This is part 2 in a 3 part series. You can read part 1 here.
The Big Three
I'm also not a proponent of Microsoft. I haven't ever been. I have, for decades now, used their products, but always begrudgingly. I have no special love for Microsoft. I say this as I'm using a netbook running Windows 7 to write this post.
My use of Windows is mostly a result of their success at market penetration. Since the beginning of personal computing, Microsoft has managed to maintain a strong foothold, especially on the operating system front. Most people think of Mac and Windows as two sides of the same coin: if you don't want one, you must choose the other. And I suppose that for most people, that's true.
|Image: WikiMedia Commons|
If all that sounds wonderful, then you might be wondering "Why doesn't everyone use Linux if it's so great?" The short answer is that it has a steep learning curve. Because it's different, people may be put off by the requirement that they learn a new way of operating a computer. And there are a lot of very smart people who use Linux, who may not have the most patience for "noobs." It is developer oriented, so installing software can appear complicated (many examples ask you to type "sudo git ..." in a command shell), but in reality, it's not too bad. Once you begin to get used to the way things are done in Linux (which is different from Windows or OSX), you might find that you prefer the way it works. And one of my favourite features of Linux is that you can run it from a USB drive without making any changes to your computer. It's like a test-drive with no risk! If you don't like it, just take the USB stick out and restart your computer, and everything will go back to the way it was before you started.
If that's beyond what you want to do,don't fret. There are plenty of open-source software options that will run on Windows or OSX. I use Inkscape, Open Office, Audacity, and others. You may have noticed that I use images from Wikimedia Commons and Open Clip Art. These tools are amazingly powerful, and incredibly, they're free. Their creators have seen fit to allow others to use, modify and distribute their work with ideas (often with the only requirement being that you give them credit by listing them as a contributor). Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) shows up a lot in education, and for good reason.
Another interesting fact is that a lot of the internet runs on open-source software.
So in a way, we're all participating in open-source. Open-source software has opened the world's access to
knowledge. In my opinion, the old way of viewing information and ideas as proprietary and closed is outdated. Allowing and encouraging reuse and modification of ideas will be humanity's most profound achievement. The information age has changed the way many of us look at how knowledge can be shared and improved, and I believe that as we continue to grow, we will gradually change the way we live to reflect this emphasis on sharing.