Open Source: Without Profit?

One of the arguments I’ve had with critics of Open Source software, is that they (the open source programmers) want people to use a product for which there is no profit, i.e. they are given away for free.

That’s funny. I’ve profited many times over from a lack of lost down time due to using Firefox to access the Internet and avoiding all that IE targeted malware. I’ve also profited from using Thunderbird and avoiding all those scriptkiddie re-mailers that seem to plague Outlook Express.

[BTW, Microsoft gives IE and Express away ‘free’ too]

I’ve also profited from the use of www.openoffice.org instead of MicroSoft office. I’ve saved all those profits I would have handed over to brother Bill, and given them to myself. Same for the OS’s that I test. The average Linux distro will run you 80 bucks if you want printed materials to go with the software. I’ve paid it more than once, as well as downloading them for free from the internet.

‘If’ I had a CAD package that suited my needs in Linux, I wouldn’t even look back.

Most people too narrowly define the word ‘profit’.

Image Viewing and Editing

One of the tech sites I frequent was asking “what editing software do you use?” I don’t have a video editor that I like (I’ve just gotten into fabricating my own PVR and I haven’t settled on an operating system yet, much less a video editor I like) but I definitely have an opinion on image viewing and editing…

Image Viewing: IRFanView

I hated this program when I first started using it. The sys-admin at one of my previous employers had loaded it as the default image viewer, and I could not understand why. After several years of fiddling with other programs, I can now tell you why.

Quick loading, and I mean FAST. Photoshop, JASC, etc, all take 10 minutes to load (or it feels like it) with IRfanview you double click and your image is right there.

Editing tools are very basic (which is why I hated the program initially) but they are more than sufficient to handle the average users requirements. Image scaling, lightening and darkening of the image, etc. If you want to major editing, get program made for editing. If you want to view images and do basic manipulation, IRfanview is the program for you.

Image editing: Gimp it

When I need to manipulate files, I pull out ‘The Gimp‘. Why would you pay for Photoshop when this program does everything Photoshop does, and does it for less? Someone else posted this on the same thread, which sums it up for me:

I think that when you struggle for software in a particular area you should always start with free unless you are compelled. That way you can learn the technologies. the techniques, the strengths and the weaknesses. If the free software does what you need, then great! If it doesn’t, you’ll be able to look at the commercial offerings with specific questions and specific needs. This improves your chances of finding what you need on the first try without buying a lot of unnecessary software.

When I finally start taking the PVR seriously I might have a video editor to recommend. And I’ll be doing that right after I finish remodeling the house.

Recommending Firefox

I knew I was recommending it for a reason. It’s just nice to have it backed up with statistics. Here’s a quote:

“Internet Explorer users are 21 times as likely to pick up spyware than Firefox users

I’ve been using Firefox for several years now, and installing it on systems that my boss (yeah, you, sweetheart) assigns me to fix, as well as recommending it to anyone who asks. All based on my own impression of it’s security, and nothing else.

…Until now.

Linux Distro Chooser Quiz

Reading back issues of Linux Pipeline tonight, came across a link for the Linux Distro Chooser Quiz. (There is a 2020 version here. –ed.) It suggested I use Suse; which is kind of funny, since I’m only looking at other distros because I’m tired of fixing the missing pieces in Suse.

I want to be able to play DVD’s on a linux system without having to stand on my head tracking down different parts of a software program. I just want to install a DVD player that actually plays DVDs and I haven’t found one that I don’t have to assemble each time I upgrade the OS software. Suse comes with DVD disabled, as well as a lot of other bits and pieces missing and broken.

…and if I find it frustrating, as a confirmed software geek (if not a bonafide programmer) I can only imagine what the average user thinks.

The quiz is actually pretty cool, I do recommend it. I tweaked the settings the second time around and came up with a pretty decent list of distros, two of which I already have on hand (Ubuntu, and LinSpire. I also noticed a Kubuntu in the list; A KDE version of Ubuntu, apparently) and will be installing and trying to break shortly.

I’m already impressed with Ubuntu. I was able to get online using the live CD in about 5 minutes. Pretty cool.

Telemarketer Counterscript

Anyone who has called my house recently knows what an enjoyable time I have messing with telemarketers and their ilk. Just stumbled across a script for talking to telemarketers that I might just have to try:

Telemarketers make use of a telescript – a guideline for a telephone conversation. This script creates an imbalance in the conversation between the marketer and the consumer. It is this imbalance, most of all, that makes telemarketing successful. The EGBG Counterscript attempts to redress that balance.

EGBG – martijn engelbregt
EGBG – martijn engelbregt

Too funny.

Teaching People to Think

Hello, I’m Anthony. (Hi Anthony) …And I’m a Forum Addict.

This addiction started years ago with CompuServe forums and Usenet, not long after we got our first internet account back in ’94, through the local university. I started looking for people to talk with online in this new social experiment we had created with computer technology. At first the addiction seemed innocuous enough, just chatting with people who had shared interests. There was the occasional disagreement with the odd agitator who showed up just to argue, but all and all, a forum was a friendly place. I’m not quite sure when or how it happened, but as time progressed it seems that the forums became more about the disagreement, and less about the sharing of knowledge. Perhaps we are all looking for that emotional high that comes from being in a good argument.

The tendency toward forum addiction can be traced back much earlier than the internet, though. If you remember the charge you got the first time you knew something somebody else didn’t know, and you got to explain it to them, got to see their eyes light up with understanding, then you too are a potential forum addict. That’s where it starts. Then you discover the internet and how easy it is to share information. You join your first forum and you start posting. Before you know it you are spending days at a time trying to shove a few facts into another idiot’s brain, never realizing that you to are an idiot just for making the attempt.

Talk about a waste of effort.

