The NCNGA often publishes deals and discounts that benefit the members of the Guard. In many cases we publish discounts that pertain to Microsoft and Apple. These two iconic companies offer great products and offering discounts for these products is a wonderful thing for many, however, their proprietary business models are designed to draw money out of your pockets for many years after you have become dependent upon them. This is called vendor lock in. In case you did not know, there are other options that will not cost you a dime.
I would like to share an alternative called open source software that has become very prominent in recent years. The Internet makes it easy and efficient for professors, students, and developers to collaborate online and work together on software projects. These open source software products are free for the public to use. You may download and share this software with friends and it is perfectly legal under Open Source Licenses. Everyone is allowed to use open source software but no one is allowed to sell it, which makes it Free Open Source Software FOSS.
So for example, instead of Microsoft Windows or Mac iOS, you could use Linux as your operating system. Ubuntu is a reputable distribution of Linux and it has a look and feel similar to the Mac iOS. I personally like Linux Mint because it has a logical layout similar to Microsoft XP. I replaced Windows 7 with Linux Mint last year and I have been quite happy with it.
LibreOffice is an excellent Microsoft Office alternative for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, and databases. Also Google Docs, although it is not open source, offers a similar suite for free that works really well with Linux. These programs work on open standards which means they are seamlessly compatible with the Microsoft Office suite.
Instead of Photoshop you can use a program called GIMP, which has nearly all the same functionality at a commercial grade level for free.
Instead of Outlook you can use Mozilla Thunderbird which is a very similar open source email client. I personally switched to Gmail which is robust and powerful enough to replace Outlook if you learn to use the Gmail search features.
You can install Linux on new and old computers. If you are still running XP you could install Linux Mint, instead of Vista, and not have to buy a new computer. I used Linux to breath life into my old computers for my kids to play and learn on. So now my kids have powerful software similar to Microsoft Office and Photoshop at no cost. Amazingly, anti-virus software is not generally even needed on Linux. There are nearly half a million known viruses for Microsoft but none of them work on Linux. I installed Linux on my mother’s computer and it still works fine 2 years later. She had many years of bad luck with Microsoft. All her Windows based computers over the years were soon infected with viruses. She was constantly buying new computers and never had a reliable one. Linux was the cure all. There is even open source anti-virus software called ClamAV.
Can you trust open source software? Well, the NYSE and the NASDAQ run on it now. Read more at this link: New York Stock Exchange Runs Trades On Red Hat Linux
Google and Facebook were built on open source software which are high integrity platforms. The Android Smartphones are open source, built from Linux, and the Android operating systems have been smoking the competition with explosive growth in the recent years. Most of the world’s super computers run Linux and for the most part the Internet runs on open source software. Last but not least, www.whitehouse.gov is built on Drupal which also is free open source software.
Actually, NCNGA.org is built with WordPress which is free open source software that blows away most of the competition (even the competition you must pay for). That is why the big names in publishing use WordPress such as CNN and The New York Times. http://en.wordpress.com/notable-users/
What about tech support? Well, open source software is created by communities and it does not take long to find them online. Most of the problems and solutions are all a Google search away. There are likely groups meeting locally so you can go meet people who can help you, which is actually fun. For example, just Google “Linux User Group” or “WordPress User Group” in your area.
If you still are not sure about Linux you can download VirtualBox for free which allows you to run Linux seamlessly on your Mac or PC without changing your main operating system. This will give you a chance to try it out and you will also have access to the 50000+ free software programs that Linux has available at the click of the mouse.
Among the 50000+ free software programs:
Video Editing: Open Shot
Audio Editing: Audacity
3D Animation: Blender
Photo Editing: GIMP
Vector Graphics: Inkscape
Productivity Suite: LibreOffice
Web Browsers: Firefox, Google Chrome
Most of the items in the list above will run on PC or Mac. Before getting started with Linux, you will want to do a little research to make sure your hardware is compatible. You may even consider asking someone to help you, who is already familiar with Linux. Also, some things will not work such as Netflix. So do your homework and make sure it is for you. Most importantly, just know that there is a free open source alternative out there for almost anything you can imagine. Knowing this can save you many thousands of dollars as it has for me.
Communications Committee Chairman