Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Is it Time to Move to Open Source Software?

After years of frustration with Microsoft Windows dealing with issues from declining performance to virus and adware, to purchasing expensive software such as Microsoft Office I made the decision to save myself money and headaches by switching to Linux.

I was under no illusions.  Linux is not for the faint of heart.  It requires some computer savvy, and the willingness to seek out answers and experiment without the fear of failure.  It also helps that I earn my living in the computer field and have a better than average knowledge of both Windows and Unix.  My idea of a fun Saturday is tearing down and rebuilding old computers.

I deleted Windows from all my computers and chose to install the Ubuntu distribution.  I much prefer the Debian based distributions to others such as Red Hat, Suse or Mandriva.  That is a personal prejudice of mine, just as I prefer Gnome as my window manager over KDE.  It is all a matter of taste.

What did I get for all of my troubles?  Other than a few technical challenges that I was able to overcome with all the help posted on the web, I now had a rock solid operating system that didn't cost me a penny with the following features:
  1. Open Office, the open source equivalent of MS-Office.
  2. A world class image editor, the GIMP, which I use to create web images and design book covers.
  3. A vector drawing tool, Inkscape, which I use to design scalable graphics and book covers.
  4. Format print quality books using LATEX.
  5. Rip CDs and DVDs.
  6. Load music onto my iPod.  The latest and greatest iPod models are not always support right away.
  7. Record live radio into my own library of podcasts.
  8. IM with any of the major IM systems.
  9. Watch and record TV shows using MythTV.
  10. Browse the web using Firefox, Google Chrome or Opera.
  11. Make calls using Skype.
  12. Sync files across all my PCs using Dropbox (love that program).
  13. Manage money using GNUCash.
  14. Manage eBooks using calibre.
  15. Too many multimedia options to list.
  16. Programming and web design tools such as Eclipse.
  17. CD/DVD burning.
  18. Virtual Box to run other OS's in a virtual machine.
 There is no major feature I can think of that I've had to go without.  My main annoyance is the lack of support for some propitiatory Microsoft formats streaming over the Internet.

For the average person, I  recommend the Linux Mint distribution which comes configured with full multimedia support out of the box.  I'm not crazy about the default look and feel of Linux Mint, but that can be changed easily enough through the Gnome Look website.

If you have an old PC laying around ready for the junkyard, give Linux a try.  You'll be pleasantly surprised and save yourself a few bucks.

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