I bought my first desktop computer in 1999 and Windows ’98 came with it. I thought it was pricey, but I didn’t have a choice. Since then, I’ve bought two more desktops and three more laptops for home use at regular intervals and each one of them came with an XP or Vista license. In the couple of decades that went by, learning Windows was a necessity. Windows ’95 didn’t exist when I was in college and was never taught to me. At that point in time, I didn’t mind coughing up the money for personal licences, to cope with the corporate hunger for Windows.
Now when I ask myself if I would like to pay for the newest Windows, I come up with a big no. This is not the first version of Windows and it certainly wont be the last. Clearly, the more I invest in Windows today, the more I will re-invest in the future. And the money usually buys me features that dont really matter to me. Even if one ends up buying Windows, he’d soon have had to pay for an MS-Office licence, if it weren’t for the open source folks who gave the world atelast a possibility of opening a spreadsheet before opening your wallet..
I re-built my PC recently. Instead of dual booting with OpenSuSE, I now dual boot with Debian 5.
When I get back from work and power up my PC and watch GRUB ticking, I am faced with a hard choice every day. Should I boot into Debian by default and use the less known programs like Iceweasel, Pidgin and Transmission or should I boot into Windows so that I can update my virus definitions, install windows updates and use the programs with nice names?
I’ve learnt by practice that when I boot into Debian, my heart feels free and light. With every boot, the conviction grows stronger. I dont have to worry about buying software. Its sure is not the easiest way to do things. But atleast a programmer wont make me open my wallet again because he couldn’t write the best program in the first go.
I believe that the real solutions for the world today should be simple, transperant, driven by collective intelligence and accessible to the masses. If it weren’t for piracy, most commercial software would be lot less popular today. Things were different when people were not computer savvy and depended on other companies to get their software. But as people begin to know more and more about about computers, they are not waiting for companies to step in to solve their problems. They write their own solutions and strive to make it better.
If we can understand that human beings are natural problem solvers who strive to improve the quality of life, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they’ve learnt to solve the coding problem. The companies that made hay while the sun shone were the lucky ones. Clearly, open source has come of age and it will only get better as the average user learns more.
Debian smells like freedom because it reflects my own growth into a mature user who can understand and evalute choices.