Getting support The level of support available for free software is amazing. Most free software has both official and community support. Official support can come in many forms, and depending on the program, may include commercial support. Mozilla is a good example of free software having commercial telephone support available. This is a must for commercial users of free software, and can give piece of mind to both companies and individuals. Another readily available method of support is forums. Almost every free software program has its own free support forum. The official forums are usually very friendly and answers can usually be found from previous postings. Thanks to large user bases, support forum questions are usually answered quickly. You should always read each individual forum’s rules before posting, and you should search to see if anyone else has had that same problem. IRC (Internet Relay Chat) is another support option. Depending on the project size you may be able to get an answer quicker this way. This is also a good place to get instructions and tips from other users that isn’t available on the website. If the project doesn’t have any of these support features, you should look for unofficial sources. Some projects will link to these resources, if not, Google usually knows. Typing “project-name support” can usually find some support options for you (e.g. “Mozilla Support”). If all else fails, try contacting the project author. Most authors I’ve talked to have been very helpful in locating and fixing program problems.
Conclusion Hopefully this has given you the urge to replace all of your proprietary software. As you can see from this article and the other articles in this issue, free software is available to fulfil your every computing need, for free. Free software is a viable alternative, not just for individuals, but also for corporate workstations. As a bonus, employees can easily take a copy (or ten) home. More and more governments and corporations are beginning to use free software, probably for this reason. It’s also possible to take free software to the next level by using a free operating system such as GNU/Linux. If you’re just starting, you can try the Knoppix Live CD, which doesn’t require hard drive installation. Fedora Core and Mandriva (formerly Mandrake) are also good first choices. I hope you’ll continue to enjoy free software, and perhaps increase the use of free software in your digital life.
Biography Robin Monks (/user/35" title="View user profile.): Robin Monks is a volunteer contributor to Mozilla (http://mozilla.org), Drupal (http://drupal.org), GMKing (http://gmking.org) and Free Software Magazine and has been helping free software development for over three years. He currently works as an independent contractor for CivicSpace LLC (http://civicspacelabs.org)
Copyright information This article is made available under the "Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs" Creative Commons License 3.0 available from http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/.