Saturday, January 21, 2006

Next Time You Think the World is a Bad Place...(Remember Open Source)

Next time you are upset with the world, with all the corruption in government, the selfish people, the downhill slide of our morality...

I want you to think of open source software. Open source software (OSS) is software that's been created by communities of programmers who are not being paid, and who do not charge for their product. It includes large groups of people who've never met each other, collaborating over the Internet, e-mailing each other, trying to fix problems, responding to users with help. All in their "hobby time." It's not their job. They don't get paid.

Imagine if your hobby was something that contributed to the long-term good of humanity. Maybe it is. It probably is.

For open source programmers, they are contributing to the good of all of us. I use all kinds of open source products. I'm starting a business, and I often cannot afford the software I need to use. So I use open source.

But think of the other people using it. Some kid in a poor family gets a run-down old PC from somebody. She's a genius. She goes to the library to get connected to the Internet. She downloads a bunch of open source software and begins to use it to create something great. A new piece of software. A novel. Something new.

And then she distributes it on the Internet. The idea gets out. And we've benefitted from this kid who, ten years ago, could not have made her contribution. Now she can.

Here are some of the open source software packages I've used:

OpenOffice - an office suite (word processing, spreadsheet, graphics, presentations)
Gimp - a photo manipulation program like Photoshop
Inkscape - a vector graphics program
Firefox - an Internet browser
Thunderbird - an e-mail client to replace Outlook
GnuCash - an accounting package like Quickbooks
dotProject - a project management system
phpWebsite - a content management for my Website
vTiger - a customer database system
Sunbird - a task management and calendaring system (PIM - like Outlook but no e-mail - soon to be integrated into Thunderbird)

I'm sure there are more, I just can't think of them right now. And much of this stuff is better than the paid software it's replacing (Microsoft Office, Photoshop, Internet Explorer, etc.)

Support the world of open source. Download the software, use it, help to document it, helping coding (if you can), help make it happen.

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