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FAQ – Dmoz/Computers/Software

Table of Contents

1    Q: What is Computers/Software ?
A: Computers/Software is the Open Directory Project category for sites dedicated to computer programs. Software, or computer programs, are the machine instructions that the computer follows when it is running, that tell it how to do what it does. Software includes all programs, from the Web browser you are likely using to read this page, to the communications programs that deliver it to you, to the server running on the site that sends you this page when your browser asks for it, to the editor and compiler programs that created each of these programs, to the operating systems that allow all these programs to work together. It’s a huge category, and very important, most computers depend on software to do anything. However, software is only information, a set of instructions. It is useless in itself, without a computer to carry it out.

In many ways the most important computer progam is the computer operating system. This is usually the program that allows all the other computer programs to work, that passes on their messages to other programs or the computer hardware, such as printers or the display. Some popular examples of these are Microsoft Windows, Mac_OS, Linux. Many computer programs are so dependent on one specific operating system that they won’t work on another one.

by gruban at 2000-08-10 17:32:49
2    Q: How is this category organized?
A: No sites are listed in Computers/Software, only other categories. These subcategories are organized in three ways.

The “alphabet bar”, A, B, C, and so forth, contains links to other “software” subject categories elsewhere in the Open Directory, organized alphabetically by subject name. No actual sites are listed directly under the alphabet bar, only category links.

The “top” group of categories, those “above the line”, or with “sort priority”, contain listings of sites dedicated to all subjects of software, such as general Freeware or Shareware software archives, Retailers selling all kinds of programs, general Programming, and other sites dealing with all or many different kinds of software. These are sites that organize themselves by how the software is made or sold, not by what it does or the purpose to which the software is put.

The lower group of categories is organized by specific kind of software, by what the software does, or by the area in which the software is used. Sites devoted to a specific program or group of programs would go here.

by gruban at 2000-11-02 17:33:06
3    Q: How is Software made ?
A: Computer software is written, by people, called programmers, usually with the assistance of other computer programs, called editors and compilers. The process is called programming, and there is a Computers/Programming category dedicated to it.

Software is written in source code form, in different programming languages, which vary, but usually look like a cross between English and algebra. Programmers can read and edit programs in this form. Then, usually, compilers read the source code, and turn it into machine code instructions, also called binary, or executable form, that the computer, and computer operating system, can follow. These are just numbers, no longer human-readable (except by truly strange humans).

Some software programs, often called scripts, are executed, or run, from source code form, by other programs, called interpreters. This typically makes them slower to run, but easier to write, and often more portable between different operating systems, since usually only the interpreter needs to be rewritten. Some programs are both compiled and interpreted, to try to both be portable and run faster.

by gruban at 2000-08-10 18:43:58
4    Q: What are Open Source, freeware, shareware, etc. ?
A: These are all ways of distributing software. Since software is just information, it can be downloaded, transferred over the Internet, as easily as an image on a Web page. Well maybe a little harder, since software is usually larger. So many software producers distribute their programs this way, with various restrictions.

Open Source software is completely free to everyone, including the source code. This means that people can not only use the program for free, but they can see how it was made, make changes, fix bugs, take out parts to use in other programs, and so forth. There are sometimes minor restrictions, such as having to attribute the source when the program is modified. The Open Directory Project itself is not quite Open Source, since it doesn’t release the software behind how it works, but is Open Content, which is quite similar.

Freeware is free software, but not necessarily with source code. If you’re not a programmer, the difference between Open Source and Freeware, to you, is only that with Open Source if the program breaks, or you want an improvement, you can take it to your friend who is a programmer, and she can try to fix it for you, even if the original author has stopped maintaining the program for whatever reason. If you don’t have the source code, you generally can’t do that.

Shareware is a program that is available for free, and may be redistributed for free, but with restrictions, typically it’s only free for a limited time, then you need to pay a fee to use it further. The source code is usually not available, for free or otherwise. Many people never pay that fee – but shareware is not meant to be free software.

There are many subcategories of each of these, for example crippleware is a program distributed as shareware with various important parts turned off, trialware is shareware that enforces its limited use period itself, by refusing to run after a certain time, postcardware is freeware or shareware where the seller demands a rather cheap price, a postcard from the user, so the author can know their work is appreciated, and others.

Finally, some programs are custom written for a specific user, and are not meant to be redistributed at all.

by gruban at 2000-11-02 18:29:31


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