Wednesday, January 7, 2009

You Don't Have To Be a Techie

I want to start this blog by specifying what my goal actually is. I am not a computer programmer, techie or even interested in the field. I am a work at home mother who uses the computer regularly, mostly to surf the net, do office work, play games, make photos and cards, and try organize my life. I am the type of person who is targeted in marketing by both Microsoft and Apple to use their products. If it were not for being married to a computer programmer I would probably have gone broke buying all the products I felt I needed to have in order to perform all the functions necessary on my computer. I would have Windows Vista on my PC, or even gotten a more expensive Mac thinking those were my best options. I would have purchased Microsoft Office not knowing that there was a free and compatible alternative program available. I would have also had to buy Adobe Photoshop (or other such product) to make my graphics and I would be using a slower, more vulnerable browser to surf the web. I am amazed at how much free software is out there and even more amazed that so few people know about it.

My goal is simply to help the average user begin to understand that "Open Source Software" is available to them and why it is in their best interest to use it. One very appealing reason to use it is the amount of money it will save you. Why would anyone want to pay $100+ for an office suite when you get one just as good (or even better) for FREE? It makes no sense to me. Yet still people either are not aware that they have the option or they are too afraid to try something new. If a person already knows how to use MSOffice they generally want to stick with what they know (that was my initial response), yet for the most part the Open Source products are not generally all that different from their expensive counterparts. They may appear to be different at first, but once you get used to the new product you often find that it is not only as good as what you were used to, but it is often superior in many ways.

Of course, my goal is not simply to save people money, I do have some ulterior motives as well. It is my personal desire to leave Windows all together. I wish I never had to use it, yet at this time it is all I have ever used. Not because it is the best system for my needs and not because it is the best value for my money or even because I just like it. I only use Windows because it is the only systems that some of my favorite games and programs will run on. The sad part is, it does not have to be that way. It really is not all that difficult for them to make games compatible with Linux or certain browser functions to work in Firefox. Companies simply choose not to do so. Since not very many people are using the Open Source projects they just do not bother taking the time to market to that small segment of the population. For the most part they know that most people will give in and did like I do and fork over the extra money for Windows because we really want that game, or service bad enough. Well, I am done giving in.

There are actually some positive changes going on. The market shares are starting to shift. Just last Month Microsoft's Internet Explorer dropped to 68% of the market while Firefox climbed to over 21%. If that trend keeps up more websites will be forced to make all of their applications compatible with Firefox. The trend for a change in Operating Systems is moving much slower. While Linux is the third leading operating system, it still has less than 1% of the market share. Remember, that is not because Linux is not as good as Windows, but because it requires the user to have more skill and knowledge (which can be easily obtained) and because most programs are not currently made to be compatible in it. These are obstacles that can be overcome, in time, and you can help us do it.

So that is why I am here. To prove to you that you can and should support the Open Source movement. Not only will Open Source save you money, but it will give you power too. See, Open Source is not just free in terms of money, but in terms of knowledge as well. With Open Source products you actually have control of your own computer in how it runs and operates. Once you experience that freedom you will never want to turn to back to anything else. I am here to prove to you that you have what it takes to do it. You do not have to be a techie, a geek or even go to class to learn how to use this stuff. With the sources of these products being open to the public, that also means that you can generally find help, advice and support for them too. You just have to know where and how to look.

That is what I plan to do, help you find and discover Open Source Software. I will share info about each program I use and either write my own or share other user guides for these products. I also plan on installing and running Linux, all by myself and I will be keeping you posted about my experience along the way. So please join me as I venture off into the world of Open Source Software and share with you just how literally free and easy it can be for all of us!

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