Top 10 areas where open source leads the way

With job losses rising and belts being tightened across the country, now is the perfect time to look once again at the benefits of using open source software aside from the reported $60 billion a year savings on offer.

Whether it be workspaces, icons, security settings or anything else, open source will always lead the way when it comes to a custom user experience, for the simple reason that you are legally allowed and positively encouraged to tinker.

With access to code, the advanced user can streamline software or add to it while the home user can easily tailor their own operating system for their custom PC build without infringing on any EULA while they're doing so.

With fully customised work spaces on your OS you could potentially save hundreds of hours over your working year. And that's time that could be spent doing things you really enjoy.

The Open Handset Alliance/Android

Uniformity at the core of their mobile experience is something users could only dream about only a few years ago. Now, with the introduction of a standardised charging socket and Android you can be sure of a full, productive experience from any number of mobile devices, manufactured by the top companies and supported by leading service providers.

With Java and Linux at its heart, Android offers a stable base for mobile devices, with customised offerings and home-brewed incarnations aplenty. None of this would be possible without the open source philosophy.

Reduction of technical obsolescence

You've got your old laptop, it's getting on in years now (don't computers age like dogs?) and you're facing the possibility of having to throw it away. It struggles with even the very basic of tasks under its proprietary OS and even the wonderful Windows 7 doesn't want to know.

What options are you left with? You can throw it away and buy a new one or you can introduce it to Vector Linux or one of the other great open source operating systems that support computers which would be considered relics to the likes of Windows and OSX.

Running the Linux OS, with its KDE GUI, the old girl virtually flies along, and with similar support from other projects such as Open Office you're able to achieve what you want to without having to fork out on a shiny new laptop.

Also, breathing life into old hardware isn't just good for the bank balance; it's good for the environment too.

Co-operation

Healthy competition is good for end users. It ensures innovation, support and offers freedom of choice. Co-operation, however, offers all of the above and more.

The open source community enjoys a previously unheard of level of co-operation between developers, manufacturers and users. Last year, Nokia and Intel announced they were joining forces on the open source Maemo and Moblin projects which, in the future, should see a new line of Intel-based architecture available for mobile devices and new open source operating systems to run on them.

Availability

With open source, people from the poorest countries have access to a world of information, education opportunities and fun. The One Laptop per Child (OLPC) scheme has strived to bring these possibilities to life and has changed thousands of lives in the process.

One of the children now using an open source laptop from the scheme may one day cure a disease or change the way the world uses energy. Pluses for open source don't get much bigger than that.

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