Friday, December 12, 2008

What!?! Software is free!?!

Yes it's true. I didn't know it was so unbelievable but apparently a lot of people don't know about it. I stumbled across this article about a teacher in the States threatening a student for giving out Linux cds and other open source software for free while introducing some fellow students to it.
She sent a letter to a blogger named Ken Starks who is involved in introducing cheap computers to disadvantaged children. She says:
"...observed one of my students with a group of other children gathered around his laptop. Upon looking at his computer, I saw he was giving a demonstration of some sort. The student was showing the ability of the laptop and handing out Linux disks. After confiscating the disks I called a confrence with the student and that is how I came to discover you and your organization."
Why would you do that? What the kid is doing is impressive, schools should be encouraging that type of thing. If schools went completely open source they could save so much money. She then goes on to show her ignorance by saying:
"I am not sure what you are doing is legal. No software is free and spreading that misconception is harmful."
What!?! There is TONS of free software! Everybody uses open source stuff now even if they don't realize it. You really don't need to pay anything to use your computer anymore.
Then after talking of pursuing legal action and how Linux is holding kids back she starts going all 'Pro-Microsoft':
"This is a world where Windows runs on virtually every computer and putting on a carnival show for an operating system is not helping these children at all."
No, this is a world where more and more people are turning away from Microsoft. The only reason it is so prevalent is because they have created these situations where it is hard to switch operating systems. But instead of developing a good one they constantly churn out relatively archaic junk. They know that many will purchase it because they don't know any better or they just buy the pre-built system in Future Shop. And many more businesses will purchase it because they have to. Why bother spending resources creating a better product if you know you will be selling millions anyway. It sounds suspiciously like another failing business model which I blogged about earlier. There is a shift that already began with Apple reinventing itself and Firefox becoming the browser of choice. Even Dell is offering computers preloaded with Linux Ubuntu! Dell! Seriously! Regular people are ready for change.
Now if you read the comments below the article it starts to get a little sketchy fast. People commenting on links between the teacher's union and Microsoft, the teaching quality today and the usual Microsoft hate speak. But some of it is valid. I have recently reformatted my computer and am now dual booting with Windows XP and Linux Ubuntu 7.1. My computer is 5 years old and only has 512 RAM with a small 2.2GHz processor. I have been really careful to keep it clean and quick but there is only so much you can do when XP uses such a sizeable chunk of your computer just to run. With Ubuntu I have all the awesome open source software I need and it runs so smoothly, flawlessly and effortlessly. The graphic effects in Ubuntu rivals Vista but Vista would never run on my computer. I truly am a satisfied 'customer'. I was always a little scared of it since I know almost nothing about programming etc. but this is almost the most user friendly experience ever.
Now the only reason I have Windows is for AutoCAD and I almost wish I hadn't bothered. AutoCAD and Windows are the only things I am 'paying' for. Everything else is free. I use GIMP or Paint.NET instead of Photoshop, Firefox instead of IE, OpenOffice instead of MS Office, Gmail instead of Outlook, AVG instead of Norton.
And by the way, all those open source products work on Windows too because they are, well, open-source. Do some research and you will find many good reviews of all these products. Once again, there is no reason you should be paying for software these days.
Seriously, if you have an older computer kicking around that you think is garbage, stick Ubuntu on it and you will have a perfectly good usable computer. If you want an install disc you can order the latest one here for free (I know, its crazy). Or you can have mine. If you are having trouble with your computer now, consider switching. And if you have kids, I think it is really important to expose them to things other than Microsoft if you want them to have the computer skills of the future.
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