These two articles mention an excellent forthcoming window of opportunity for small to midsized businesses. It’s one that I’ve warned several of my business owner friends several years ago. Of course, as is typical of most businesses that are not tech related, worrying about your Operating System of choice for your office is the last thing on your todo list, and upgrading to a new one is usually not even on the list unless it has to be.
I began playing with the Linux desktop after being forced to used Windows ME for my work computer. I was convinced at the time that Windows in general was just so bad that it was becoming unusable. It constantly crashed, and just plain sucked. By the time Windows XP had come out, the hardware had advanced so much, that it just made more sense to buy a new computer.
Well now computers are fast, faster than most people need. When Microsoft Vista comes out, there will be less hardware related reasons to upgrade. XP works, I won’t bash it here, but Vista will offer many great new productivity features (most of which are already included with Mac OSX Tiger). Want to get more life out of the hardware you already own?
Now is the time to prepare yourself *not* to upgrade to Microsoft Vista:
If you own a business with an office of 15 people, when do you wake up and realize that Microsoft is trapping you in their prescribed release cycle? If you do as they hope, you will pay them more or less $2,500 every 3-4 years in Windows upgrade fees. That’s *before* software upgrade costs. That could mean an additional $9,000 just to upgrade MS Office. (we’re talking legal copies here folks. you are legal aren’t you?)
Or, are you a smart, forward thinking company? Do you start using Linux now, have a year to get comfortable with it, be amazed, and excited, inspired even? Move your lower end machines to Linux, and get another few years of very useful life out of them. Get the rest of your employees used to it (because it reallllly isn’t that different). And by the time Microsoft Vista comes around, you realize you can have all the computing power you had before, plus access to the world of free (as in price) , and quite possibly *never* have to pay for software again?
Small businesses claim to be “too busy” to deal with software issues, yet they stand to have the most to gain by using free software.
Sometimes you just gotta take the plunge.
Come on, Dive in, the water’s fine.
Welcome to the nerdosphere Heather. Enjoy your stay.
Today is Software Freedom Day, so I’ll do my part.
I realize software gets a bad rap as being too nerdy a subject for the average person, but I think it’s important to take a moment, look around you, and notice all the areas of your life where software matters. Most of us use computers now, whether at home, at our jobs, or even inside our cable box. They are everywhere, and the fact that you don’t have to think about them most of the time is a sign that they are doing their job correctly. However I don’t believe it’s a healthy idea to forget that they are there. It is important for any computer user to understand at least the basics of who created that software, and maybe even why that software was created. It is also important to understand what regulations and expectations are built-in to that software from the software maker, and how that might affect the user legally or restrict their choice in how use that software.
Like any industry, there is regulation in the creation of software. Since software can be very easily written by any human, or another computer, most of this regulation comes from Government. For example, it is illegal to release a piece of software into the cyber world that knowingly and intentionally attempts to cause damage to other’s computers or software. It may also be illegal to write or release software that is too similar or even exact copies of another author’s copywritten software.
Most Americans seem to understand the basic ideals behind Copyright, and the laws and punishments surrounding it here in this country. The respect for Copyright law however seems to be very low. Most people know that when they buy a bootleg DVD or download music from an unauthorized source, that they are breaking the law, however this doesn’t seem to stop them from doing it. In a capitalistic society, getting something for free is one of the hardest temptations to resist. I’ve observed this temptation crossover into the consumption of software too. The commonality of the easy and undetectable theft, encourages computer users to assume that installing Microsoft Windows on all 6 of their computers, or installing cracked software is normal, that thus accepted. They know they are breaking a law, and yet if there’s no punishment attached, then it’s too hard to resist bucking the system. I don’t get the feeling however, that most of these computer users understand where that law they break has originated from. Guess what, it’s *not* the government.
Blame the Author
Writing software is much like writing a song, or a book. It’s a creation, a collection of ideas expressed through a medium, a work of art even, which is the product of an author, or authors. In America, an author automatically has a copyright to their own work, the second it is written, assuming it is original, and that they can prove the date and time it was created. Part of this copyright is the ability to define how your work should be licensed, or protected. By claiming your copyright, you are allowed to reserve all rights to that work, thus making you the central source of usage permissions, or restrictions. If somebody wants to use your product, they have to secure permission from you first. For example when you buy a book, a fee placed on the intended usage of that writing. The license you agree to does not transfer ownership. You are allowed to read the book, or even burn it, but you do not have the license to reproduce the book, or resell it. This model is something most Americans have grown up with, and they naturally apply this idea to software. When they buy Microsoft Windows, they assume that they are buying a license to use the software, but not to reproduce, copy, modify, or resell it. This is the license used by the author, who in this case is Microsoft. What’s important to remember here though is that an author has the freedom to release their word under *any* type of license. So Microsoft, as the author of Windows has intentionally restricted your use of their software, and this was done so that they may continue to receive a fee for their hard work and original ideas. The US Government, can and will attempt to punish you for violating this license, but they would only do so, to enforce the copyright, and the idea that an author has control over how their product is used.
It is now that i would like to you encourage you to excersise your right to burn your Microsoft Windows CD. You don’t need it anymore.
I use Fedora Linux as my computer operating system. It’s similar to Windows and Mac OSX in the functionality it provides, however I never have that nagging “I might be doing something illegal” feeling. I can do pretty much whatever I want with it. I can install it on as many machines as I want, examine how it’s made, even fix it or make it better. And oh yeah, it costs $0.00.
Free as in Freedom
Free software (capital “F”) uses the same idea of author’s rights, and power of license. However when an author releases their work under a Free license, they are usually granting the user much more power over it’s use than the traditional “All Rights Reserved” copyright. In fact, most of the time, when an idea, work, or piece of software is released as Free, it is intended to be copied, studied, modified, and yes, even resold. This opens up the product for critical review, and creates opportunity for people to contribute to, and improve the software, without the bureaucracy of having to secure permission from the author first. The net effect is better software, and a more effective idea, something all author’s should cherish.
Now why would anybody want to do this? Isn’t that just giving away your idea to the world for free?
Yes and no. “Free” (capital “F”) is for Freedom, “free” (lowercase “f”) means no price. A Free software license does not require a piece of software to be free. An author still has the right to charge whatever fee they want for their work, or no fee at all. The important idea behind a Free software license is the choice behind that license. Again, I beleive it’s important for a user to think about why the author chose that particular license, and what freedoms the author has intentionally granted to the user. Most authors desire their ideas to become popular and to influence the world.
Free software has allowed great ideas and products to flourish throughout the world, empowering people with tools, technologies, and most important, the rights to use them in the best way they see fit. FireFox. PHP is Free software. Linux is Free software. A majority of the world’s web servers are on Apache, a Free software product. These amazing products and the good they have done for the world are powered by, and continually improved by Free software licenses. Countries from all over the world such as Brazil, China, and South Korea are using Free Software to not only compete in the global economy, but improve education and welfare.
You do not have to be a geek to understand the concept of, or enjoy the freedoms that Free software allows, but as a computer user in everyday life, you may want to think about the author of the software you use, and how they do or don’t empower your choice to use it.
If this idea is new to you, there is a good brief introduction here.
Various forms of Free licenses can be applied to all forms of media too. For more information, check out The Creative Commons.
An excellent book detailing the creation of the Free Software movement is this.
I have only scratched the surface here, but I encourage anyone out there who might be interested in the idea of Free software to ask, read, or investigate. If you wish to get involved, or simply keep aware of issues related to Free Software, bookmark http://www.fsf.org