Monday, July 03, 2006

Let's really open up open source

I am neither a nerd or a geek. Nor am I technologically qualified to talk or even do anything very significant when the topic of computers comes up. However, I am very keen on the applications I can use on my computer to make its use pleasurable, easy and productive. I have no real understanding of Microsoft's almost manic clutch on computing, but I am willing to bow to superior knowledge on this issue.

What I am happy about is the Open Source movement. It certainly reflects the potential that the Internet was first conceived with. A community of developers working together and in harmony, to ensure that the use of the Internet remains free and available to the widest possible range of users, apart from making it a convenient medium for progressive communication.

And so I have software on my computer which replaces the Windows shell graphics-from-boredom. It is far too expensive to purchase a copy of MS Office, and the pirated copies pose too much of a risk, so I have downloaded OpenOffice which has never failed to bring me superb, and more than comparable facilities and pleasant surprises every time I use it, which is every day. I prefer Mozilla's Firefox browser and their Seamonkey mail client. I wish I could make sense of Linux to be able to use that instead of Windows, or at least had friends who do use it and would show me what's what.

But I do have an axe to grind about open source developers and those who make their work available for free.

For one, they assume that anyone who downloads and intends to use their work, is a person who knows whatever there is to know about programming. They have a condescending tone in their Readme.txt files which pisses me off, apart from confusing me no end. For example, take the Clipart facility of OO. They don't include it in the program so you need to download it as a separate application. That done, you are suddenly informed by the resident ghost of Bill Gates on your comp that it cannot open the SVG files which make up the clipart. So, you google and come up with the interesting but trivial information that it is Scalable Vector Graphics. Great, but still serving no purpose. Then you are confused by lots of other information, one of which tells you that a programming language called Python is used for SVG. So you dutifully download this as well, only to discover that the buggers who worked it all out haven't really given much thought to people like me who don't know what the hell they're talking of, one; and second, what the hell to do with it, other than to take a crash course in C, C+ or C++ or whatever babel they are spouting these days.

It's at times like this that I miss the user-friendliness of MS. Simply click on a few buttons like "yes", "no", "finished", after committing your heart and soul to the Gatesian EULA and impatiently indemnifying that millionaire and his company without actually reading the bloody thing, and you're done. It all works fine and satisfactorily till the virus hits you unexpectedly, your computer crashes, you regret buying it from a vendor who invariably delays his service till you are a frustrated, nervous wreck, and then you never learn from your mistakes but install another pirated copy of an MS program to allow history to repeat itself.

Therefore, hence, and so forth, I have tried to install open source programs / applications and I have so far not been affected by viruses, and hope to keep it that way.

There is one request that I would like to make to open source developers. Don't talk AT people like me. Be kind. Just in case you didn't know, we support your endeavours, and we do want an open, sharing community in this global village of ours. So do stuff that need not make it essential for ignoramuses like me to be able to program. Give us a couple of buttons to click and we're happy, we don't actually want much.

Let's really open up open source.


stelt said...

I agree that many open source projects have a website that is not very easy to comprehend for the non-programmer. The Microsoft products/websites that you mention are usually not to great for the developer, cause more often only very common functions are and well documented and implemented properly, if accessible.

SVG is only a graphics format that is becoming more common by the day.
You don't need to program a thing to view it.
See for a list of viewers (Firefox is one of them)

patrix said...

stelt - thank you for your comment. i shall certainly use the link you have sent to download the viewer. many thanks once again!