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Review: Free and Open Source Software - Part 1

by Jo Shields on 22 June 2004, 00:00

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qayy

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Land Of The Free

First of all, let's start with Web Browsers. If you're reading this using Microsoft Internet Explorer then you really shouldn't be - IE picks up viruses and spyware like a sponge. There are other browsers out there such as Opera, with more features and less problems - and generally they don't cost anything. However, this is an article about FOSS, so how about a FOSS web browser; Mozilla Firefox?

Firefox is a user-friendly browser, based on the Mozilla suite of applications, which were at one point going to provide a replacement browser engine for use in Netscape Navigator. However, whilst Netscape drifted into obscurity, the Mozilla Foundation, and more specifically Firefox, have been rising in popularity. It's fast, provides features missing from Internet Explorer (such as popup blocking, and "tabbed" multiple-window browsing), it doesn't cost a penny, and it's free - meaning that if you wanted to spin off your own version of it with some random change such as different menu options, then you could do so.

Click me for a larger version (73KB~)


So? We can surf the net already. We already have a free (£0.00, where free represents a physical cost) web browser though. How about we save some money? Not everyone can afford £516.66 for Adobe Photoshop, after all. So, let me introduce The GIMP. Yes, it's a silly name. It stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program and it's not the easiest program to use, but it can open and edit almost any file format you can name, and is pretty powerful once you learn its eccentricities.

Click me for a larger version (50KB~)


Any more of these? Sure! Why spend several hundred on Microsoft Office when Sun Microsystems' OpenOffice.org is free? Why install MSN, Yahoo, ICQ and AOL messengers when Gaim will do the same job, but unlike Trillian does it all for free? The list goes on - hell, take a peek at the thousands of applications for Windows on SourceForge, a big hub for FOSS development. Or brew up a few gallons of OpenCola!

Click me for a larger version (27KB~)


In fact, what about replacing Microsoft Windows, the most closed of closed source Operating Systems, with a FOSS Operating System?