Forget Stimulus Funds, Open Software can Save the Economy

Are we in a recession?  Who knows anymore.  Every couple of months
you hear about job rates improving, then huge layoffs going on the
next.  It's probably safe to say a bull economy is years away, rather
than months.  One thing's for sure, technology still seems to me an
exception among many other industries that are still in the dumps.

It's not often that a given technology makes a massive or sudden impact
on an entire nation's economy.  In fact, I'm not aware of it ever
happening.  That said, I would argue that there are technologies
available today that certainly have the potential.  There's a small
problem though--the gap between ordinary people and technologists has
prevented these tools from flourishing.  Because everyday people do not
understand whey they would ever use anything than what has been given to
them on their workstations or the laptop they bought at Best Buy, they
continue to use them throughout their personal lives.  Being somewhat of
a mixed-breed in terms of nerdiness and ordinary, I've lived in these separate worlds knowing that one could benefit the other substantially.

What I'm mostly referring to is the chasm between proprietary and open
source software.  While it's been in use for decades in the commercial
and higher education space, open source software has yet to go
mainstream.  As I've mentioned before, it is certainly changing in the
mobile and netbook space, though has yet to make it bigtime
on the desktop computer.  Then again maybe id doesn't need to if
eventually we will all be carrying around our desktop in our pockets.

Some large companies have embraced open source, though small and medium
sized businesses seldom dabble with it.  They pay hundreds of dollars
for the operating system alone, and another $300 or more for an office
suite --most of which use only email, word processor, and spreadsheets. 
Hundreds to thousands of dollars per computer system that will be
outdated in a few years.  Since hardware has essentially been commoditized
beginning in the early 2000's, software costs often surpass hardware
costs by double or triple. Since small and medium sized businesses don't
have either the time or money to pay for upgrades, they will use
antiquated systems for years beyond their lifetime.

One point
I'd like to make is the difference between "free" and open source, which
has been an ongoing struggle for many to understand.  Indeed, open
source software is mostly free, though free software is not always open
source.  Furthermore, the most important aspect of open source is it's
openness, not that it's free.

What's the point Ed?
The point is "free" software is great, though open source software not
only free's up your checkbook, it can liberate your business.  In other
words, open software will allow you to customize and actually own your
intellectual property.  Open software can (and will) improve the economy.  And what else?  Lots.  There's no need for virus/spyware
protection with open source (mostly because the nerds that make viruses
use open source tools), though it's much more secure.  Period.  I've
never had one virus or spyware on my system since I've been using Ubunto Linux.  Ever wonder why there are fewer bugs on Macs?  Well it's because Macs are built on a variant of Linux
Additionally, there are thousands of free software applications that
are available at the touch of a button.  No credit cards, no email
addresses, phone numbers...nothing required.  

Many businesses may be concerned about not have a "throat to choke"
when it comes to free software support.  Well, thanks to commercial
support from large companies like Red Hat, IBM and Canonical, there's no
need to worry (they also protect you and your customers legally).  If
you're a business owner and are interested in releasing the chains of
vendor shackles, upgrades and support, you may want to consider open
source.  Then focus on spending that money on the business, rather than
that dusty server room.

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    Ed Swiderski

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