Open Source vs. Microsoft

Lately one of my bosses (the Exec. Director of ACCESS), asked me about Linux. What I found interesting about this is that this particular boss has a bias toward Microsoft, admires Bill Gates and generally has the not unusual perspective that if you can’t get support for the software from a company, you probably shouldn’t depend on it.

To a degree, he’s right about the support thing. Unfortunately, you don’t really get much in the line of support from Microsoft when you buy software the way we do. We go through Techsoup an organization that helps technology companies to donate software to non-profits.

This is pretty cool, but tech support isn’t part of the bargain. When we have a problem with Microsoft products, I don’t have Microsoft techs to ask, I end up using Microsoft’s knowlege base or asking a question via usenet. With FreeBSD (an open source OS like Linux), I end up checking the handbook or asking someone via usenet.

There’s little practical difference for a small non-profit.

I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t some sort of change in the public’s attitude toward Microsoft going on though. On Monday, I explained to the boss mentioned earlier the current problems with Microsoft’s browser (mostly its vulnerabilities) and that the Department of Homeland Securty as well as CERT recommended people consider changing browsers.

He told me to go ahead. I’ve now installed Mozilla Firefox on every computer in ACCESS. Strangely, I wasn’t the first person in my office to bring it up. GRACE’s accountant/finance manager read about Internet Explorer’s problems in the newspaper and requested an alternative browser without any prompting on my part.

It’ll be interesting to see whether this interest in Firefox/Mozilla/open source in general lasts or fades.

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