I don't spend much time talking about technology on this blog. The reasons for that are simple; 1. The areas of technology in which I am an expert are not the areas I am interested in writing about, nor do they have a broad appeal 2. I know people who are actual experts in the areas that I would be interested in writing about 3. I am not an expert in those areas. That being said I am currently in the midst of an annual ritual from which I get a sick amount of joy: reformatting my hard drive and reinstalling my operating system and programs. I enjoy this because I get the chance to clean up old messes, streamline things, update and replace programs, research new apps and consolidate old data. It's fun. Usually I like doing it when I've set aside some time, lined up options, prepared. This time I was not so lucky. Despite diligent efforts and numerous layers of protection, updated frequently, I still managed to get a nasty Trojan horse virus on my laptop. I'm sure with enough time and effort I could have defeated it but after three hours of attempts at running my anti virus from a command line inside windows safe mode I just said screw it and began the time honored reformat process.
So while I have endeavored on this process again I thought I would take a moment to glow about the teaming world of open source software and share a few of my old favorites and some new discoveries as well.
If you aren't familiar with open source software it is a world of software and apps that is developed out in the open without hiding source code and is editable by anybody in the known world that is interested in working on it. They are entirely free to users and developers. Well not entirely free, people who develop the products often invest time, personal resources, and sometimes commercial resources to which they have access. Open source is great because users and developers aren't locked into one company's strategy or needs. Each person can build what they choose, support the product as they choose, and the entire community responds to the needs and desires of the users. To put simply millions of possible developers are working diligently on whatever problem you might face precisely because they themselves might face the same problems and because they can.
Ubuntu A fantastic Open Source operating system. If your needs as a user don't go beyond the basic average user and you are willing to get past a small learning curve this is fast becoming a viable alternative to Windows or Mac OS
Open Office A complete office suite that for my money has completely replaced any need I had for Microsoft Office. Completely compatible with Microsoft Office file formats and just as feature heavy.
ClamWin Is an anti virus program that I have only recently started using. It comes highly recomended.
Firefox If you haven't already discovered this, or upgraded to Firefox 3 I just can't imagine that you still actually bother with the internet.
VLC Media Player This is an amazingly compatible media player that has replaced all kinds of apps on my system. It plays many different vid. and audio formats with no trouble at all.
These are just a few, the web is crawling with programs like them. For more information on Open Source software and the philosophy check out the Open Source Initiative.