Free and Open Software in support of NVC values
You may have heard that free software can often meet needs more fully than even the most slick and expensive "commercial" software. NVC values such as transparency, equality, mutuality and contribution are often supported by the use of free software. This is especially true of products published as "Open Source" because among many other reasons they are free of "spyware."
What needs are met by using and supporting Open Source software? Click to see a partial list.
What are some examples of outstanding free Open Source software products?
- It is now possible to download a free web browser that many technical experts say is superior to Microsoft Internet Explorer. Click to learn about Firefox or visit their website.
- The same non-profit collaboration of technical experts named "Mozilla" (curious about the name?) has another exceptional free product named Thunderbird to replace your email software.
- There's another outstanding free Open Source product named OpenOffice that can completely replace the entire Microsoft Office application suite on nearly any computer yet still read and modify all your existing documents from Office, Word Perfect and most other commercial applications. A very nice feature for the NVC community is that it will quickly create PDF documents from your old Microsoft Word documents, so that they're smaller and easier to share with users with any other computer or software. If you'd like to set your computer and your documents free, get OpenOffice. If you have an Apple Macintosh computer, you might also want to try NeoOffice, which although slightly less powerful has a more typical Mac interface.
- This NVCwiki page you're reading right now is operating on free Open Source MediaWiki software.
- Some truly amazing and complex websites like Democracy In Action are built with Open Source software like CivicSpace.
Why are these products and a rapidly growing number of others often better able to meet needs? How are they compatible with NVC values? Here are ten qualities to consider:
- The designers often work only for the reward of meeting the needs of others.
- The products are designed to serve the needs of users, rather than those of a corporation.
- All work is transparent to anyone interested to examine how it operates. This arises from a collaborative process called "Open Source" software development. There is a nonprofit group named the Open Source Initiative dedicated to this international movement.
- Anyone can contribute new features they would like to add, so that others can enjoy them.
- Virus and trojan infections rarely affect Open Source software or documents. When flaws or security risks are discovered, they are rapidly addressed.
- Most software that is Open Source, including all the products described on this page, will run on PC, Mac, Unix or Linux computers. In short, nearly every computer in the world.
- Most of these products also have robust language support for international use.
- Open Source software tends to have lower hardware requirements for a given level of performance. For example, Firefox on a 500MHz computer can be compared with the speed of Microsoft Internet Explorer on a 1GHz computer. In short, download a free Open Source product and you may in effect get a free upgrade to your computer hardware. Many organizations have discovered this, and converted all their computers to Open Source software.
- Free documentation and online help is available for nearly all Open Source software, and documents you create are more likely to be compatible with any major computer or software type. An example of this is the growing number of Open Document formats, that let you share your documents with anyone and not just with other users of the same commercial software.
- By using Open Source software, you send a message to commercial software providers that you want freedom of choice for yourself and others. There is ample and growing evidence that commercial software providers are getting this message.
There are many other ways you could benefit from switching to Open Source software for most or all of your computing needs beyond what has been described here. You would also be supporting NVC values by making your documents more compatible with computers around the world. Rather than read more about it, another strategy would be to simply try it since doing so costs nothing more than a few minutes of your time. Perhaps less than you've already invested in reading this.
Written by John Wiley, in the hope of stimulating exploration of Open Source and discussion of how it might contribute to the globalization of NVC by empowering people with limited computer and internet capabilities.