Talking to my father tonight, helping him with some computer tasks and advocating free software in the process, I've come for myself to the realization of what many may already know, but anyway... the use of free and open-source software is an education issue. What I mean by that is that if we want FOSS to be adopted in a more widespread fashion, if we want projects to succeed (and FOSS-focused companies to succeed), we need to make sure that people know that alternatives exist. We need to let people know too, that the alternatives are legit -- because I think that this may actually be a problem too. Maybe people are accustomed to paying for software that has very specific capabilities, or lots of features, or for operating systems, and from that habit they are inferring that whatever is not being charged for is like the today sadly common pirated software? Is anybody else noticing this kind of thing?
As such, I think that is really is important to support projects like Fabian Rodriguez' Ubuntu In Libraries, that promote availability of open-source software, education of potential users on the fact that legit, free, and working software actually exists, and that it can replace other software with fewer features that you could potentially pay a lot more for.
Extending this, I also think that Ubuntu should be advocated in a more overt manner in schools. I'm often somewhat shocked at the fact that teachers will encourage students to procure themselves extremely specialized and pricey software like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator (which tend to be somewhat out of most students' budgets, especially living on their own... and usually also out of their parents' budgets!), when viable alternatives like GIMP or Xara Xtreme, which could not only do the same work in many cases, but benefit from the additional user base while helping these new users by adding features. If there is demand for something, it has more of a chance to be added to a software project. At the same time, from my experience with the commercial and free alternatives of graphics tools, I see that a lot of things are done exactly the same way, with very similar menus or icons for the same tasks. I'm no expert, but wouldn't that still be good if students are taught the theory basis, and can then transport, transfer that knowledge to whatever different tool they use to do the job? At the very least, I say thanks to Ubuntu for making some of the finer of these alternative programs easy to install or even available by default in new installs (I'm thinking OpenOffice.org).