Our computers have become an everyday appliance. We use them just as we’d use a toaster or a coffeemaker, but we don’t question who’s tracking our e-mails, our Internet navigation, or why we have to pay $399 for Adobe PhotoShop or Microsoft Office. This ignorance is what deprives us of choice and privacy as computer users.
Microsoft Windows holds a virtual monopoly on the software with which we used to operate our computers. If a consumer buys a new PC, they have no choice at all. They get Windows whether they like it or not.
Some consumers who don’t want Bill Gates to get any richer, buy a sleek-looking Mac to stick it to the man, but this notion is misleading. Apple, which has less than 3 percent of market share for desktop software, has survived all these years only because Microsoft needs to pretend like there’s an even playing field in the industry.
The situation isn’t hopeless, though, because there’s a third contender in the industry. For many casual computer users, Linux is an obscure term, although it has existed for as long as Windows. It was born out of a graduate thesis of a software engineer from Finland, Linus Torvalds. For many years, it wasn’t what some call user-friendly, but today Linux can’t be overlooked as a viable operating system.
It’s an open-source operating system, which means its available for free to anyone who cares to give it a try. Anyone can modify or improve it without violating hundreds of patents and copyright laws, something you can’t do with Windows or Mac OS because, even though you’ve paid for a copy of Vista or Mac OS X , you only own the right to use it. Linux, on the other hand, has been openly embarassed by enthusiasts and developers around the world who volunteer to make this software better and more accesible. There are currently many varieties of Linux. Some offer a point-and-click interface familiar to Windows users, and many of them do what any Windows or Mac machines can do, just as good, if not better.
There are some problems that the community still has to resolve. Since there are so many “flavors” of Linux out there, there’s no single standard for hardware support, thus some computer components may not be supported outright and most Windows programs that don’t work, but the Linux has come a long way and many individuals work for free to make open-source programs just as good as those you pay for. There are free Linux equivalents to Microsoft Office and Adobe PhotoShop such as OpenOffice and The Graphic Image Manupulation Program.
If you’re tired of paying to get through the Gates and you see that the Apple is rotten, give Linux a try. It’s free.
Do you have more to say than a comment? Want any feedback from the writer? Story ideas? Click on The Gripevine.