I have been messing around with computer since my Dad bought me one in 1980ish. I am a bit of a geek I guess. However I am most fascinated right now with what I think is the most exciting development in the whole field of computing and the area shaping the whole industry and use of computers. In fact even typing this is entering in that development and using key tools.
I mean the rise and rise of community software or more often described as Free/Libre or Open Source (FLOSS). As they say Free as in Free speech not Free as in Free beer! (although I pay almost nothing for sotware these days). I am writing this from my Kubuntu Linux Desktop machine.
I discovered Linux about 6 years ago when a friend showed my how to install Redhat Linux 6 and from there I have spent many many hours lost in steepest but most enjoyable learning curve I have yet encountered! (Or my wife has – this is another story though 😦 ).
Anyway what delights me the most is that FLOSS software has some fabulous characteristics. It is rarely written for just financial profit but for a much broader purpose – that others would be able to profit too. It changes everything. Rather paying a company for a software tool, developers all over the world are giving away software that they work on in small or large projects groups that anyone can take, modify, extend, sell (if they wish) and improve. And the most important thing is those improvements are rarely lost but everyone benefits from them.
What does that give me? An increasing toolkit of software to collaborate with others, do my daily office work, create all forms of digital art, communicate and share my ideas with all sorts of people and keep in touch with my nearest and dearest. It helps me with PEOPLE. This I think is the real power of the software – its created by communities for communities. The goal is the benefit of the users and I think that is the ultimate bottom line. For me anyway.
I am rolling out the stuff in my office (1 Linux Server, 9 Linux Desktops, 1 Linux Shop till, Openoffice, Thunderbird and Firefox everywhere. Compared to our two licensed XP windows machines and one licensed copy of MS Office) and helping people get to grips with tools that we in YWAM could never afford to equip each and every person with (see list below). Giving away stuff that helps people make contributions is lots of fun. And I guess this is where I can make the biggest contribution back into the communities that have created this wonderful software: as an advocate and spreading the word. I have helped squash on bug but I guess hacking is really too time intensive for me just now (and I am not the worlds greatest programmer).
Anyway here is my hit list (I will add links later but Google for then now). Why don’t you try them out?
- Redhat Linux’s Fedora desktop
- Mandrive Linux
- Kubuntu Linux – my current favourite Desktop and the one on the machines in the office
- Linux Terminal Server Project: 7 of the Linux desktops are LTSP machines running on very old hardware (P100 – P600 hardware)
- KDE – a fabulous desktop for users of Linux
- OpenOffice – a most amazing Office suite of programs that improves on a Quarterly basis
- Firefox – a secure and fast and standard compliantweb browser that has provoked Microsoft to update its Internet Explorer program and produce version 7
- Thunderbird -the excellent email program that goes with Firefox. Spam filter and spelling included!
- The Gimp photoeditor
- Kdissert – mind mapping tool for KDE (Linux)
Web based software
- Wikipedia – the free and huge dictionary project that anyone can contribute too.
- Google – a huge user of free software behind the scenes – each time you use it you are benefiting from free software
- Amazon – many of their systems run on free software
- Perl, Python, PHP – fantastic free programing languages that glue the internet together more than you could possibly imagine!
Phew. Tired now!