Saturday, October 08, 2005

Fair Trade Technology:
Open Source Adoption Builds Better Intellectual Freedom Fighters

From Michael Woods, Science Editor, the Toledo (Ohio) Blade:

Office suite programs like Microsoft Office and Corel's WordPerfect Office contain some of the most important software for home and business computing.

One increasingly popular alternative to these pricey programs is a powerful office suite called OpenOffice that can be downloaded from the Internet without charge ( Individuals without a fast Internet connection may want to order OpenOffice on a CD-ROM to save download time.

OpenOffice defies that old adage, "You get what you pay for..."


Okay, so you're a student. You've just moved off campus, got your own crib for the first time in your life. Mom and Pops just hooked you up with your own computer for getting schoolwork done.

But there's a problem. The forgot to blow the extra cash on XP Porfessional Edition. No Microsoft Office, so you can't get papers done in the format you need. No advanced software to get, well, anything practical done.

So what do you do? Go out and blow your hard-borrowed financial aid on $400 worth of software upgrades? Please. If you're like I was when I was a student, that money's either already been blown on CDs, beer, or buying flowers for significant others.

There's a way to preserve both your GPA and your entertainment budget, without having to hit the parents up for more cash.

Try OpenOffice, the office suite built for the world by a slew of the world's best programmers as an open-source volunteer project. Its completely strings attached, no weird ads, no bizarre design flaws. It works similar to MS Office, allows you to save in .doc, .rtf, and to export documents into .pdf files. Need to do a PowerPoint presentation? Hey, OpenOffice has presentation software bundled in, with slick presentation templates.

I first experimented with open source software when I was in grad school at LSU. I've proudly used OpenOffice and support its adaptation and development as a tool to combat information poverty and the woes of the Digital Divide. But I also advocate its use on college campuses, in public libraries, and in schools here in the US. The more adoption by the Western world, the greater the media coverage. Firefox caught on across the country because of the buzz. People then asked a simple question to their IT folks: "What alternatives to corporate software do you offer and what can it do?"

Open Source Technologies are basically the Fair Trade products of the Information Age. For less than the price of one Microsoft Office license here in the States, whole villages in Sub-Saharan Africa can be outfitted with products like OpenOffice, networked through Linux-based Thin Clients, and given the same access to ICT that most Americans take for granted. I can then donate that licensing fee into charitable donations of help fund these sorts of projects.

This week, the Internet's reigning superpower, Google, teamed up with Sun MicroSystems (the original provider of OO's basic source code) to promote OpenOffice via the search engine.

The open-source revolution has even reached into government. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts will use alternative open-source word processing and spreadsheet products that allow all users to view and read documents, if all goes to plan, starting in 2007. Demir Barlas at Line56 even compared the state's policy shift to a declaration of a Holy War against proprietary control of the most basic of information tools.

If that's truely the case, well, bring it on, son. It's about damn time for a real war for freedom, as opposed to that Iraqi mess.


G said...

TWOF ... the war on freedom ... nice. Isn't the President currently symbolically engaged in that against his own people ... ?

Sorry. Had to take it. Setup was too good. ;-)

Later J,

The ZenFo Pro said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The ZenFo Pro said...

Bush? Player-hating his own people? Naw...not Bush ;-)

LOL...set-up was perfect.