I’m a big fan of open-source software, the open source movement in general, and creative commons licensing. These are all sets of practices that move away from the mine-mine-all-mine model of intellectual property and toward a more collaborative way of being. To my way of thinking there’s a lot of good that comes out of financial motivation, but there’s also a lot of good that comes from collaboration, including most useful science. The trend toward racing-to-publish, secrecy, and sabotage in the science community really disturbs me, so I’m always glad to see something leaning in the other direction.

For a variety of reasons, my work computer has given me the chance to experiment more fully with open-source computer systems. I’m still running Windows Vista for practicality’s sake, but nearly everything else that I use regularly is open source, and it’s working brilliantly. By my calculations, that’s several thousand dollars worth of software not purchased from large corporations. I don’t mind supporting good R&D, but at some point it starts to look and feel exploitative. Further, we’re a church–we have a lot of the same needs as a corporation, but at least in this stage of our development, we don’t have the same kind of budget, and our values suggest that maybe supporting other endeavors should be our first priority.

So for the curious, here’s what’s working well for me:

    web browser (instead of Internet Explorer): Mozilla Firefox
    mail client (instead of Microsoft Outlook): Mozilla Thunderbird
    drawing program (instead of Adobe Illustrator): Inkscape
    layout program (Instead of Quark Xpress): Scribus (warning: this is ever so slightly harder to install than the others. If you want it for Windows, go to the scribus page and under “choose your platform” choose Windows. Read the whole page through, don’t forget to install Ghostscript first, and then look for the download link all the way at the bottom.)
    photo editor (instead of Photoshop): the venerable Gimp, possibly one of the oldest of these open-source projects, and one of the first to gain widespread use.
    photo viewer/slideshow maker/simple editor: Irfanview, and no, I don’t know how to pronounce it, but it’s tiny and fast and flexible.

These will serve most of the needs that most of us have, with no licensing headaches and no major dents to our purses. Of course, all projects accept donations if you are so moved.