Fair warning…this is a computer nerd post. If you’re not a fan of computer nerd posts, you may want to turn back now while you still can.
I am not a Mac person. Just wanted to go on record there.
But also for the record, I’m not particularly fond of Microsoft. They’re rude, they refuse to submit to good standardization practices that would make web developers’ jobs far easier, and their software has always looked a bit clunky. Those of you who have endured my nerdier rants over the past year will probably remember having a conversation with me about Firefox, and how I hadn’t realized just how much better a web browser really could be until I tried it. I made that switch on a pretty-much permanent basis (and so should you!).
Today, meanwhile, I’m not even running Windows. I’m running this computer from its CD drive and RAM, on a “LiveCD” edition of Kubuntu Linux. Every single thing that’s in my computer’s memory right now is free of charge, and it all works extraordinarily well.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not converting just yet. But I’m curious. My web development experience has taught me a lot about the value and surprisingly high quality of free, open-source software, and I often wonder why it hasn’t taken off more successfully. I mean, very nearly everything that I regularly do on my ordinary Windows XP machine can be done just as simply on Linux, and on Linux you rarely have to pay for programs to do it with.
Don’t believe me? Try it out for yourself. There’s a project online called TheOpenCD; it’s a downloadable CD image containing some carefully-selected open source software for Windows. There’s a full-featured office suite, an image manipulation program that rivals Photoshop…oh, heck, it’s not worth listing here. If you’re curious, click the link above and see for yourself.
If you do get a chance to check out some of this software, let me know what you think, especially in response to the following question: why, when software this good is available legally for free, are the big software giants still in business?
That said, I’m still not fully converted. There are at least two programs I use regularly on Windows for which I have not yet found good, free substitutes: Macromedia Flash and Adobe InDesign (maybe Illustrator too). If someone can find me good-quality open-source substitutes for those two programs, I may be repartitioning my hard drive soon.