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Sticking it to the man, Feb. 7, 2006

I had to get a new computer last week.

I’ve primarily used a Mac Powerbook for the past three years. It’s been a little inconvenient at times in this PC world, but I’ve always felt it was worth it.

Occasionally having to got through an extra step to open a Microsoft file was a small price to pay, I felt, for what I got in return n almost never crashing or locking up, not having to worry about viruses and being able to do more with graphics programs.

The fact that it made me feel cool and like a rebel of sorts was merely icing on the cake.

With the new redesign of the print product, however, I’ve had to shelve the Mac. You see, our news department is on a PC platform. We write our stories and build our pages on PCs, using Microsoft Word for text input and QuarkXPress for page design. The new design has forced us into a position of having more people having to do page layout n me among them. As such, I found myself having to wait around to get on a computer.

So last week I went back to the dark side, buying a Dell laptop. I’ve got it rigged up at the office with a docking bay and large monitor so I can work on pages, but I can still take it home at night and blog at all hours.

I had been doing some reading about a group of people who are rebelling against Microsoft’s domination of the industry. They are creating programs that look and feel lie Microsoft Office and they are all free to download from the Internet.

I decided I still wanted to be a rebel so I was going to try to use my new computer sans Microsoft n it’s the rebel, nonconformist in me.

The first thing I did was download Firefox from Mozilla.org, which I’ve been using for months and wrote about once before. It’s a free download and I guarantee once you try it you’ll never go back to Explorer.

Next, I downloaded Mozilla’s email program n Thunderbird. It’s exactly like Outlook. It’s only shortcoming is that Mozilla’s calendar program, Sunbird, is not a part of Thunderbird. In other words, you can’t drag an email to your calendar and save it like you can with Outlook, but I hope and believe Mozilla will get this glitch fixed soon.

That left Microsoft Word, Excel and the rest of MSOffice. I replaced these with a download from OpenOffice.org. Their office suite is every bit as good as Microsoft’s and, once again best of all, it’s free. My total office-type investment in my new computer is zero, zip, nada. And I couldn’t be happier with the software I’m using. Open Office opens any Microsoft document. There’s an extra step when you receive the file as an email attachment but it’s well worth it.

I’m in the process of converting the entire office. Circulation Manager Shirley Forehand and Sports Editor Andrew Giermak both had their Outlook programs crash on them in the past two weeks. It would not open. In a matter of minutes I had them up and running on Thunderbird and Firefox and they are perfectly happy, too. So including mine, that’s about $1,200 I was able to save by avoiding Microsoft. The News-Herald will never buy another Microsoft program while I’m here.

It sure feels good to stick it to the man.