Home Educators There Is An Alternative To Expensive Computer Software

Operating Systems
Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X from Apple are probably the most well known computer operating systems(1) around. What you may not know is that there are many other computer operating systems for example- Linux, and Unix. The Linux operating system is different from Windows and Mac in that it’s what is known as Free and Open Source Software(2) or FOSS. There are many versions or distributions of the Linux operating system, I won’t talk about them all here because that would be confusing and take too long. I use the Ubuntu Linux(3) operating system.

Licensing
The Ubuntu Linux operating system is free in two ways, it’s free as in cost and free in that you can use it, copy it, modify it, and install it on as many computers as you like. This is in the Ubuntu license(4). You may well be thinking what’s different about that, I can do that with Windows too. Yes you can install the MS Windows operating system on more than one computer but this isn’t legal. When you purchase the MS Windows operating system you’re actually purchasing one license(5) to install the operating system on one computer only. Here’s a quote from the Microsoft website:

1.1 Installation and use. You may install, use, access, display and run one copy of the Software on a single computer, such as a workstation, terminal or other device (“Workstation Computer”). The Software may not be used by more than one processor at any one time on any single Workstation Computer.

This also applies to Microsoft Office and other commercial software. If you’re not sure you need to read the license which comes with all software that you buy. If you were given a computer which already had software installed on it if you don’t have the original valid Microsoft cd’s then this is also a problem: (section 13 of the MS Windows EULA)

13. SOFTWARE TRANSFER. Internal. You may move the Software to a different Workstation Computer. After the transfer, you must completely remove the Software from the former Workstation Computer. Transfer to Third Party. The initial user of the Software may make a one-time permanent transfer of this EULA and Software to another end user, provided the initial user retains no copies of the Software. This transfer must include all of the Software (including all component parts, the media and printed materials, any upgrades, this EULA, and, if applicable, the Certificate of Authenticity). The transfer may not be an indirect transfer, such as a consignment. Prior to the transfer, the end user receiving the Software must agree to all the EULA terms.

Commercial software licensing, like the Microsoft EULA, is restrictive. It’s basically saying you’re not allowed to:
-make copies of the software
-modify it
-install it on more than one computer
-use the software in the way you’d like to use it
-own the software (you only own 1 license to use it)

If you read the whole Microsoft End User License Agreement, EULA, you’ll get a better understanding of what you’re not allowed to do. ๐Ÿ™‚

So your choice is this: do you want to use commercial, restrictive and costly software or do you want to use free and open source software which encourages you to share, contribute, modify and use the software any way you like?

Installation
You can have more than one operating system on your computer at a time. If you have Microsoft Windows and you want to try out Linux you can have that on your computer too. If you’re sure that you don’t want MS Windows any more you can remove it and just have Linux. If you’re not very technical then you might need to get someone to help you with installing Linux. There are many websites, email groups and forums with help for installing and using Linux. There may even be a Linux user group near you who could help you with installing Linux on your computer. To find local Linux user groups go to the Linux Australia website.

Ubuntu Linux
You can obtain the Ubuntu Linux operating system by downloading it from their website, ordering a free CD, buying a magazine from a newsagency with an Ubuntu Linux CD attached or getting a CD from a Linux user group or friend.

The Ubuntu Linux operating system comes with common software programs such as a web browser, email program, word processor, spreadsheet, presentation program, games, graphics editors, sound editing, music and video programs just to name a few. There are hundreds more individual FOSS programs available for download from the Internet. You don’t need to pay anything for these programs your only expense is your Internet costs. Do check what your download allowance is, and how much you’ve used of it, before downloading any large files.

How This Relates To Home Education
There are many costs involved in raising children and home education. Some of those costs can be reduced by using Free and Open Source Software such as Ubuntu. There is also a version of Ubuntu called Edubuntu specifically designed for education purposes.

Learning Areas With Free Software & Support Available
*Technology*
Using the Internet and Email without viruses and spyware (see below).
Typing, word processing, spreadsheets, presentations (eg equivalent of MS Office)
Computer programming
Graphics, music, sound editing
Digital Photography

*Science*
Computer programming
Astronomy
Technical Graphics-2D & 3D
Biology
Chemistry
Data Analysis

*Maths*
Geometry
Algebra
Basic operations
Graphs
Equations
Formulae
Simple Accounting

and lots more!

There are also programs which allow you to run some MS Windows programs in the Linux operating system.

Freedom From Viruses And Spyware
Most viruses and spyware are written for the MS Windows operating system. These spyware and viruses don’t effect the Linux operating system.

In Closing….
Software Freedom Day is next Saturday 15th September. This is an international event celebrating Free Software! All sorts of events are planned around the world. You can find out if there is an event near you by checking the Software Freedom Day website. Events in Australia can be found here. The rest of the world here. ๐Ÿ™‚

Software Freedom Day is a great opportunity to see Linux working, try it out-play with it, talk to people who use it etc. Depending on the type of event that is happening in your area you may be able to have someone install Linux on your computer for you. We’ll be at one of the Adelaide events so we might see you there.

You’ll see from my other blog posts various ways in which Jessica and I use FOSS in her education. Jess enjoys computers and computing, she helps teach adult computing classes but doesn’t always like being known as a computer geek. ๐Ÿ™‚ FOSS gives Jessica opportunities to be involved in the wider Linux community and contribute to it through her teaching skills and knowledge of what FOSS is.

“The idea that Bill Gates has appeared like a knight in shining armour to lead all customers out of a mire of technological chaos neatly ignores the fact that it was he who, by peddling second-rate technology, led them into it in the first place.” – Douglas Adams

And above all society needs to encourage the spirit of voluntary cooperation in its citizens. When software owners tell us that helping our neighbors in a natural way is “piracy”, they pollute our society’s civic spirit. Richard Stallman

(1) computer operating systems-a technical explanation from Wikipedia
(2) Free and Open Source Software
(3) Ubuntu Linux
(4) Ubuntu License
(5) Microsoft End User License Agreement for Windows XP Home.

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