Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Overcoming disbelief

The hardest part of escaping from the beast is believing you can do it. Really.

Most people have been taught that Microsoft Windows is the default and everything else is a variation. Which means the only thing you don't have to know anything to use is Windoze and its branded applications. (Of course Macintosh users know that's not true...) Most people have been taught they don't know anything, and that computer literate people are weird and unattractive. Face that indoctrination for a second, it's nasty. For Greens, it's disrespectful of diversity and antifeminist. For everybody, it's profoundly disempowering, yet we take it for granted.

This awful fact of the culture is a trap. It's one of the strongest parts of the MSFT monopoly. Most people don't believe they can get free, and they believe it down on an emotional level where you can't argue it down with mere facts and logic. They don't believe the alternatives really work, or are usable by people like themselves who know nothing. They're in prison in their own minds.

There's a way to break the spell. You just get one of the alternative programs and try it. It's a lot harder to believe in an imaginary cage when you've taken one small step out of it. (If you've already done this, and millions of people have, congratulations. You're ready for a later step.)

I'm going to recommend a program from the non-profit Mozilla Foundation. Their programs for MS-Windows install easily and work better than the MSFT programs they replace. Mainly, they're safer and more reliable. First, is this your computer? If it's someone else's, get permission to put a new software program on it. Is the disk drive almost full? MS-Windows doesn't run well when the drive is more than about two thirds full. And don't do this if an older Firefox is already there. Some of its add-ons might not work with the new version yet. Then click on this link. You're downloading a program for MS-Windows called Firefox-2.0.

It comes in a file whose name ends in .exe. Your current Web browsing program will ask if you want to save it or run it. Save the file on your desktop. When it's done downloading, it will show up as a little icon. It's a fox with his tail wrapped around a tiny Earth, and a box to show you this is the box Firefox comes in. Double-click on it to start up the Firefox Installer. It will ask if you want to import your bookmarks from Explorer. That's harmless. It will want to know if it can make a shortcut on your desktop. That's a good idea. But don't make it your "default browser" yet. Take baby steps. When it's done, you'll have a Firefox on your desktop. Try it. Visit your favorite Web sites with it. Chances are you won't get far before it want the Macromedia Flash plugin, and maybe Apple Quicktime. Just follow the prompts and it will obtain and install those for you.

Firefox is the tip of a very large iceberg. There's lots of trustworthy free software and we really want you to have it. Some files belong to corporations and it's illegal for us to decrypt them for you even if we could figure out how. That Flash plugin is corporate. The people who create Flash content think it's worth it. Nobody expects you to get completely free of corporate software. But you can do most of the things most people do with computers using truly free software. You've just taken the first step and seen the first thing.

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