SHCC WYSIWYG Article from May 2006

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This article was written by Don VanSyckel, the club president, as a part of "The President's Pen".  This article appeared in the May 2006 WYSIWYG newsletter.

Software, What's All the Fuss About?

by Don VanSyckel

What's all the fuss about? What fuss? It's the ongoing struggle for market dominance in the software world. There are several arenas with dramas playing out in each. There's 1) MS Windows versus Linux, 2) MS Office versus Open Office Dot Org, 3) MS Internet Explorer versus Mozilla Firefox, and 4) MS Outlook and Outlook Express versus Mozilla Thunderbird. There are others but the listed are the major ones as I see it. (If you complain at me about this list my answer is: you write the article and you can put in what you want.) First you have to had noticed that Microsoft has a product in each of the arenas. This is not mere coincidence, Microsoft is the largest single software company and influence in the world. Second you might not have noticed that each of the 'competitors' is a product from an open source organization and not a commercial company.

Time for some background. Open source software is software written by a collection of people who ban together for the purpose of writing the software. These groups are self directed. When the software is available, both during the writing of it and when finished, the source code is available to public at large. Source code is the human readable version of the line by line software code written by a person which can be compiled (turned into an executable program). Groups usually also offer installation ready versions similar to what you get when you buy a commercial program. The source code and compiled software is always free. Depending where you get the software there might be a media charge, but charging for the software itself if forbidden.

Over the years there have been many commercial competitors in the above arenas and one by one they have been laid to rest by Microsoft. What's making the open source products give Microsoft a run for the money? Well, good question. I believe there are several reasons listed here in no particular order:
1)MS has used some questionable business tactics in defeating the competition which has bothered many people.
2)MS software has become more and more intrusive over the years making it harder to use in many ways.
3)The open source products don't have to make money to pay the company overhead and salaries so a slow take-off isn't necessarily disastrous as long as the stout hearted members of the group hang in there.
4)An ever growing number of geeks have gotten feed up with MS practices and prices and have taken it as a personal challenge to help produce a better product.
and the list goes on.

I would strongly encourage each of you to try open source software. The packages mentioned above would be an excellent start.

http://www.openoffice.org This is an office package which all the functions of MS office. The data files are interchangeable with MS office users.

http://www.mozilla.com Both Firefox and Thunderbird are available here. If you load Firefox and use it you'll never go back. It has a superior feature set and many features built in that you can only find in add-ons for other browsers. Thunderbird is an email client that has all the features I'm looking for and allows me to do my email in a manner I wish to operate in.

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