A free open-source alternative to .Mac has been assembled and is currently being tested.

The solution has emerged as part of the NotMac Challenge, a project to develop an alternative to .Mac that is the brainchild of J. Kent Pepper.

The winning developer who creates a usable solution will be rewarded with over $7,000, which have been contributed by users searching for an alternative to Apple's online subscription service.

The current alternative system has been developed by Ben Spink. The software - which integrates replacements for most of .Mac's features - has been released for testing, but at this stage installation is a technologically-advanced process.

The solution will be available for testing until 30 September. If trials conclude it to be a viable solution, then the developer will pick up the prize and the .Mac alternative will be made generally available.

The NotMac Challenge website is hosting a forum in which potential users can find out more about the solution.

Users must conclude that Spink's solution is effective enough to be widely used as a free replacement to .Mac's client-based services that's easy enough for a first-time Mac user to install and so fully and transparently integrated that a long-time .Mac user wouldn't notice the difference.