Have been reading about the term "open source" and how it diverged from the "free software" movement.
Richard Stallman, stalwart of the latter camp, explains that "free" is often misconstrued, and that we should think of "free speech, not free beer." The idea that you should be able to play around and tinker with code once you buy it, and the makers of the code should not be trying to control you, is based on ethical principles. Open source, argues Stallman, strips the ethics out of free software and is only concerned with as much openness as is needed to improve a program's performance or functionality.
What does this mean to a non-programmer? You're maybe not so interested in spending the time learning how to rewrite your operating system so it does what you want it to. But you would like for it not to contain scripts that go fishing around in your hard drive looking to see if your software is "genuine," manufacturer-approved code.
Have been looking into Linux operating systems for the non-programmer (e.g., Mint) and am deciding that it's a choice like going Vegan. You're going to need hardware that Linux can communicate with (from a retailer such as Think Penguin)* and there will be many websites with programs or content you want that are Mac and Windows only. A musician friend says Linux isn't an alternative because there isn't enough creativity being applied to music software. Surfing around the graphics and music programs for Linux, you can see they look clumsy and design-challenged: a permanent late '90s homepage style.
But if you decide to lead an ethical life, in your remaining years left, you can probably cobble together a creative setup that works for you. Artists are accustomed to working within defined sets of limitations: the "linux artist" is possibly going to create work that doesn't smell or feel like something made with a tablet app from Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. [to be continued]
*Update: Linux can be booted on a regular PC but anyone who's recently installed, say, Windows 7 on a seven year old machine knows the hell of tracking down drivers and otherwise getting software and hardware to communicate. A non-programmer might want a PC with chipsets designed or optimized for Linux, but then what about printers? Modem? etc. Anyone already worrying about this is probably too large a baby to be going the Linux route. As opposed to say, the person who can get an old computer off eBay and enjoys all the hassles, er, challenges of getting Linux to run it.