Computer hardware and printed materials such as instruction and documentation manuals cost money to produce and are palpable, deteriorable products. Software, on the other hand, such as operating systems, word processors and video games, are literally just binary numbers: ones and zeroes strung together in the millions and billions, each in their own unique, logical sequence, and can be copied at no expense. Of course, there is no denying the time and labor it takes to develop and support most software. Almost all software comes at a very high cost to produce, making the high price tag of some applications well worth the investment. But some software is debatably over-priced for the average consumer, even with the available support and advanced features offered today. For one thing, most support these days nows comes from overseas and often wastes more time clarifying the issue than addressing means to a solution. A second is that upgraded software often just consists of suggestions and improvements from previous versions that could have been address (even fixed) by the community had they had access to the pre-compiled source code. The caveat to this is that opening the source code means giving away the prize. Thus, the consumer is binded to purchased software at the mercy of their providers whim to provide free, periodic updates. Finally, most of the older, popular and more marketable software has now been written many different times, in many different ways, by many different programmers. Some have worked tirelessly for free, others have pioneered the logic for billion dollar companies. The point is that through the Internet these developers, over time, have come together to open their source code and create what is collectively known as the Open Source community. The software that has been produced in the Open Source community rivals and in some ways exceeds high cost software such as Windows Vista, Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop. Most people are familiar and comfortable paying for this software, in some cases the customer support warrants the purchase alone, but others, like me, would rather not pay anything at all, assuming it was compatible with all the major file types and features. In this entry, which I plan to expand upon in future entries, includes a comparison of my three favorite Open Source programs to their pricier, billion dollar corporation counterparts.
Adobe Photoshop vs. The GIMP
Don’t get distracted by the name, The GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program), is a powerful image processor that offers many of the same extravagent features that Photoshop and even Illustrator boasts. In addition, it offers a mighty scripting language (aptly named Script-Fu) which opens up the GIMP API and allows for limitless, customizable, image processing techniques. The GIMP requires the installation of the GNU GTK (Graphical Tool Kit) first, which is also free, and represents the foundation for rendering images with The GIMP. Updates occur about once a year and the community offers all kinds of support are custom plugins for those looking to do more than what’s provided. Most importantly, however, is the ability to recognize and save as other popular complex image file types, such as PSDs and animated GIFs.
Microsoft Office vs. OpenOffice.org
As impressive and extensive as the Microsoft Office suite may be, there is an equally matched software package absolutely free. Okay, that wasn’t purposely meant to rhyme (and I refuse to remove it now), but it’s true that OpenOffice.org is just that, free Office (or more importantly for the majority of us, free Word, Excel, and PowerPoint). Again, like The GIMP, you can open and save as DOC, XLS, or PPD, meaning that all those files you put together at the office can now be worked on at home without opening your wallet any wider for Microsoft.
Windows Vista and Mac vs. Fedora
Operating systems are the central nervous system of every computer, so it makes sense to have the best, most robust and reliable operating system you can get your hands on. Many don’t even think or worry about choosing their operating system because it comes pre-installed when purchasing a PC or Mac. If however you have the option to boot Fedora, arguably the best free version of Linux available, I recommend you do so. You can’t easily do it with the Mac (and let’s be honest, if you have a Mac, you’re likely not interested in picking up Linux anyway) but many PC owners will experience an improved boost in overall performance and program stability over Windows Vista. Updates happen about twice a year and support, documentation and code base are consistently monitored by the community. Try to get any response from Microsoft in any amount of time for product support.
Categorised as: Web of the Free