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Open source superiority - a case study - The Annals of Young Geoffrey: Hope brings a turtle [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Young Geoffrey

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Open source superiority - a case study [Dec. 12th, 2009|01:04 am]
Young Geoffrey
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The splendour and misery
of Microcrap Windows, of Microcrap Office

Some informal remarks towards a modular calculus of open source software (With apologies to Samuel R. Delany or, indeed, to anyone who actually knows what "a modular calculus" means; it's late, I'm tired and feeling the urge towards "humorously pedantic usage of the English language")

I'm feeling vaguely heroic as I fade towards sleep on this very early Saturday morning.

First came the rescue of Raven Tresses' laptop which, shortly upon her arrival home from work, refused her any but a frozen mockery of her normal desktop display.

Dusting off the mental files left over from my days in the worlds of help desk hell, I asked to take a look at her machine, sagely nodded as the still somewhat familiar WindowsXP desktop appeared before me, I made sure she had back-ups of most (if not necessarily all) of her files, explaining that we might need to try restoring the system to a previous state.

"But first," I mumbled, stumbling after the unfamiliar terminology, "Let's see if it'll boot into safe mode."

Raven powered-cycled the beast and I hit a couple of F keys, stopping the process, then found a way into the fabled Windows Safe Mode.

The screen's resolution was awful, the few default icons bloated and blurry, like a drunkard's self-analyses. But we had navigability! And, realizing I really didn't know what I should do once there, I moved with outward confidence to "Explore" the Control Panel, hoping a further course of action might leap out at me like the hideous graphics on an amateur's website.

Fortunately, Raven desired sustenance and so, having nothing immediately better to offer, I suggested she try re-booting and said I'd take another look after supper, if necessary. (You all know where this is going; if the Dilbert panel above didn't give it away, plain old experience will have for most of you.)

Though two manual reboots hadn't accomplished the task, one manual reboot and a brief, directionless visit to Safe Mode did the trick. Raven was back in business.

Or so she thought.

After she had cleaned up after my (frankly, very sub-par) dinner, she asked me whether I was able to open up the latest Microsoft Office file types — the ones which end in ".docx" rather than just ".doc".

You see, she's still running Microsoft's Office2003. And the latest version makes files which, er, aren't compatible with previous versions of the company's own fucking software.

Built-in obsolescence has seldom been so blatantly predatory.

Gentle Readers, I admit it: I smirked. My voice could have lubricated a fleet of battleships, such was my smug self-satisfaction.

"Why yes," I said, smiling a smile at once wondrous and yet nauseating to behold. "I'm running Linux — which comes with OpenOffice. Just send me the files."

Rather than belting me and then shoving me out of my chair, Raven displayed a saintly patient tolerance and merely inserted her USB key into my machine. Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents appeared on my screen and I converted them all into a format she could use. And Gentle Readers, she thanked me while she wiped the oil of my magnanimity from the aforementioned data storage unit.

Oh yes, before that, she'd had a similar problem, this time with an obsolete version of Adobe Illustrator, which wouldn't allow her to manipulate an image created with one more reason. And I, never having needed to separate a logo from its background, fired up TheGimp, consulted a few online forums, and soon saw her with a usable graphic for her work.

All of which is to say: People! Next time you're looking for an upgrade or a completely new piece of software, at least investigate the open source alternatives out there! Stop being voluntary prisoners of a rapacious corporate behemoth whose idea of innovation is to create new, proprietary file formats designed to separate you from your money, not to help you get things done.

And thus endeth tonight's sermon.

Next time! 60 per cent less gloating! Young Geoffrey promises!

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Comments:
[User Picture]From: fadefromnothing
2009-12-12 04:31 pm (UTC)
Also, yes, open source! Do it for more than just technical and functional reasons, do it for the good politics! I got to sit down 70 university students a couple of weeks ago to give them a talk on the politicism of democratic media and open source. It was surprising to see what their attitudes towards open source had been prior to my talk.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2009-12-13 05:03 pm (UTC)

Good point

Since I was going for humour more than anything else, I didn't go into the political reasons for supporting open source projects in general, but I appreciate you bringing it up. And I'll take the opportunity to acknowledge that, yes, I'm a big fan of open source technology, creative commons licensing and just about anything else that encourages our collective well-being.

Have you written about that talk anywhere accessible? If not, how's about making a post about it on LJ?
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[User Picture]From: beable
2009-12-12 06:25 pm (UTC)

Open Office saved my butt last June


I was editing the proceedings for the conference I was to be attending in July (dance related, not work related). HAving never done this formally before, I did not specify a format for which documents had to be sent to me. Almost all of them came in various version of MS Word (2003 or earlier), and about 3 of them came in .docx.

Because I don't have MS Word at home I didn't even notice anything was amiss (until trying to straighen out a formatting issue with conversion between formats, but that's a different story, and I ultimately straightened it out by stripping out and reformatting most of the articles - it wasn't actually an MS Word/Open office issue at all)
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2009-12-13 05:04 pm (UTC)

Re: Open Office saved my butt last June

Because I don't have MS Word at home I didn't even notice anything was amiss...

It's the little things like that about Linux &ct that make me giggle all smugly.
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[User Picture]From: serpentrose
2009-12-12 09:21 pm (UTC)

I like Open Source

I do confess to running windows on this beast, though I've decided to put in a dual boot in the near(ish) future.

I know a guy who does graphics work for a living. When I bought this computer off of him he told me that he prefers Gimp to Photoshop, though he has both.

I use open office for my word processing needs, I have yet to have any real difficulties with it. I'm not willing to spend money on a product that will, at best, work only as well as what I already have.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2009-12-13 05:06 pm (UTC)

Re: I like Open Source

Interesting comments from the graphics guy re The Gimp. My usage is mostly limited to cropping photos and playing with colours, along with the occasional superpositioning of "funny" text onto images, so I'm in no position to compare the more arcane features of one against the other.
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