It’s been 20 years now since Linus Torvalds released Linux in 1991. The Open Source Software community has grown and matured over the years and there are many OSS solution comparable, if not better than top of the line software offered by big name companies. There are many risk-reward studies that examine the benefits and downfalls of using OSS in a business setting, and many valid concerns are raised about the hidden costs for businesses seeking to adopt OSS from the initial cost of relearning interfaces to a lack of dedicated support. However, for the home user the rewards of free OSS can far outweigh the risks.
If you’re hesitant to take the dive into OSS it may surprise you to know that you already benefit from several open source programs every day. For example, if you use Firefox to browse the web then you are benefiting from OSS. In fact, no matter what browser you use, you still benefit from OSS when loading a website. At the end of 2011 approximately 152 million web servers were hosted using the open source program Apache. With increasingly intuitive interfaces and simple install packages, if you have avoided OSS in the past then it’s time to take another look. Here are a few free OSS programs that I use that you may find interesting.
Media Player Classic – Home Cinema http://mpc-hc.sourceforge.net/
This is an all in one media player for Windows that has built in codecs for all common video, audio and image file formats. MPC – HC has a clean user interface and plays just about anything. This project is well maintained and is constantly being updated with all the latest video playback technology.
LibreOffice is a free and open source office suite with much of the same functionality as MS Office as well as being compatible with MS Office file formats. With backers such as Google, SUSE, Red Hat, and the Free Software Foundation LibreOffice has a bright future.
FileZilla is an easy to use open source FTP solution. With great features such as transfer resume, drag and drop support, configurable transfer speed limits, a tabbed interface, remote file editing and remote file search this FTP client is hard to pass up. Even better, there is a free server as well!
Firefox is an open source web browser that many people are familiar with. What makes Firefox great though is the community support in the form of extensions such as Adblock Plus (http://adblockplus.org/)which eliminates ads from web pages before they load. Some extensions such as NoScript (http://noscript.net/) are a powerful security tool while others such as Destroy the Web (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/destroy-the-web/) are just for fun.
GIMP is an open source image editor on par with Adobe Photoshop. There is definitely a learning curve when using GIMP as there are so many options in the user interface but with Photoshop CS5 priced at $699 it’s well worth the time to learn GIMP!
Audacity is a multi-track audio editing and recording program. This program has many of the same powerful features as Adobe Audition without the $350 price tag. While I don’t often recommend using the beta version of programs you will definitely want to get the latest beta version of Audacity as the latest release version does not support Windows 7.