Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Front porch in Linuxville revisited

You know, backyards and attics are kind of private worlds, it's good to retreat once in a while, get some perspective on things. My all time favorite place is the front porch. From there you can choose to engage the whole world or sit back and be a spectator. Surveying Linuxville you can see things in a good light and select at your leisure what you wish to get involved with. Like looking at people, you can almost see their genetic make-up in their faces. Some faces are are so familiar, some so similar to others. In college a couple of African med students said I reminded them of some folks they knew back home. I am talking about Linux. 400+ distros and on the surface they each seem so unique. The GUI makes some distros so similar, they could be clones. Put Xfce on any distro and you have the Xfce look and feel. The same with KDE or Gnome or any of the desktops and window managers. Look at people faces, no makeup or with makeup to express any assorted appearance agenda. Content, well, some are more talented than others in certain areas, but the thing that matters is always the same. The applications are the same whither on Ubuntu or Fedora, OpenOffice.org is OpenOffice.org. People just like to compare and fuss, that is in their nature. This is too much, I like this, I hate that, this is lame, this is excellent and that is not enough. Many of you don't remember the folk song about little boxes made of ticky tack, all made the same. When the WWII soldiers came home, neighborhoods sprang up like a rash. It was more economical and efficient to build them the way they did, small lots, close together to share resources and to accommodate the numbers. Sounds like the marketing strategy of a certain software company. It met the need for the time but how cool is a 60+ year old house with aluminum siding and amenities designed for your grand parent's day. Well, you can buy into it all or move on to something suited to the present reality. Even if you don't buy into this unabashed Linux promo, you have to wonder why in the face of the digital divide do we still feel throwing scarce dollars at the teaching of technology problem will solve it. Forget about paying Mr. Gates and Mr. Jobs for their digital enslavement. OpenOffice.org and other open source software are valuable to train students to use the tools that are out there. Other than Nike, who asks a runner if they wear Nike shoes as a perquisite to race. Businesses should expect you to be able to use a word processor, it shouldn't matter the brand, there is not much difference between them anyway because we expect certain things to be in the applications. We compare free with commercial and say what's the catch? OpenOffice.org will run on MS Windows or Linux. I would rather push Linux but am probably already asking too much to consider open source. No. Part of the technology solution is putting tools in the hands of students. They will continue to lack those tools if we require them to buy them from vendors whose main business is to extract those dollars. Linux is free, open source software is free, they are valuable learning tools and resources that can be tapped today. You see speaking from one's front porch gives you a little strength compared to none on a soapbox in the square. I have my humble beginnings and I have learned a few things, I can't consider myself an extraordinary individual, geek, genius or tech guru but, having to adapt to many environments in the working world I see what could have made life better for me if it were available at that time. Linux and or open source is the way to go today. If you still feel to throw money at Steve and Bill, therapy might help. Even deep discounts and signed co-operation agreements can't beat free.

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