Sunday, 24 January 2010

Open Source could help

Whilst I am a Linux user, I'm also a realist, I do not think that everybody will simply dump windows and move over to Linux. However I am a firm believer that open source should be a major factor in everybody's business plan. Do people actually know what open source software is. For those of us not 'in the know' open source software is free software that allows others to view its code and modify it as they please, it is not subject to copyright. This means that in a community like the Linux family the program is looked at and modified, usually on the suggestion of users on a forum, and then released in testing modes, meaning that this is not the finished product, but rather the modified program and the users are testing the program to see how it works. The final release is usually referred to as the stable release. But I'm wavering.

Think of a program that is on just about every PC in the country: ms office. There is a perfectly good open source alternative in Open Office. In my experience, showing ms office users the Open Office suite they are able to use it without any problems. Why, in a climate where everybody is looking to cut costs, is dumping ms office in favour of Open Office never even mentioned?

As I said there are no complaints from those that have used both, to be honest for the majority of users all they will ever need is available in the Open Office suite. Imagine every council in the country dumping ms office for it's open source equivalent; what a saving in software licensing alone. Not to mention the future generations.

Word processing is not the only place where savings can be made. GIMP is the best that open source has to offer. It is used for photo editing and is a realistic alternative to Adobe Photoshop, but look on Amazon how much this is compared to the FREE GIMP.

Inkscape is a great vector graphics program that is very similar to both CorelDraw and Adobe Illustrator. Edit your pictures in GIMP and combine them and add text and shapes in Inkscape.

For html editing an easy to use open source program is Kompozer (NVU in windows) or for the more experienced user Bluefish is a fantastic editor but is for the seasoned pro.

Playing around with sound files, then Audacity will probably do everything that you need. Play a media file, look no further than VLC.

I am not saying that everything is better in open source, I am simply saying that people need to be made aware of the option. For the majority of schools and colleges the open source versions will do more than they need with the added bonus that they do not need a site license.

Open source is not the answer to every problem, it will not bring world peace or end hunger. However it could prove to be a major factor in the rebuilding of our fragile economy, all the programs that I've mentioned are cross platform ie they will work in windows and Linux. If every council in the country simply moved to open office then we would have a lot more budget to spend on health, education and roads. It would be a major step to educating our future generations about the benefits of open source.


  1. I use Netbeans to edit web pages. To me, Netbeans has better support for PHP. I also use it to write C++ code.

    Check out Netbeans at

  2. robbychen, thanks, I'm gonna try netbeans. I've been looking for a good IDE for use for both PHP and C++, and I really don't care for Eclipse. (I think I might be the only one who doesn't!)

    kevie, you make a great point about cost, but councils may be afraid that open source means higher risk. They need to understand that it is, in fact, the opposite. Since heavily used software packages like the ones you mention here have literally thousands of eyes on the code, fixing holes and bugs and making sure that the software is safe for both themselves and others, FOSS can mean much greater security and improved reliability.

  3. I agree Lisha, but people are only worried due to a lack of knowledge. If people only want stable releases then they only need to update to stable releases. I would be a bit worried if I worked in an office where the software I need day to day is sourced from a testing branch of the repos. As part of the Linux community we need to help educate others about open source and remove the myth that it is unstable (check out Debian, a bit too stable for my liking).