I happen to live in a pretty nice part of the world. Food and clean water are ample. Most households have electricity and broadband Internet. A child’s exposure to technology should never be predicated on an ability to pay for it. Most Americans would agree with that but have no idea how to help. We get too rapped up in taking care of “me and mine” and “out Jonesing the Joneses.” We buy too much stuff and when our homes fill up with clutter we just put things out on the curb. I went to a yard sale this weekend were they attempted to sell a television for $5. Heck, you can not get a value meal at McDonnald’s for that much anymore. Nobody bought the television so it just went out to the curb where it was rained on before anybody could claim it as free goods.
Just next door to the yard sale lived a friend of mine. She is a single mom and she was desperate. Her desktop would keep hanging and she was convinced she had a virus. She was using Windows after all. My friend had called the company who made the computer and the broadband provider. The company who made the computer would not talk to her because the computer was out of warranty. The broadband provider sent a tech to her home who fuddled around with her system but did not fix it. Instead the tech advised that she keep the computer off their network since it may have a virus. A mutual friend gave her a Ubuntu CD but she feared that the computer was too far gone. Her desktop, despite not having the cash to buy another one, was about to sit right next to that television.
She was hopeless because not only will her home be suddenly desktop-less, she was about to lose her documents and pictures. These bits were far beyond sentiment to her; they were her livelihood as a freelancer. Mother and daughter were asking themselves the question, “If we junk this computer, what will we use?” I told them, do not fear, this can be fixed by Linux.
I booted the system with the Ubuntu live CD. There was about 6 GB of original work to backup. Moreover, we were up against a dying hard drive. As I traversed the hard drive looking for good bits, the computer was trying i/o errors. I had to leave her home, go to the store to pick up a USB key and new hard drive. Out of pocket cost, minus the gas, was $65.
After backing up the hard drive, I asked my friend if she would like to replace the hard drive herself. Never seeing inside a computer, she was reluctant but I told her that I would be there the entire time. Once we cracked the case, she was more bold. Now knowing this computer was all-but-a-goner like the television hours previous, she slid the new hard drive in its place. While we were in there, I put in some spare memory I bought in a lot on ebay. As a reward, I gave her a t-shirt I bought at the Zareason booth at the SouthEast LinuxFest. Indeed, friends help friends use Linux. Out of pocket cost now up to $85.
Now my friend uses a desktop with a newer disk, double the memory, and absolutely no viruses. She could not be happier. Was she asking for “Internet Explorer” or “Microsoft Office?” Nope. She was already using Firefox and OpenOffice.Org on her desktop before the disk failures and viruses showed up. There was absolutely no panicked questions like “If I can not use Microsoft software on Ubuntu, what will we use?”
Skeptics of my story and the premise for this blog “Microsoft will lose majority market share come June 30, 2011” may say, “Beth Lynn, you are just one idealistic geek, you can not free the world with open source software.” To the contrary, I say, the Linux community steps up against poverty, not just proprietary software.
Take Maddog for example. This man was a system administrator, like me. When he worked for Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), a too-big-to-fail mega corporation, he told everyone that UNIX was dying and “Linux is inevitable!” They laughed at him but since he did a lot of favors for people he had enough gift-economy credits to convince folks to gift a computer to some college kid in Finland. Who was this boy genius who promised to replace the UNIX operating system this DEC computer ran with free software he helped write himself? Linus Tourvalds.
Maddog could retired with the gift of that one desktop as the feather in his cap. Instead he has dedicated his career to spreading the word about free software since then. Indeed, Linux is International.
Today he is in Brazil, and promises to deliver 70 MILLION systems with a business plan centered around Linux Terminal Server Project consoles.
Don’t believe it because you did not see it on television? Well, nobody watches television anymore. Instead we watch Google’s youtube.
Come June 30, 2011 Microsoft will be like television.