Saturday, November 17, 2007

What it seems like, the view from my chair.

I am having some interesting email conversations with a resource person at a local public library. I was browsing through the shelves in the computer section and I could not believe the number of books written about Microsoft products. Talk about redundancy and a glut of information. I believe this is because MS stuff is viewed as the standard that everyone has, both business and home users. It is as if MS products have totally dominated the computing scene and with the libraries help the perception is complete. There is a large array of books on XP and MS Office and before Vista was even warming the shelves, in anticipation there appeared a glut of Vista books and new MS Office books. Well, I really do have it out against Microsoft, but only because they are so big. This library has a few books on Apple products, not as popular and some books on Linux, what's that. So, what is my beef? Every time Microsoft comes out with a new product there is a requirement on the users part to spend more cash on hardware, software, books, and training. The library seems to back this up like an enabling parent. Yet, there are other viable computing solutions in the world besides MS.

I always thought libraries were about the free flow of information and educating the public about history, possibilities of the future and what's going on today. The thought stuck in the back of my head is that some computer companies have the desire and intent to return computing to its roots. This is that we users would access dumb terminals hooked up to large mainframe computers. Of course we have to pay for access and have no control over what is stored on the mainframe. Rights and access would be limited, content controlled and the book "1984" would become a reality, common experience. Heck, we have cable TV and Internet broadband service now, how far a jump would it be to have to pay for computer service also? Desire and intent, who is in control of the direction of technology takes us.

Some how I don't think of Apple as the company to be the juggernaut to hold Microsoft in check, after all they have carved out a niche for themselves. In the computing world there has always been a faction of those outside of the making money business. Who knows, they might even develop into a Jobs or a Gates, spearheading a company. Anyway, they just became a part of the movement because they like to code and solve computer problems. They wanted to do it themselves, not waiting for some company to do it or even because they thought their solution was better than what companies offered. Some are so caught up in who thought it first, who has right to develop the idea and who profits from it. Jobs and Gates started out with the liberty to process an idea and wound up fighting to keep you from doing the same. But what if you didn't process your idea with the intent to make money or you shared your idea freely with others who had the same drive, the same desire as you. Would that idea be processed without the aid of a so-called company or commercial entity? I really marvel at the way Linux and open source software came about. I also remember that personal computing began with the sharing of free software between persons. I am so glad that spirit has not been killed off by the greed to make money off of everything. There is room in the world for free stuff.

We have in our recent history embraced the backyard mechanic, the do it yourself handyman and everyone and his momma has a cellphone and can "text", yet computer savvy folks are still gurus, geeks, nerds and techies. A lesser species who violate patents, product warranties, end user agreements and pirates without effort. And when they take their own handiwork and share them with the public, they become criminals subversive to the way things are done in business and a threat to the bottom line. And when you yourself use that approved code that you have paid for from a certified company, are you really getting anything better than what has been labeled as renegade code? How would you know, after all you don't have the ability to examine both products under the microscope. And you don't really care about the motives of the company supplying the code or the consequences of having it. You just want it to work. It is too bad a big and influential company like Microsoft wouldn't/couldn't put out a unbiased comparison report of computing solutions like what Progressive Insurance advertises they do. Honest assessments of ones competition is not the way business is done.
Well, I can not vouch for Progressive, but historically Microsoft is unlikely to give a fair review.

So having said all of the above, is it worth being bothered with open source software or this thing called Linux? I guess you will have to educate yourself and decide. The value of anything becomes apparent by using it. This is true in the computing world and in much of life.

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