Saturday, 20 September 2008

Software Freedom Day

I just learned about Software Freedom Day: today, 20 September!

Software Freedom Day (SFD) is a worldwide celebration of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). Our goal in this celebration is to educate the worldwide public about of the benefits of using high quality FOSS in education, in government, at home, and in business -- in short, everywhere!

I don't have much time to research and write the article I would like to write in support of this. I am a big supporter of free software ("free as in speech, not free as in beer"), and hope to include a line of articles on it in this blog when I have more time (whenever that might be).

For the moment, let me just give a little anecdote:

My dad is a farmer in Alberta. He uses a computer for accounting, word processing, e-mail. It is important, because one of his main operations is a mail-order seed-potato business, Eagle Creek Seed Potatoes with a website for people to browse and order from. (He grows several very interesting and exotic varieties of potatoes for gardeners across Canada.) My brother farms with him, growing u-pick flowers and a very popular sunmaze.*

They recently got attacked by an e-mail virus that just about did them out of internet access - a serious problem for an internet-dependent business.

We were visiting Canada at the time, and I suggested trying Linux (specifically Ubuntu, one of the most human-friendly varieties of Linux). They put Linux on the infected machine, got the e-mail client running within the day (it's at least as easy as it is on Windows), and are now 99% virus-proof.

While we were at it, we put Xubuntu, a low-spec variety of Ubuntu, on a laptop that could no longer handle the demands of Windows, and suddenly they had one more usable computer than they had before.

A very short learning curve (about the same as you'd get moving from one version of Windows to the next) and they were all up and running.

Moral: if you don't want to spend money on virus-prone operating systems or on the latest and greatest computer, but just need something that works easily, reliably, and safely, Linux is the way to go. (Free Software is marketed as "free as in speech, not free as in beer", but it's usually both.)

And even if you don't want to go so far as trying Linux (even though it's very easy), there is a lot of useful free software out there that you can use in Windows or on the Mac. Try, which has a word processer, a spreadsheet, and most of the applications and features that Microsoft Office has. Try the Gimp, an image processing program akin to Photoshop. And for the love of all things digital, make sure you're using Mozilla Firefox rather than Explorer!

That's all for now. Enjoy Sofware Freedom Day!

*Note: Yes, I am shamelessly promoting my family's businesses here. Go, visit them, try the maze, grow some potatoes.

(Thanks to TeXblog for alerting me to Software Freedom Day.)

1 comment:

  1. Yay for free software! I'm quite happy with Ubuntu myself. I never realised that your family grew potatoes. I lived off potatoes when I was growing up. I envy you. :)


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