I have never met Mr. Starks, better known as Helios. Nor visited his educational charity, the HeliOS Project in Austin Texas. Yet, I was glad to be able to help. My job as a Linux system administrator, a debt-free life style, and great friends that I would have never met had I stayed loyal to Microsoft products have given me a life that is better that I deserve. Helios is an easy choice to invest in because he gives +1000% of himself to make free software available. When Helios gives away a computer because he believes it is a human right for a child to have such essential educational tool, more open source contributors are born. The census of non-Microsoft users will exponentially grow at a pace that tips the scale. On June 30, 2011 the change will be apparent.
Had Helios retired this summer, no one would blame him since he had already given back plenty. Yet he steps it up a notch by giving back to his mentor., on his blog he writes…
I told them about how a global community came together and helped me heal from an illness that could have easily killed me. I told them about a global effort to bring computing freedom to people who before now, had no idea they had a choice.
Open source is not just a methodology for releasing software for people like Helios and I. It is a way of life that we pay for by giving back in abundance with the resources we have to our avail. So, when Helios posted that the founder of the website that him understand Linux was dying, I was happy to help again. This way the website: brunolinux.com and the “Bruno Knaapen Technology Learning Center” will leave a legacy.
With open source, we all own the product of all of the contributions since the founding of UNIX in 1969. With Microsoft, one corporation owns the products such as Windows 7, Internet Explorer, or Office 2007. Quality software, when the code is freely available, lasts generations. Inferior software, when the code is proprietary, dies when the company who owns it no longer thinks it is profitable.
Many Microsoft products have died because they were no longer profitable to Microsoft. Here are some examples…
Microsoft Money was a household financial package. It has been replaced by online services such as mint.com, personal banking accounts with web access, Intuit products, Moneydance, and gnucash. All but Microsoft Money had options for MacOS and Linux users. Everyone is balancing their checkbooks without Microsoft. The world goes on.
Microsoft Encarta in its hay-day was the ultimate in hyper-linked encyclopedias. I even owned editions from the mid-nineties on CD. The release yearly paradigm is no longer useful in the information age. Going online, however, did not save Encarta, due to the popular community-contributed no-cost Wikipedia. One company could not hire enough writers and editors to compete with the Wikipedia’s massive almost 15 million article collection contributed by unpaid volunteers. The world is better served with over 200 languages without help from Microsoft.
Microsoft Works was Microsoft’s first office suite product combining a word processor, spreadsheet, and database. While Microsoft Office components such as Powerpoint can be purchased outside the suite bundle, Works was an all-or-nothing deal. While it came at a small enough price that computer manufactures could ship Works with a new computer, it could not compete with other office suites. While Works suffered from lacking a MacOSX version, Microsoft Office supports the modern Apple operating system. By favoring the more expensive product, Office, Microsoft customers will be looking elsewhere. In fact, Microsoft admits that OpenOffice.org is more powerful than Works.
As Microsoft product offerings decrease, the neighborhood of open source users increases. Each citizen of open source is doing their part when they they share with their friends, coworkers, and family the tools that have enriched their lives. Every contribution, no matter how small is an investment in a better world.
We will win. I promise.
Come June 30, 2011, the world will understand they do not need Microsoft.