The organizers of the first Linux presentation in an Italian shopping center asked me to prepare a short list of questions to hand out to all the visitors of that shopping center. They specifically asked for short, very simple questions that would fit in one page and help everybody, especially people with no interest at all in software as such, to get a quick idea of some basic issues, and possibly engage in a discussion. Since such questions may be useful in any occasion in which you want to quickly give an idea of what Free Software is all about to people in the street, here is an English adaptation, published under the Gnu Free Documentation License. The banner-less, printable version is here.
- Free Software is software that everybody, including schools and businesses, can legally install, modify, copy and redistribute without any license cost or complicated paperwork. Did you know this?
- Lots of Free Software programs useful at home, school or in the office also run on Windows, therefore you can try it without giving up your other computer habits and preferences. The most popular examples include OpenOffice (a free alternative to Microsoft Office), the Firefox Internet browser and the Gimp image editing program. Have you ever tried any of them?
- Gnu/Linux, instead, is a complete, Free as in Freedom operating system. It is an alternative to Windows. It can run thousands of software programs, from games to business or educational applications. All equally Free as in Freedom. Many of these programs are already used by NASA and lots of great corporations and Public Administrations worldwide. Did you ever try any version of Gnu/Linux?
- Do you already know that you can try Gnu/Linux without installing or touching anything on your computer? You just have to use a LiveCD like Knoppix, that is a special CD or DVD that runs Linux instead of Windows when your computer boots up, but only until you turn it off, when everything will be back to its original state. Have you ever tried a Live Linux CD?
- Do you know that widespread adoption of Free Software may save lots of money in software licenses and in other ways to all schools and Public Administrations?
- Do you know that Free Software can be configured to run even on computers that have become too old and limited for Windows, thereby freeing people from the need of buying a new computer every few years only because a new version of Windows was released?
- Do you know that Free Software uses open file formats like OpenDocument, that is formats that even other/older programs could read without problems? In other words, do you know that if everybody used such software, or at least those formats, nobody would be forced anymore to buy new software or new computers just because the other people with which one has to exchange files did so?
- Do you know that in several countries it is already legally possible to buy complete computers without any operating system, with warranty and all but at a lower price?
- If you didn’t know any of these things, why don’t you ask what Free Software may do for you as a citizen and taxpayer to the closest Linux and Free Software advocacy group?