Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Let's Get It Started In Here!

I thought a good place to start your introduction to Open Source would be with what you are using right now: the web browser. Not the web browser most Windows users are accustomed to using just because it's there, that would be Internet Explorer. The specific browser I'd like to introduce you to is Mozilla Firefox, or just Firefox as it is usually called.

Now why, you might ask, would you want to use anything but Internet Explorer? It's already there and it seems to work for everything I want to do. Well, my main answer to that is this: security! If you care about the health of your computer and about your personal data being a bit more secure, you'll use anything BUT Internet Explorer.

Where Is The Love?
I'll digress for a moment here just to mention that there are other Open Source browsers out there: Chrome, Konqueror and Dillo are just a few that come to mind. There are also other proprietary browsers, such as Opera and Safari. This introduction isn't about them, but feel free to compare what they have to offer with Firefox. All of the aforementioned browsers are free at least to some degree and are generally considered more secure than Internet Explorer.

Firefox aims to be a secure, standards-compliant browser, and it follows the Open Source development model. That is to say, anyone that wants to help make a better browser can take part in making Firefox work better, whether through using it and reporting bugs, writing documentation, testing against known standard sites or actually getting into the program code.

For you, kind reader, I'd suggest just enjoying a fast, secure browser, and if any problems do crop up, report them to the best of your ability and keep enjoying the benefits of Open Source. There are a couple of caveats to make it a bit of a challenge, even on Windows, but the benefits far outweigh the hassles!

My Humps
For starters, Firefox 3.0 (the current version as of this writing) has many handy features. Right from installation, Firefox has settings that can block unwanted content to speed up loading the things you want to see. Firefox also isn't integrated directly into your operating system, so automatically loading software (like spyware and adware that slow down your computer) doesn't happen without your knowledge.

Add-ons in Firefox let you extend the functionality of Firefox as much or as little as you like. Continuing in the vein of blocking things you don't care to see, AdBlock Plus is an excellent add-on you can easily install -- and virtually never see a banner or pop-up ad again! To install any add-on in Firefox, just click Tools, Add-ons and search for what you want. Practically everything you can imagine a browser doing is right at the click of your mouse.

Now, go get a copy of Firefox (from and see what it can do for yourself! If you get stuck, visit the Firefox Support pages to find the answer to all your questions.