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cartoonkev.jpgI love the idea of Freedom Technology Christmas, and so in the spirit of FTC, I want to promote and encourage the use of open source software as a means for black folks to further empower themselves technologically, intellectually, and creatively. When I first began dabbling in the open source world, almost ten years ago, you had to be fairly tech savvy to be able to get anything done. If you tried to run the Linux operating system on your computer, chances were you wouldn’t even be able to get the modem to work. This is no longer the case. The open source movement has grown up, and the offerings and opportunities are now immense. Now that major computer manufactures such as Dell are offering computers with Ubuntu Linux pre-installed, it is clear that open source software is a viable option for folks that aren’t tech specialists.So, what is open source software? Open source software is software that is built around a community model, rather than the proprietary model of companies like Microsoft or Apple. Communities build up around certain projects and work together to create the best software possible. The software is usually free, not only cost-wise, but also in what you can do with it. Unlike, say, your version of Windows XP, you can modify Linux to suit your needs and then give it away to anyone you want without ever facing legal penalties. For us bloggers, the most well-known open source software is most definitely WordPress. In general, Firefox is probably the most popular open source application out there.

I won’t get too deep into why I believe that open source software is a superior model to proprietary software and instead get down to the nitty gritty of why I believe that promoting and encouraging the use of open source software goes hand in hand with Freedom Technology Christmas.

It’s all about cost. Looking to upgrade your computer to Vista?

Interested in purchasing Photoshop so you can flex those creative muscles? Think you need Microsoft Office for your database or spreadsheet needs? Well, let’s break it down with a few comparisons between proprietary software and their open source equivalents .

Cost of Microsoft Vista Home Premium at Amazon: $219.99 Cost of Ubuntu Linux: $0

Cost of Adobe Photoshop CS3 at Amazon: $619.99 Cost of Gimp: $0

Cost of Microsoft Office Standard 2007 at Amazon: $324.99 Cost of Open Office: $0

Cost of Adobe Dreamweaver CS3 at Amazon: 398.99 Cost of Nvu: $0

With the exception of Nvu, these are all programs that I use on a regular basis and I can assure you that they are top notch. They are also designed to be compatible with the Windows world. So, for instance, you can open .doc files with Open Office and even save files as .doc, so you can still work with people using Windows software.

Now, I understand how some may be hesitant to switch to a new operating system such as Linux, but I see no reason why the open source productivity and creativity based software shouldn’t be embraced by Afrospear members. Everything we need to further our intellectual, creative, and activist lives is out there, and folks like myself are working hard to ensure that it will always be available to anyone that wants it, without having to pay out the ass to have it.

So, I encourage all Afrospear folk to consider looking into open source/free software as a means to further empower ourselves. This is an instance where we can take Francis’ idea a step further. Rather than spending our money *after* the holiday season, in this area, we can not spend our money at all!