I've posted comments about the open-source software movement before, but raving about it isn't enough. Software megagiants Microslut, Adobe, and Macromedia (macro says it all, don't you think?) have far too many advertising dollars to attract users, to tempt them into paying six hundred dollars for the newest update of clunky, bloated codeware, and their user bases believe that in order to read or edit documents made in these programs, one must own the software. "Translation doesn't work! It screws up formatting!" This parrots the garbage that software companies spew in press releases disguised as warnings.
This is trash: code is, in the end, only code: it can be deciphered, it can be compiled, it can be rewritten. The code that tells your computer that this "document.doc" is a Microsoft Word document can be written by other word processors. Another complaint is that end users frequently feel as though they have to switch to Unix or Linux, or run open source software within a "shell," such as the X11 shell for Macintosh. In fact, there are a number of open source programs that have been ported into absolutely "native" formats - they don't require the shell.
I am, as you all know by now, a graduate student. Economically, this places me somewhere between the illegal immigrants working at Wally Martin and the cashier at the grocery store. I've had to resort to alternative programs for years, but I am able to access (read: temporarily steal from the university) full editions of regular programs to test the open source alternatives against the big box brands. Periodically, I'm going to review native open source software, comparing it to much more expensive versions. Since I work my computer to death, often running it at 95% load, I think that if it works for me, it will work for most users. I won't advocate that graphic design firms working for multimillion-dollar corporations switch from Photoshop to GIMP, because I can't say that I'm coming from that angle; however, I will advocate that people who want to perform relatively high-end graphic work (as I do, often) and who understand the interface of image manipulation software should switch to GIMP.