.

This same out-of-the-desktop-box thinking is also powering XBMC, the open source "set-top box" software that wants to lead the PC army to take over the living room. XBMC already has a firm beachhead with a number of alluring plug-ins. All it needs is good, affordable hardware -- which may be coming as people build cheap Android PCs with HDMI connectors.

There are even more radical applications of open source. The Arduino hardware project continues to attract hackers who itch for more than just a screen and keyboard. Arduino hardware is being sewn into garments, attached to plants, joined to coffeemakers, integrated into model airplanes, and on and on. It's going pretty much anywhere a laptop can't go.

The hardware that began in a small Italian company is attracting the attention of big companies including RadioShack, which wants to return to its roots as a candy store for tinkerers. Some recent projects include mind-controlled robots, a glitchbox for playing music, and an Arduino-powered box that gives a plant the ability to water itself.

Then there are people exploring open source movie cameras like the Apertus Axiom, a design for a high-end video camera that the creators are hoping to crowdfund. Not to mention people building open source ham radios like the DStar, people creating open source instruments like the Zoybar, and even people rebranding the old recipe files as open source food.

The proliferation of all of this open source is why Sam Muirhead, a writer and artist, has vowed to make this next year his "year of open source," in which he'll replace all of the items around his house with real open source alternatives. If he can't get the schematics and the rights to reproduce something, he won't buy it.

Challenges await, but the good news is that there are still people who are willing to jump in and start everything anew. I'm personally looking around in my couch cushions for enough change to buy a Rally Fighter, an SUV that's in the beginning of a 2,000-car manufacturing run. You can download the 3D CAD drawings to build your own. Or you can just work with the designers in Arizona who will help you through a six-day-long "build experience."

The open source movement has taken us on an astounding journey. What began as quixotic quest that all software should be free has grown into the engine of innovation and change that has already extended beyond the bounds of the computer industry.

This article, "Bossies 2012: The Best of Open Source Software Awards," was originally published at Follow the latest developments in open source at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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