Who am I to talk about Free Software?
This is a reasonable question. After all, I've never worked on an open source project. I philosophically support free software — but not particularly zealously. Worst of all, my computer is running Windows XP.1 So who am I? I'm a consumer. I'm the guy who will actually switch programs if something better comes along. I'm like that swing voter that everybody hates for disloyalty (unless it's an election year). I'm the guy that free software has to win over before it can capture a meaningful market share.
1. In my defense, the computer is dual booting Linux and Windows. Every time I turn on the computer, it waits a few seconds to let me select an operating system before it boots XP by default. It's been so long since I've told it to boot Linux that I've forgotten which distribution I have. (Note from Marco: I think it's Mandrake 10.) But to my credit, I do have that daily pause for Linux, right after the daily pressing of F1 when the computer tells my hard drive is about to crash. Think of it as a moment of silence.
I've done a number of reviews of Winamp and have been progressively less happy with it. Winamp is "free" in the sense that it doesn't cost anything — but it is still a commercial, proprietary work. It has gotten slightly more intrusive, slightly more obnoxious, and slightly more bloated with every new version. Of course, the obvious alternative, Windows Media Player, is worse. I thought it might be time to expand my horizons a bit. I decided to try VideoLan's VLC Media Player.
Note: I am reviewing version 0.8.5. On one hand, it's not entirely fair to review software before it has reached version 1.0. On the other hand, it's probably going to be a while before 1.0 is released. If things have changed significantly by version 1.0, I will revisit the review.