When I talk to people about Linux and how its far far better than Windows, people listen, nod their heads and most probably forget about it. Recently I had to warn my client that a smart root kit was on his Windows 7 computer possibly transmitting his bank passwords to remote computer. All he can do now is to format the entire system and reinstall Windows and other programs. He had to spend now hundreds of rupees to hire a tech guy to do it, and installation of all software will take half a day.
One may wonder how free software thats written by a bunch of hackers can outdo ones that are built by great giants like Microsoft, Apple who have deep pockets. The answer is openness.
Software is written first as a source code (using some computer programming language like C), this stuff is understandable to a human (if he trains to read that language). Next this source code is converted into a form that can control billions of transistor on our computer and can make it (your computer / smart phone / microwave) a good smart functional product. In other words, humans tell computers what to do. This converted or compiled code called as binary cannot be understood by humans. Many companies sell you the binaries and keep the source code hidden from the public. So if there is a mistake in the (source) code (which will reflect in compiled binary) that can lead to an error you may never know till it happens possibly crashing the entire system. Imagine that ones pace maker sends wrongs signals to one heart thus killing him.
How free software will save you?
The free in the free software does not mean that its available for zero cost (though most of free softwares cost nothing), but it means freedom. One of its freedom rules states that if a software needs to be free, one must post the source code in the public domain.
When source code (human understandable code) is most probably in the public domain or if its handed to you on purchase, it can be seen by every one (or at least by you and other expert programmers). There is a greater chance to spot mistakes in it. If a software is free, then any one has the right to modify it and redistribute it, hence bugs (or errors in software) can be fixed and newer patched versions can be downloaded.
Success of free software
Once on this planet almost all personal computers ran on Microsoft Windows (still many of them does), then a young Finnish named Linus Torvalds released an operating system called Linux that was no match compared to Micrososoft Windows. In fact that operating system did not even have a proper name. But it was available for every one to learn about it, modify and share it with any one they like.
People began to fix bugs, make it work on their computers, share it with others. Today Linux is the most stable operating system available to humanity. All who do use Internet use Linux, as Linux powers more than 90% of the worlds Internet.
Linux powers most of smart phones in its incarnation called Android. Most desktop users are switching to Ubuntu a rivaling Linux based operating system which can wipe out Microsoft Windows if world is dominated by rationalist.
Linux is one small example there are thousands more free software success stories.
Proprietary software leaves you in dark
You may trust Microsoft, Oracle or Apple products, but the truth is the trust is blind. Even if these companies may have no evil intentions (but they are extremely evil anyway) to hurt their customers, their software could be having a bug which almost none can find out and at the last minute you may realize that the banking passowords you have entered into the computer ha been stolen by someone who has exploited a flaw.
Almost all proprietary software is written by those in companies. These companies like more to see their profits soar than to deliver good free software. On he other hand free software is written by people who love software and possibly want to share with others. Though you may have a Dominos or a KFC near you, but home cooked meals and ones cooked by your friends are better, don’t you think so?
Opensource is not as free as free software
Another popular term is open source which mean that you can read the source code of the software and possibly spot mistakes. Well opensource does not guarantee that you can modify it and distribute it at your will. So open source may be tempting, but its really does not give as much freedom as free software.
What powers proprietary software?
In one word ‘Ignorance’. Yes, many people do not know that there is a thing called free software. They are happy to stick by the things which they hear first than to explore possibilities and other opportunities.
Many people do think that free software is harder to use than proprietary ones. Some people are too afraid, just like the days before Columbus when people were afraid to go into the unknown west where the one who ventured will fall into unending abyss.
What you must do now?
Well, first you must start to explore what free software is. Google for it. Learn what is free software foundation, if possible donate to it, by doing so you are contributing to entire human race’s good future.
Learn who is Richard Stallman is and why he must have the headache of making software free?
Try using Ubuntu (GNU/Linux) instead of Windows. If you are using Microsoft Office, try to use Libre office, if you are using Outlook, try using Thunderbird. If you use Internet Explorer, try using Firefox. If you are putting your sensitive data on facebook, then learn what are all the risk it poses, try switching to Diaspora which is a social network and is a free software.
There are many free software alternatives to the software you use now. Try and you may like it. Know that it takes some effort to get freedom, once there you will never return back to the digital prison you are in.