Open Source software is quickly becoming a viable alternative to the average computer user and business. I've decided to use my blog to make note of Open Source software I have found useful.
First on the list of noteworthy Open Source projects is Mozilla's Firefox. Mozilla has a plethora of free programs, but none of them have the pizzazz and flair Firefox sports. Yesterday, at roughly 9am PST, Firefox hit 50 million downloads. Firefox is the only Open Source program to have enough of a following to get a full two-page advertisement in the New York Times. Don't feel bad if you missed it, you can purchase the commemorative poster from the Mozilla Store (I already got mine).
One of the biggest arguments to switch from Internet Explorer to Firefox is that it has better security. In truth it's not that Firefox has better security, it's that Firefox is more secure simply because it's not IE. ActiveX Controllers, only native to IE, are what allows adware and spyware easy access to your computer. An argument against Firefox is that it's Open Source therefore all the code bad guys would need to exploit it is freely available on the web. This is true, but in reality for every bad guy looking for vulnerabilities and exploits in Firefox's code, there are a hundred good guys doing the same thing and putting a preemptive stop to it. On the other hand, Microsoft has to wait until someone finds the hole, then fix it.
Let's give credit where it is really due. Firefox has a lot more to offer web browsing than a little added security. Tab browsing is nothing new to web browsers that stray from the beaten path, but being able to click a link with the center mouse wheel button and have it automatically open in a new tab has got the be this year's hottest web browsing tip. Now I can go to slashdot.org and follow every link quickly, easily, and in a nice orderly tab manor without losing slashdot.org as my focus. It's a little difficult to articulate with text exactly how useful this feature is, so I suggest you try it by opening up Firefox, go to any web page with links, and click a link with your center mouse button (probably your wheel).
Firefox's built in search is also what puts it ahead of IE. Not only does it allow you to search directly from the tool bar, you can even choose your engine. If you don't like the engines that come with it, you can click the "Add Engine..." button and get more. Most likely if there is a search engine on the web, there is a plug in for it in Firefox's toolbar search. Some of the recognizable searches include Google, Yahoo, Amazon, eBay, Dictionary.com, and even Wikipedia, CDDB, and IMDB.
A truly renowned idea is plug-in support. Not to say that other web browsers don't have plug-in's. In fact pretty much every browser plug-in out there will have a flavor that works with just about any browser. The difference with Firefox is that, when you go to a web page and you don't have the proper plug-in, with a click of a button Firefox will automatically download and install that plug-in. Usually it can do that without even leaving the page you're on too. So far the only participants are Java, Macromedia, and RealPlayer. Meaning you've still got to manually download and install other plug-in's like Quicktime. The big plus here is that the system is in place and anyone with a browser plug-in can jump on board.
Unfortunately you'll still need IE for Windows Updates and anything else that requires ActiveX controllers. Even still I recommend Firefox for anyone who's into free, easy, and useful. Besides if you don't like it you'll still have a fall back web browser, it's not like you can uninstall IE anyway.