This website is made with free software, on a computer running a free operating system, filled with free programs.
I’ve recently switched from using the standard Microsoft packages that we all know and love (Mac users, you no doubt have equivalents), to using entirely free software. This is partly driven by my new approach to employment but also because I think it better suits my views on life.
On the one hand we have programs written by professionals, on sale in shops, the profits of which go to the businesses that make them. And on the other hand we have software written and maintained by communities, and made freely available to the public. These packages, for the most part, are not created for any financial incentive and I find that refreshing.
In life I think that it can be all too easy to get distracted by money but that when you look hard enough, it is often a distraction you need not have paid heed. Open Source products (as they are known) are a fine example of this – you do not need to spend money to run a good set of software packages.
The changeover is a steep learning curve for me as I was very fond of my Microsoft programs and all the wonderful keyboard shortcuts that I had learned but I am enjoying the experience. Here are some of the programs I have recently discovered, all of which are freely available online or for download:
- Word Press (website design) – I’m no computer expert but, with a little help from my friends, this package has created something that almost looks like a proper website and many others have produced very impressive sites . An even more simple website tool is Blogger and, for the more adventurous, you could try Joomla.
- Ubuntu (operating system) – instead of Windows XP, Vista or Mac OS, my computer runs on a version of Linux. I’ve always shied away when my technologically minded brothers spoke the “L” word but it’s not that big a culture shock. It looks and acts a whole lot like Windows but it’s free and has lots of great features.
- iGoogle (desktop homepage) – I’m a big fan of Google products – Gmail, Maps, Calendar and Google Docs – but my personal favourite is iGoogle. Now, wherever I am in the world, whatever computer I’m on, I can get my emails, calendar, Twitter, Facebook and news feed on one page. You can also use it to display gold fish.
- Open Office – Just like Word, PowerPoint and Excel but without the £100-500 price tag. The Open Office programs are all compatible with Microsoft ones. (I’m not sure that they are quite as powerful as the MS versions but admit that I’m still learning).
- GIMP (image editing) – dubiously entitled, this sits somewhere on the spectrum between Paint and Adobe PhotoShop (closer to the latter). It is now responsible for editing the images on this website
- Remember the Milk (organiser) – a nifty online task manager for those of us who need to sort their lives out. I’ve only just signed up so we’ll see if it improves the situation.
PS BBC Switch recently ran a television feature on this topic. You can read an article about it here.