Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Software To Love

By Robert Pogson

Some software you just have to love. It works well. It's easy to learn. The price is right. You can share it with others and not have to fear a knock at the door. It's Free Software. Love starts with the terms of the licence:

  • OK to run the software,
  • OK to examine the code,
  • OK to modify the code, and
  • OK to distribute the code modified or not under the same terms.

The love continues with fruits of that licence:
  • rich or poor can use the same software,
  • everyone gets software that's easy to combine any way you want on one machine, a cluster or over the network,
  • everyone gets software that's easy to update from the drivers, the OS and the applications,
  • costs of acquiring and setting up software drop, and
  • malware, re-re-reboots and forced updates become a bad memory.

For me, love began when I was a teacher in Canada's Arctic with five PCs that could not be relied on to run more than a few hours without crashing. I switched to GNU/Linux (Linux kernel and GNU utilities, both Free Software) and had no problem for months. I had all the applications I needed to teach and could do all sorts of networking. Since then I used GNU/Linux and FLOSS (Free/Libre Open Source) applications in many other schools with equal success. At one school, the fire-sprinklers came on in error and students expressed their love by covering the computers with their jackets. Out of 153 seats, not one PC was lost. At another school, I was teaching a class in how to "unbox" and set up a PC. We had new 64-bit dual-core PCs in a batch and the first comment by students of the installed OS was "It's so slow!". They were used to GNU/Linux on 8 yar old thin clients from a 4 year old GNU/Linux terminal server... The next lesson was in installing GNU/Linux. Oh, the love!

Feel the love yourself. Check out these links:

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  1. Robert brings up a fantastic point. Machines that others believe should be destined for the recycle pit can be rejuvenated for another 3-5 years when installing Linux and FOSS upon it.

    In 2009, we built a 24 seat community computer lab in East Austin. The facility was to be used for people in the neighborhood who did not have a computer at home, and also children between the ages of 3 and 7 during weekday child care at that facility. These were mostly single core Dell Optiplex 270's or equivalent. These machines are still in use today. We do maintain the lab and update the software quarterly for them, but aside from that, this is the computer lab that just keeps going, and going, and going.

    We've looked for excuses to refresh that lab but as of yet, there have only been 2 catastrophic hardware failures. Besides that, the lab we build 3.5 years ago is still running strong.

    That's one of the reasons why I love Free Software. It makes my job a lot easier.

  2. The idea of using computers that would otherwise make it to a landfill is great - and is one of the main reasons I use Linux in schools. Schools tend to get a mish-mash of donated and old computers and in most cases Linux will run fine on them (though I am finding the newest versions of Ubuntu do not work well on some of the older computers I have. No problem, the LTS version works fine (or I can use another distro).

    Great way to get good use out of older computers. Absolutely agreed.