This mass of code enables me to carry out a range of functions - and in most cases, I have two or three packages which I can use for the same task. Some of the packages perform simple tasks - as in the case of the text editor which I'm using to to write this article.
There are more complex applications, such as the wonderful DVD/CD-burning application k3b, written by one Sebastian Trug. I have been unable to find anything comparable on the market. And then there is apt-get, one of the most amazing packages of the lot, which manages this entire mass of software, keeping it updated and helping me to remove and add what I need.
I could go on and on but you get the point - a vast army of developers has given decades of precious time to make it possible for people in every corner of the globe to use a computer and not have to depend on expensive software which, in more cases than not, results in more problems than solutions. Once again, I know this from firsthand experience.
In June this year, I spent around a fortnight playing with a very expensive operating system - Windows Vista Ultimate. I documented my experiences , which, for the most part, were not exactly salutary. This system is said to have something like 50 million lines of code and it was the result of five years of development. Must have cost quite a bit of money to develop.
It taught me one thing - not to take free software for granted. When it comes to efficiency, speed, simplicity, and dignity, my free software system wins hands down. Never mind that I had a more powerful system on which to run Vista. When I want good looks, crashes, violations of my privacy and traffic jams, I'll opt for this Vista thing.
People in my situation could probably afford to use proprietary software if it were able to meet one's varied needs. When it doesn't, when it irritates, annoys and causes a lack of productivity, then one starts to look around for other solutions. And once one finds a solution that suits one's needs, one tends to stick with it.
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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.