The Politics of Modern Computer Software

A few years ago, a handful of capitalists got together and invented Software licencing. Their meeting resulted in some of the largest monopolies of all time. The effects of their restrictions on intellectual property brought us regionalised DVD’s, terrible software drivers, and Windows Vista.

But while Goliath was there, hurling threats at the Isrealites, along came David, with his slingshot. So when little Jimmy had the idea to make a program that, regardless of the incompatibility that was built in to his disc drive, could play the data on a DVD from all over the world, Goliath had been slain, forever.

What I’m talking about here is the positive contribution that open source software has actually made to computer users across the world. Let me give an example. I live in a family, with 4 sisters, aged between 8 and 19. Each one of them has a computer available to them. When I returned from serving a mission for my Church, I found that all of them were broken. One of them had aquired too much junk on its hard disk and couldn’t boot anymore. Another had been attacked by a Trojan, my parents computer was having a civil war between Microsoft and Dell’s software, to decide which would manage the system resources, and the last one had forgotten it had Wireless capability.

Not being the most excited to start repairing them all, I decided to try an experiment, to see how well the machines (and the family) would cope using Ubuntu. I loaded Ubuntu 10.04 on the family computer, and when I had finished, I left it and walked away. I returned a few hours later, to find that my 11 year old sister, had used it to write and print her homework. And this was before I had even set up a printer. Upon deeper examination, I found that it could scan, use bluetooth, and connect to some wireless networks, all before calling upon 3rd party drivers.

We know that Linux doesn’t yet have full support for all motherboards, or parents, but using open source software within Windows XP brought equally impressive results.

For the first time in the last few weeks, I have actually seen bill board advertisements for Microsoft Internet Explorer. Unfortunately, Microsoft could have probably got better value for their money by burning it, because even my fuddy duddy parents now have a better browsing experience using Firefox. As with all Open Source software, it is clean, efficiently designed, with no protectionistic functions sneakily built in.

And this is what said it all for me: a simple HP All in One Printer, which can be installed on Ubuntu by simply plugging it in, required a 50mb download, and a 20 minute install before it would work in Windows – the platform it was primarily designed for.

Why is it then, that the more money you pay, the less common sense is applied?

HP, Microsoft, Dell, and whoever else have two adgendas: to produce the goods, and make money. Jimmy the open source programmer, only has the one. As so as a result, the big manufactures work carefully to make sure that they’re in sufficent control to, at some point down the line, get some more money out of you. If they didn’t, they’d never get any more business.

The open source communities on the other hand, have large resources of people, working for the common good, making valuable contributions to many projects, resulting now in incredibly simple, useable, functional computer systems. This is the first time that communism has ever worked.

What this means, is that if you are getting tired of using Windows, and maybe don’t want to fork out for Windows 7, or a Mac, there is another viable option for you. You can probably install a Linux distribution, with a large range of software, actually fully compatible with your Microsoft Office files. You can look at your email, browse your facebook, play videos and all mannor of other things.

Right now, I’m sold. I’m going to continue to upload my experiences using Linux, and hope that others can benefit from them too.

Related Links:

Ubuntu Home Page

One thought on “The Politics of Modern Computer Software

  1. Pingback: The Politics of Modern Computer Software II: Why did I go back to Windows? « Chris J. Barker

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