Archive for April 1st, 2009

What operating system does your computer use?

If you use Windows, or the Apple Mac, or even Linux, this article is for you. Most of you have heard of the expression “Open Source” but, unfortunately, quite a large percentage think it only refers to Linux. It doesn’t.

Here are some free programs that run on all three platforms to whet your appetite!

Open Office – This is a word processor that will load, and save, files in many formats including Microsoft Office formats. This is also a spreadsheet that will load, and save, files in many formats including Microsoft Office formats. This is also a presentation manager that will load, and save, slide-shows in many formats including Microsoft Office formats. It is 99.9% compatible with Microsoft files and in two years I have not seen any files personally that haven’t been 100% compatible.

Audacity – This is an audio editor and recorder which is easy to use and I use it to make ring-tones for my cellphone – takes minutes.

Firefox – this is an internet browser which has literally thousands of add-ons written by different people and by downloading a few of them you can get the browser to work your way rather than having to adapt to some unseen programmer’s way.

The Gimp – this is an ideal Photoshop alternative and will do almost everything that Photoshop does, but does it for free. If you can make Photoshop sing, you may find this needs a bit of getting used to as it works entirely differently. But if money is tight and you want a powerful imaging program, this is your best bet.

Scribus – I am the first to confess this will not be anything like as powerful as Adobe’s In-design, but it is a lot less in cost – it’s free and runs on all three platforms. Here’s a chance to turn your writings into smarter produced work, although I am the first to admit they do need to put a little more work into it before it can be rated 100%

Stellarium – This is planetarium software; I have yet to use it but must admit, it looks fun.

HandBrake – This is another program that I have yet to use; it is a multi-threaded video transcoder but alas, I do not do anything with video so I cannot write about its effectiveness.

Thunderbird – This is an excellent email program and newsgroup reader and has been around for many years. I have used it in the past but now use a Linux (only) program that also links to my Palm TX PDF.

My message here is that you don’t have to move to Linux to benefit from free “open source” software. There is a lot more available than the above on all three platforms.

In addition, there are even more programs available in Windows and Linux only, or Mac and Linux so, if you are eyeing up Linux and wondering whether to make the jump because of the fact that there are 20,000 free programs available for Linux users and the credit crunch is biting, hard, here’s a chance to dip your feet into the water and see if it’s worth making the change.

If you do decide to dip your toes in the free Linux area, you have to decide which LinuxPam Taylor distribution to use as they are all slightly different. The best way is to use Google Trends to decide for you. It is simple to use, first of all, Google for Linux and make a note of a few Linux distributions that crop up. A few that spring to mind are Debian, Red Hat, Ubuntu, SuSE etc. Type them into Google Trends putting a comma between each name. You will then see graphs appear. The large one at the top shows the popularity of each “flavour” and the smaller one at the bottom shows news items on each one.

This is now the twelfth month I have been using Linux and I cannot understand why people are prepared to pay for everything I get for free. It doesn’t make sense to me but if you can explain it, I would welcome a comment. I chose Ubuntu. Apart from the excellent result I got in Trends (it was a year ago and may be different now) it was the fact that Ubuntu is an African name and I am from Africa. But, it is hard to say exactly what it means.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in his book No Future Without Forgiveness, says: “Ubuntu is very difficult to render into a Western language… It is to say, ‘My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in what is yours.'”


PS The full passage by Archbishop Tutu reads: “Ubuntu is very difficult to render into a Western language. It speaks of the very essence of being human. When we want to give high praise to someone we say, “Yu, u nobuntu”; “Hey, so-and-so has ubuntu.” Then you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, “My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.” We belong in a bundle of life. We say, “A person is a person through other persons.” It is not, “I think, therefore I am.” It says rather: “I am human because I belong. I participate, I share.” A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they are less than who they are.”



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