To the average user computers are either PCs or Macs, and when people say PC they usually mean a computer running a version of Windows. PC though just means the hardware follows the design guidelines originally created by IBM for their IBM-PC and subsequently modified and updated by the industry. You can run many different operating systems on a PC, these days even Apple uses PC hardware with the Mac OSX operating system. I prefer to use Linux on my PC, and free software.
I started experimenting with Linux in 2002 and have used it full time since 2004. All my writing is done in Libre Office I use Gimp for photos, Inkscape for vector drawing and Scribus for DTP. I record interviews using Audacity and transcribe them using VLC and LibreOffice. I send invoices from GnuCash. Don’t worry if you use another system though, I can send work in all the usual formats. And a .pdf invoice!
In 2008 I wrote a >3000 word piece for Micro Mart explaining some of the history of free software, who creates it, what it’s used for and by whom. It’s not available on the Micro Mart website, but you can download it in Open Document Text (ODT) format here. It hasn’t been updated since 2008 but the history is still true.
People still using old fashioned software that cannot cope with the international .odt format (such as most MS Office users) can download a .doc version here.
There are many different versions of Linux created by companies, charities, ad-hoc groups and even individuals. Being responsible for the distribution of Linux, these operations are commonly known as ‘Distros’. What they all have in common is a Linux ‘kernel’ at the heart of the operating system.
The cheerful looking penguin above is the Linux symbol. My favourite distro at the moment is Kubuntu, but Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSuse and Mint are solid reliable products that you can download absolutely free of charge.
Linux is still quite rare on desktop machines, even rarer on laptops but wildly popular almost everywhere else. Almost all webservers run on Linux, including Google. The most popular smartphone OS, Android, is based on Linux. 92% of the world’s top 500 supercomputers run on Linux. Most PVRs and other domestic digital devices run on Linux. My (Linux Mint) desktop, (Bodhi) laptop and (Android) phone are in good company.
I have recently been ‘ghost blogging’ for a major Linux company in the UK, but the blogs go out under the marketing manager’s name. Contact me if you want more details.