Why I moved to OpenSource


I am often asked why I moved over to Linux from Windows. A question which is difficult to understand when replied to verbally, but a little easier when written down. A few years ago I had a wonky hard drive and kept on having to reformat and reload Windows. After I had done this a few times I received a message on my screen asking me to ring a number (Microsoft’s) immediately.

The guy on the other end introduced himself as Microsoft’s fraud department and demanded to know why I had tried too many times to use the same disk to load up Windows. I was furious and called him a few names and told him I had trouble with my hard drive. He wanted to know where I got the disk.

I suddenly saw how I could have some fun at his expense and said a lady in a London club gave it to me. He became very alert and asked me details of the person. I gave her name and a Reading phone number which he wrote down and suddenly he said, but that’s a Microsoft head office number in the UK. Yes, I said, I am an IT Journalist and she gave it to me at a Microsoft event in London and if he’d prefer, I could scrap this disk and get her to send me another one. He then grudgingly gave me a code to enter into my computer to release Windows. I was amazed that he believed me though!

But it got me thinking. I evidently hadn’t bought the software but the cost is expensive for most, and that this proved most windows products are only on loan, you are not entitled to do anything you like with them, as you wood a book for instance. Lend it to a friend or resell it. Similar to DRM and Music CDs, they are not yours, you have to obey the rules laid down by the music company. Even Kindle books for example can’t be lent to a friend, it has to stay on your Kindle.

It was then that I decided that I would never rent anything again. I would only buy products which were mine to dispose of how I wished. With music I had to be allowed to make up a backup copy and MP3 files for my portable music. I had to make this concession else I’d never buy CDs.

I flirted with several distributions of Linux and decided to settle down with Ubuntu as it seemed the best behaved. And two years on, I have never looked back. I have a choice of a single click download of 43,000 programs which automatically put themselves in the right menu on my computer, I have just counted the number of programs I use, it comes to just over 100! And, these don’t include the administrative files there to help you run the operating system.

Who should run Ubuntu? Not an easy question to answer, but at the lower end of the scale, if you just use your computer to use email, browsing on the web and word processing, then you should definitely seriously consider it. Get the following three programs for Windows or the Mac: Firefox Browser, Thunderbird email and LibreOffice. Google for them. Use them for a few months and, if you are very happy with them, change over to Ubuntu and load the same three programs into your computer and you are away. Easy Peasy! If you want to remain with windows, remember, the free LibreOffice reads, and saves to, Microsoft Office so you can avoid paying such huge prices for that program.

There are some good programs for editing photographs (Picasa from Google is available on all three systems) and music playing, cd ripping, video editing. And a terrific help forum where you get answers in no time at all. Look at www.ubuntu.com

Most other users would probably benefit unless they either use their computers for serious gaming, or Adobe’s more serious software – although “The Gimp” is almost as good as Photoshop and is available on all platforms.

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