The Waikato Linux Users Group (WLUG), an incorporated society supporting Linux and Open Source Software in the Waikato region, is celebrating the international Software Freedom Day with a public demonstration of open source software, to be held outside Whitcoulls in Centreplace, Hamilton, from 9am to 5:30pm on Saturday 16th September.
Software Freedom Day (http://softwarefreedomday.org/) is an initiative to make the world aware of the existence, availability, and high quality of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), and to encourage its use by as many people as possible. It is a global grassroots marketing campaign in which volunteers from around the world are invited to participate.
Software Freedom is not just about software being available free of charge (though this is usually the case), but that software remains free to be altered (open source).
Open source software is created through the collaborative efforts of programmers from around the world, and usually made available at no cost. It is developed for many reasons; software authors want to scratch an itch, companies want to develop software, give it away, and charge for support, and philanthropists, who want the world to have software free of corporate agendas.
The open source movement has produced a free operating system for personal computers called Linux. Linux is a free operating system for computers. It has been developed by thousands of programmers around the world, some working alone, some sponsored by large computer companies such as IBM and HP. World leading websites such as Google and Amazon also run on Linux and other Open Source Software. Many see that it has huge potential for the "average user" do to its excellent security record - viruses and spyware are almost nonexistent problems on Linux.
Because there is no one single company behind open source as a movement, support often comes from a community. The WLUG (http://wlug.org.nz), as the representatives of the Open Source community in the region, wish to provide support to show people the benefits of free software and to help them as they start using it.
Famous examples of open source software include Firefox, the popular web browser, and OpenOffice.org, a full office suite available for all popular computing platforms. Adventurous computer users who want to take the plunge with Linux will find their system comes with dozens of useful programs, including a full office suite, graphics editors and Internet utilities, free of charge, and hundreds more can be easily downloaded.
Computers can be configured with both Linux and their existing software co-existing, with a menu offering a selection between the two when a user turns on their computer. This way people can carefully try new software without losing their existing software.
Computers have become an integral part of society and now drive most businesses. Computer skills have therefore become essential to advancing a person's career. Free software offers everyone all the tools they need to improve their computer literacy, without any upfront cost. This has benefits for the socio-economically disadvantaged, as inexpensive second-hand computer hardware is readily available, and free software gives people access to most applications they are likely to need - completely for free.
"Our last public event was a great success and an educational experience for the WLUG, as well as the participants, and resulted in many people being able to use their PCs in a better way” says WLUG committee member Ian McDonald. “We look forward to applying lessons learned last year, and making this one as good as it can be."
For people who are interested in Free Software, but not yet ready to take the leap into running Linux, the WLUG will also have demonstrations of free software for Microsoft Windows, such as the tremendously popular Firefox web browser and OpenOffice office software.