A while ago, sensing that I was not enough of a nerd yet, I decided to install Ubuntu 7.10, a derivative of Linux. (That’s an operating system, like Windows or Mac OS X, for those completely out of the loop.) Ubuntu, like Linux, is open-source, meaning that anyone can not only view the code that makes it run, but also edit it, tweak it, copy it, and use it in various projects, all free of charge and without treading on any copyright. Also, it’s free (so, for my out-of-the-loop readers, think of it as something akin to downloading a fully functional copy of Windows, already stocked with many applications necessary to perform your daily computing, all for free).
Ubuntu is, in my opinion, the version of Linux that’s pushing hardest for public acceptance. Dell, for instance, recently added an option for customers purchasing laptops to have the computers shipped with Ubuntu installed instead of Windows. I respect that. I believe that there will come a point, given the recent surge in open-source development, when someone can download for free perfectly functional and feature-ridden open-source alternatives to most popular programs, including the operating system. Theoretically, in the near future, someone could work on their computer for years without having to spend money on software. I believe Ubuntu will be at the forefront of that wave, since the most fundamental part of that goal is a free operating system.
But I can almost guarantee you that that goal will not be realized in 2008.