From the Introduction:
I've finally done it – I've quit my job, and started my own company. I'll freelance from home and get rich quick.
But starting up is so expensive. I need furniture, stationery, a fax machine, new PCs... and then there's the software. That's going to cost me more than the computers.
You should try Free Software.
I can get Microsoft Office for free? That's great.
Not quite. Microsoft makes some of its software available free of charge, like Internet Explorer and Outlook Express. But Microsoft Office costs money and you cannot get it for free.
Oh, that's no good to me.
But you can still get OpenOffice.org. It has most of the features of Microsoft Office, plus a few tricks of its own. And it's all for free from www.openoffice.org .
What's the catch? I must have to pay someone else later.
There is no catch. You can copy it too and use it on as many computers as you want without paying anyone any money.
If you want technical support, however, you can buy StarOffice. For $100 you get a CD copy of OpenOffice.org, a paper manual, and technical support from Sun Microsystems.
Oh I get it – the software is difficult to use, so that you have to pay the money to understand how to use it.
Ah, so young yet so cynical. But no – the software is quite simple to use. If you have used Microsoft Office in the past, you will find OpenOffice.org to be familiar for many tasks. This book will fill in the gaps.
Great. Any more money saving tips?
Sure. You can use Mozilla's Firefox for web browsing and Thunderbird for email instead of Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Outlook Express.
Why would I? I already get Explorer and Outlook Express for free.
They show you the difference between free software and Free Software.
Outlook Express is software that is available free of charge. So it is free software. The problem is that it has many bugs and security holes. The virus MyDoom spread amongst millions of computers with Outlook Express, and even those with Microsoft Outlook, which is not free of charge. And MyDoom is just one of scores of dangerous viruses. Businesses around the world spent millions of hours fixing the infected computers.
And time is money...
Exactly. Thunderbird by contrast is Free Software – it has the four freedoms described by Richard Stallman:
1. The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.
2. The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs.
3. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbour.
4. The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public so that the whole community benefits.
The second and fourth freedoms are crucial. They allow anyone to see how Thunderbird works, identify security problems, and create fixes. Microsoft has some of the smartest software developers in the world, but they are still human, so they make mistakes.
The beauty of allowing everyone to see your mistakes is that you can use everyone's intelligence to find and fix them. The quality of Free Software comes from these two freedoms. Modern science is possible because of these two freedoms – scientists know them as the peer review process. And modern societies benefit because of these two freedoms in government – we know them as the democratic process.
Slow down comrade, all I want is cheap software.
Firefox shows you another advantage of Free Software over free software like Internet Explorer. It has many features that Internet Explorer does not, such as tabbed browsing, extensions, pop-up blocking and themes.
"Tabbed browsing", "extensions", "pop-up blocking"? I knew this would get too technical.
Don't worry, this book will explain all the terms for you. There are lots of wonderful things that computers can do if you have a background in computer science.
This book does not cover them.
Instead, I have focused on cost-effective uses of computers. I assume that you are not a computer professional – but if you have used email or the web in the past, then you know enough to make use of Free Software. This book will show you how.
Free Software Magazine, 2005-09-26
:) "If you can't convince your friends and colleagues to start making the switch, this is the book to give them. It sure beats blowing yourself blue in the face from singing the praises of free software."
:( "My major problem with this book is that it leaves the How on earth can free software even exist
chapter till the end of the book. The justification for free software is lacking at the beginning (and the author could have made a stronger case at the end) and this made some readers suspicious of it all."
, author of "The Cathedral and the Bazaar"
:) "The author does the best job I've yet seen of explaining why ordinary people will benefit from open source and exactly how to make the switch."
, European Affairs Coordinator for the Electronic Frontier Foundation
:) "A simple and clear guide for information-civilians that makes the case for free software without getting bogged down in ideology."