Something important is happening in the com- puter world. It’s been going on for quite some time, but we are the first generation who has a chance to truly embrace this movement.

See, our parents’ generation, and even as recent as the Gen-Xers, did not grow up immersed in a computer world. As long as I can remember, computers were a part of my life. Until recently, they were just that. I used a computer to play games, write papers, surf the web.

Normally, my solution to a computer problem would be to ask my brother/roommate/anyone who knows more than me to fix it. This year though, I decided to be more self-dependant, to learn how to solve my own problem.

This is how I found out about what’s going on in the world of computers. There are people, both professional and amateur, who are trying to make computers better for anyone who wants to use them.

What these people are doing is working on free software. Not free as in no cost, although much of it can be acquired for no cost, but free as in free speech.

There are two approaches to software. One works under the assumption that software should be copyrighted and owned by individuals. That’s how Microsoft and most major corporate computing works. The other side supports “open sourced” software. That means that the code is free to be viewed and modified by anyone who wants to.

Do you want a computer that doesn’t have to be restarted every twenty minutes? Unix based operating systems ? which are most commonly available to the average user as open source ? supplant Windows, and just work better.

When there is a problem with software, open source software engineers usually fix it before commercial software companies do.

The problem with computers is that we feel like we have no control. The average user feels helpless and ignorant. My point is that with minor effort you can learn how to be a user of your computer, rather than just sit in front of it for a while.

I’m personally still just learning, but already, I’m finding myself less frustrated with my computer ? if there is a problem with my computer, I can usually fix it. There is a huge community of people out there who help me figure out how to fix it.

You don’t need to be a computer genius to start, you just need to be willing to learn.

Most people use their computer like guests in someone else’s house. Learning more about your computer is like taking ownership. You can finally be in control of your computer, instead of letting your computer be in control of you.

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