DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Mar 4 2008

Need an Upgrade? Try Open Source

by Chris S

For the past couple of years, I have been exploring and experimenting with open source software. “Open source” means that the creators of a software program make their source code (the commands that make the program operate) available to other developers for improvements and innovations. The programs that come out of this type of programming are most often stable, reliable, free, and sometimes better overall than proprietary (“closed source”) programs like those made by Adobe or Microsoft. Here are some examples of open source programs worth trying:

For the Beginner:

Mozilla Firefox – this is the popular web browser that has gotten so much press over the last year or so. It’s attractive, quick, and works just as well as Internet Explorer (some would say better).


Pidgin – this instant messaging program allows you to have all of your IM programs (Yahoo!, Google, MSN) in
one place, and even shows when you receive new email messages.

For the Slightly More Adventurous:

GIMP – this image manipulation program rivals some of the everyday features you get with some of the most expensive imaging software available to buy for hundreds of dollars.

OpenOffice.org – This might be the most impressive of all. This is a fully-functional, richly-featured office suite,Openoffice
including a word processor program, a spreadsheet program, a presentation program, and a database program. They each allow saving in both Microsoft and Adobe formats, and they are free to download.

For the Thrillseeker:

This is something you’ll want to fully investigate before trying. There – I’ve warned you.

Linux (pronounced like “Lenox”) is the umbrella term for many different types of operating systems that have been developed over the years. I won’t go into a full description or history in this post, but there are many resources on the web and books in our library system that cover Linux in full. Here are links to the web sites for a few of the most popular:

Ubuntu – (pronounced Oo-boon-too) their tagline has been “Linux for Human Beings” and they are even pre-installed on new Dell computers. I use this operating system at home (along with Windows XP – yes you can use both!) and I love it.

Debian – (pronounced Deb – Ian – after Deb & Ian – the creators) – Debian is very slow to release new versions because they are so meticulous in testing. Very stable and reliable.

Fedora – This is one of the most well-known distributions of Linux.

I think if you give a few of these open source options a try, you’ll find that there are plenty of free alternative solutions to all your computing needs.

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