About a year or so ago, I visited the local Computer store. I can't remember why I was there. I may have been picking up some ink or some such thing. Since it was a Saturday, I had some extra time to kill, so I wandered over to the area where desktops and laptops were on display for sale.
I happened to overhear a salesman speaking with a young woman about a particular desktop system. She was asking a lot of questions. It was obvious from her questions that she was quite new to computers. She asked about Microsoft Office. She asked about Adobe PhotoShop. She asked which program runs spreadsheets, which program allows here to type documents, which program let her go up to the internet. As she asked these questions, the salesman was giving her the software title, it's price, and adding it into the total cost of the computer system (only because she stated that the needed MSOffice, PhotoShop, etc. ).
The price of the system with all this software ballooned to about $2500.00. The young woman was a bit shocked by this, but said she needed to have all this on her system. After she was given this final price, she thanked the salesman and told him she would think it over.
I did some more window shopping and a little while later bought my items and left the store. As I was walking across the parking lot, I crossed paths with the young woman. We glanced and said hello to one another. She recognized that I was nearby when she was looking at computers. Our conversation went something like this:
Her: "Wow! Can you believe how expensive these computers are?"
Me: "Yeah. But you're paying for Windows and all that top shelf software the sales rep was bundling. If you don't really need those specific titles, you really should look into open source software."
Her: "Open source? What's that?"
Me: "Open source is software without any restrictions. It's free software. It's free to use, free to give, and free to improve and develop. It's largely community driven. Ever hear of OpenOffice?"
Her: "Open what?"
me: "OpenOffice. It's a free Office suite of applications. It's fully compatible with MSOffice and it's free to download."
Me: "Yeah. So is The Gimp. It does everything PhotoShop does, but it, too, is free. Ever hear of Linux?"
Her: "Linux? No what is it?"
I gave her a brief overview of Linux. I then was happy to write down web addresses, where to get OpenOffice, The Gimp, Linux distributions, etc. I told her she should really give these programs a look. They would save her a lot of money. Money she could apply to perhaps putting more memory on her system, or towards a printer, or just even saving.
As we were parting, I was curious what she did for a living.
Me: "By the way, what do you do for a living that you need a new computer?"
Her: "I'm a school teacher. The department says I need to get a system to run spreadsheets fro grading and other things. I guess I need Office for that. I have to have it at home so I can enter grades over the web and access other school documents. "
I was a bit surprised that a school teacher was a bit behind the curve in using computers. But, everyone has to start some place. And to her credit, she was out there doing her research, gathering information, and pricing systems. And she was open to hearing my suggestions about OpenOffice, Gimp, Linux and open source software.
So, I don't blame her. She was still new to the entire computer scene and only doing what other faculty and school administrators had told her to do. And that is: Windows, Windows, Windows.
This is why I always share Linux/Open Source information with whomever I happen to run into. I also make a point of having a few Linux disks handy. I hand these out to folks who are just plain tired of Windows and all it's problems with spyware and viruses.
I hope that by showing this teacher the advantages of Open Source software and Linux, she was able to at least introduce it to others at her school. Linux is perfect for schools! It's stable, secure, and can save schools thousands of dollars!
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