Workshop: Getting Started with Open Source Software
Bradley Dilger (Western Illinois University), Matt Barton (St. Cloud State University), David Blakesley (Purdue), Troy Hicks (Central Michigan University), Clancy Ratcliff (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Charles Lowe (Grand Valley State University), Jeremy Tirrell (Purdue)
I am not the most computer savvy person, so I was a little afraid that attending a computer workshop which promised to be ‘hands on’ would prove to be over my head. Within moments of it starting, however, the 15 other participants and I were put at our ease by the friendly and reassuring presenters. It was clear that the workshop was aimed at the curious beginner, although all levels of computer skills were welcome; and that the overall goal of the workshop was to introduce several free, open source software alternatives to the rather expensive commercial software available. (For those not familiar with the term ‘open source software’, it refers to the source code of a software application that is made available to the general public with little or no intellectual property restrictions; and so allows for the users to modify the actual software program itself.) Each of the presenters in turn demonstrated a different open source program, among them OpenOffice, Audacity and Freemind, and compared it to its commercial counterpart. Participants were then given a chance to try the programs for themselves on the various laptops provided for the workshop, and to pose questions or ask for help. I think what convinced me to start switching to open source programs was not so much the, in many cases, superior features of many of the programs, or even the free take-home CD filled with all the open source programs we had seen demonstrated. Rather it was the infectious enthusiasm of the presenters for the open source applications, as well as for the collaborative, community-centered spirit that seems to be behind the open source initiative as a whole.