software. That word - free - is the tricky bit.
Most "free" software does not cost you anything. Some "free" software does cost money. The problem is that "free" has more than one meaning.
Free beers anyone?
The key phrase that some people use is "Free as in freedom, not free as in beer". This means that you are free to use and change the software, but it may cost you money. However, an awful lot of "free" software is free of charge.
What does this mean to me?
Simply put, it means that there is software you can have which will cost you either nothing, or very little. An example - office software. Word processing, spreadsheets, etc. Let us compare Microsoft's Office with two other offerings.
- Office 2003 Standard - retail cost - £296 (Amazon.co.uk)
- Star Office - retail cost - £40 (Amazon.co.uk)
- Open Office - retail cost - £0.00 (http://download.openoffice.org)
But this stuff's worthless!
A lot of people say that "anything free is worth what you pay for it"
. A lot more say that other Office suites are no use or don't work. So here are the simple facts. For most people this software will meet all of their needs.
Nobody uses this stuff!
For software that "nobody in their right mind would use"
open source is doing very well indeed. 70% of all webservers are run using the Open Source Apache
webserver. Millions of websites (including this one) use the open source PHP web scripting languages. The popular FireFox web browser is also open source.
Open source has some very impressive backers. IBM - whose software department is bigger than Microsoft - fully endorses the Linux operating system (open source). Other large companies such as HP and Novell are backers as well. Each of these companies invest billions
in this technology.
What have you got to lose?
Since a lot of this software is free of charge you can try it out at no cost to yourself. If it turns out not to meet your needs then all you have spent is some time.
It is expected that this model of software usage will grow over time as more and more people become aware of it and how it works. Get used to seeing it - it could be on YOUR desktop before long.