Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Migrate to Free Open Source Software (FOSS): Part 1

So, you've reached the realization that computer software is very expensive, at least if you want to get the "good" stuff that everyone else is using. What if that isn't entirely true? What if the makers of said software wanted you to believe that you had to pay their high prices for quality software (or get an illegal copy) just to make sure that you would continue buying and using their software? As a matter of fact, that is exactly the case.

What many software development companies don't want you to know, is that there are cost free alternatives to their software that functions as well as, and in many cases better than, the software that they require you to pay hundreds of dollars for.
Let's take cars for instance. I'm a huge fan of the Lamborghini exotic sports car. They cost many hundreds of thousands of dollars. We'll pretend for a second that I have a large bag full of cash with which to purchase the car of my dreams. Without a doubt, I'd head off to the local Lamborghini dealership.

To my surprise, when I get to the car lot, I see that next door, there is another lot of exotic cars that all have $0000.00 written on their windshields. Upon a closer look, I notice that those cars have the same horsepower, a very similar body design, and a virtually unlimited list of customizations that I can opt for to make the car exactly the way I want it. When I do inside the building, I learn that instead of dealing with a sales person, I just walk up to the guy that built the car and ask him any question that I want to about it, no matter how specific, and get a perfect hassle-free answer. In addition to all of that, I learn that there are millions of people that now own and use his cars and that they couldn't be happier.

Now let's say the guy that built the free cars was also a professional street track racer that designed and built the perfect sports car with his years and years of knowledge and experience. As other people drove his car, they loved it so much that they wanted one of their own, and asked him to build them one. Then, they made some improvements to the design and shared those changes with the original designer. He saw the improvements and added them in to his design to make his car even better. Now, he has decided that he'll start giving his cars away to anyone that wants to have one, and openly and freely accepts further design enhancement ideas to incorporate in to his design.

So I have two options. I can spend my bag full of cash on a the car of my dreams, or I could opt for one that looks nearly identical, performs the same or better, and allows me limitless options for customization for no cost at all.

That's a tough decision. What would you do?

This is the scenario that we have today with computer software. Someone just needs to show us that we have a "better" option than spending all of our money on something when we don't have to and would probably be happier with the product that we'd get if we didn't.

I'm not going to tell you how this ends, I'm going to tell you how this begins. Join me in part 2 of my "Migrate to FOSS" series where I'll list out what I consider to be typical, everyday-use software and how much money you might be able to save by switching to a cost free alternative.

Other Posts in this Series:

Migrating to Free Open Source Software: Part 2 - The Operating System
Migrating to Free Open Source Software: Part 3 - The Web Browser
Migrating to Free Open Source Software: Part 4 - The Email Client
Migrating to Free Open Source Software: Part 5 - Cross-Platform Applications