For me Linux/Ubuntu (the operating system I use) reminds me of America in the sixties. Linux is the free love movement, the hippies, the switch off, tune in and drop out people, flower power, smoking joints and dropping acid.
While Microsoft/Apple are corporate America, drudgingly ploughing forth in their slow, monotonous way towards profits and percentage points, working your way up the corporate ladder, teams of lawyers to protect everything you make, say or do.
In the late sixties, corporate America, who owned a huge swathe of Hollywood, produced big bloated movies as if nothing had happened since World War 2, Hello Dolly!, Doctor Dolittle, The Green Berets.
The hippies meanwhile were experimenting, pushing the boundaries with Easy Rider, Medium Cool (Look out Haskell, it's real), Alice's Restaurant, Bonnie and Clyde. I could fill out the rest of this article with the names of movies, but I think you get the comparison.
I was not a hippie, I was glamoured by Microsoft, big shiny glossy Microsoft, I thought that only they and Apple existed, but as I slowly taught myself computers and explored the internet, I discovered Linux, a name that suggests a mythical eagle. I admit, I was dragged kicking and screaming into the world of free software, and that wasn't by illegally downloading a copy of windows XP or Vista.
I was safe and comfortable in windows, I had researched long and hard on the best ways to protect my computer by those who would do it harm.
I spent almost as much time in keeping it up and running than I did for more useful purposes. It involved regular maintenance, updating my firewalls, my virus detectors, keeping windows updated with the latest fix for it's various bugs.
I was told I didn't need to worry about security with Linux, it was a fortress safe from any attack, that Linux and open source was created by volunteers, like a commune. I didn't believe it at first, it was like being told you could drive away, free of charge in an Aston Martin car, but with a different name.
After months of hard selling by 2 free software friends, and being told I could keep my precious windows on the computer, in case myself and Linux didn't click, I relented. Ubuntu was installed.
At first, like anyone who is kicked out of their comfort zone, I moaned and groaned about every slight difference between the two systems, I couldn't do this, that and the other on Linux like I did on windows. Patient explaining was used to counter my dissatisfaction and it took about a couple of months for me to fully realise just how good Linux was.
I don't have a firewall or virus blocker on my Linux system now, I've found the free software alternatives to Windows to be in most cases better than the proprietary versions, even though it did take me a long time to be fully comfortable with GIMP instead of Photoshop (my first software love) I still have Windows 7 on my computer, but I very rarely use it, only for video editing with Sony Vegas Pro.
I've also just installed the latest Ubuntu Natty Narwhal, I wasn't fully satisfied with their new look, unity, and have installed Kubuntu. This coming week I will install Ubuntu 11.04 on my wife's netbook and I will bore anyone who will listen, about the benefits of switching from Windows/Apple to Linux, an irritating side-effect for many who have made the switch.
I grew in Northern Ireland in the style of the 1930's in the 70's and 80's. All I knew of computers as a kid were the complex, usually talking, systems they had on spaceships, lots of flashing lights and ethereal sounds, in the old Sci-Fi movies.
I got my first computer in the late 90's and made the switch to Linux a year ago. I've always been a few years behind the times technology wise. (I am not a rich man) I still don't have a mobile phone, I got my first DVD player long after they were invented, I still watch TV on a big square box and I've yet to discover Blu-ray. But with Linux I feel that at least in one area, I'm ahead of the game.
In this stinking, rotting capitalist world, where money talks and the poor walks, where profit is all and I feel that soon it will all implode and we'll need to discover a new way of living. The free software movement, with it's philosophy of working together to create non-proprietary software, without inference from corporate lawyers and big business, squeezing profits from an already heavily taxed populace, shows us the way in which we can create a sustainable society. Where the quest for knowledge, enlightenment and without having to put a price on everything, is possible.
When I think of Linux, I think of the scene in Star Trek: First Contact, with Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Ruby (woman from the mid 21st century) who asks Jean-Luc how much the spaceship cost, and Jean-Luc tells her that money doesn't exist in the 24th century, that the acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives, we work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity.