The open source PC project

Shunning Dave’s wise advice, I’m waiting for a brand new Dell laptop to be delivered. The machine I type this on has been a very useful workhorse for the past few years, and I’d recommend it to anyone after a laptop on a budget, but there comes a point where upgrades are necessary and inevitable.

This new machine is going to have a bit of a twist, though. Although it will be running Windows (because it comes bundled, and if I pay for something I feel like I should use it), for all applications I’ve set myself the following rule: if an open source solution exists, I will use it in preference to a commercial application.

Okay, so this is partially mean old penny pinching, but my suspicion is that open tools have come along to the extent that in many cases they work equally as well as, or perhaps even better than, their paid-for equivalents. I’ll be installing Open Office instead of Office, Inkscape instead of Illustrator, Gimp instead of Photoshop, Nvu instead of Dreamweaver and so on. All suggestions received with thanks, particularly for any good open source anti virus applications you might know of. (Otherwise I’ll revert to MacAfee, which is what I’ve subscribed to on this machine.)

Part of the point will be to determine how user friendly these applications are, and whether they’ll be usable enough for non-technical home and school environments. The supposed selling points of commercial software are usability and stability, but is it actually any better? It seems likely that a lot of educational users will want to switch over to cheaper alternatives while remaining on a Windows operating system (given that using Linux for a lot of people is like wading through particularly unforgiving treacle), so I’ll let you know how I get on.

Update: no longer waiting, but it turns out one of the perils of buying a Dell is the free trial software it comes preinstalled with. Off comes AOL, AIM, Paint Shop Pro, etc etc. I feel tainted.

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