At some point (if you are like me) you will probably also discover that you are in an adversarial relationship with everyone in your group and the one time that you can all pull together is when you are trying to single out some other agitator to get rid of. I tend to agree with a friend who observed that “it’s the nature of the medium.” For some reason the impersonal nature of text communication seems to make people more prone to misapprehend the meaning of a statement. There’s a multi-million dollar government funded study in there somewhere.

More and more often these days, that agitator turns out to be me. It seems I have this disgusting habit of making people think about things they’d rather not. Call me weird, but it’s kind of a point of pride with me. I figure if I don’t make someone go “Hmmm?” with each post, then I might as well watch the boob cube with the rest of the couch potatoes. Therein lies the rub. If you can’t impart a few simple facts to the unwilling, how on earth can you make them think?

Once again, can we say Waste of Effort? I knew that you could.

…This is why government schools don’t teach, they indoctrinate. No one wants to sit in neat little rows and listen to someone else lecture, and rote learning is boring to say the least. So we have schools full of the unwilling that can’t be taught even simple facts, much less be made to think for themselves. If it was understood that thinking for oneself was a blessing and that school was a place where this was facilitated, you might actually find children wanting to go to school just to learn instead of going just to escape from their parents.

…And that is why the Montessori method of teaching will always be superior to the typical attempt at teaching found in government schools. It stimulates the natural desire within the child to learn and to understand. This is also why you won’t find Montessori teaching in government school systems. Worse than getting children hooked on drugs is getting them to think.

The idiot that I am, I got kicked off another forum the other day (you might notice that it disappeared from my sidebar) I miscued on a post by another, who miscued on a (poor) attempt at humor on my part. The peanut gallery pounced at that point. One can rack up a lot of negative feelings when he’s trying to pound a little sense into the opposition. They offered to let me stay on if I would agree to be moderated, but I’m not interested in letting someone else second guess what I should post. So I’m outta there.

I’ve alienated friends and family members with this stupid forum addiction, this blind belief that I can somehow impart a little understanding to the (as someone else called them) “unwashed masses” by “getting the information out there.” Silly, really. Or is it?

Over time I’ve progressed (?) from knowing everything, but understanding very little (typical teenager) to knowing nothing, but understanding a great deal (hello mid-life) more than I can express in a blog entry. I wonder when I’ll learn to think…? And will it be before I hit ‘send’ the next time?

Postscript

Coded language. How quaint. I used the phrase government schools because that was the phrase that libertarians use to describe America’s public schools system. They aren’t really government schools, not in the way that the word indoctrination means when I apply it to public schools.

The scientific method is a valid lens through which to understand the world around us. It might well be the the only way to accurately understand the world around us. Science simply is in much the same way that existence simply is. You aren’t indoctrinated into it, you are introduced to it. If it sticks then you become an agnostic about things that you don’t know yet and then learn how to test for what is knowable about a thing. The development of the critical thinking faculty that science engages is a problem for people who want to tell you how to think and not help you discover what thinking is.

Government schools are not bad, per se. Government schools aren’t bad when they don’t indoctrinate. They aren’t bad when they impart real life skills. As long as government schools get the job done that needs to be done (teaching children to think critically) government schools are just fine.

It’s when the job they are doing is not serving the greater good, that’s when government schools, and all schools, fail. Montessori fails to educate those students with special needs, and it fails because a good portion of Montessori instruction is based on belief/ideology and not on tried and true best methods. Finding a school that teaches critical thinking based on best methods. That is the really hard part.

Blogspot archive for the month of January 2006

Professions

Started ranting with the wife about technical jobs…

Ranting with not ranting at? It’s like an argument concert. She rants, I agree and rant, she responds with a loud denouement of whatever. Life around here can be quite different, really. Quite different, when you realize that she’s the truly technical one. The hardware junky that builds things. I’m just her one and only flunky that keeps the software running.

…and what they pay these days. Most of the places that advertise computer assistance/repair services pay no better than the places where the sum total of knowledge required to do the job is to be able to say “do you want fries with that?” We’ve gotten most of our business from people who have first called a number they heard advertised; and then after *insert business name here* made the problem worse, they did some searching and found us. We’d love to be the first ones that get called; but we just don’t work that cheaply, and shouldn’t be expected to.

What’s out of sync is that we don’t charge any more than *insert business name here* (less in fact) it’s just that as sole proprietors we pocket the full hourly charge for ourselves, like any real professional would.

And then I started off on a tangent. Specialized knowledge. That’s what makes a profession what it is. Imagine what it was like back when houses first started getting electricity. You already had plumbing, most likely. But this electrical stuff was all new. Someone who understood electricity and its rules would be highly valued. What followed would be decades of hard learning for all involved, with more and more people getting experience in the field. At some point, common knowledge of the basic rules of electricity made it seem like any old idiot could go out and wire a house and fiddle with electrical current. But that isn’t the case. Electricians still exist, and some of us still rely on them. Idiots get fried every year because they think they know about electricity. This isn’t that hard is probably the last thought they had.

While you won’t kill yourself trying to do some of the more technical jobs for yourself, when you realize that you’ve just turned your very expensive computer into a paper weight, you might wish you were dead.

No, I don’t think we need the government to step in now and start setting standards for a computer profession. I haven’t noticed that it’s done anything for any of the other professions out there including architecture. I just think it’s a shame that you’d pay a plumber an hourly wage that an attorney might charge, to handle the mystical plumbing problem you’re having, but computer problems are a different matter? You want fries with that?

Sony: What do they do for the pirates?

Have you heard the wonderful things that Sony is doing for people who legitimately purchase music on disk these days? Seems they install software on your system that hijacks your hardware and attempts to prevent you from copying their disks. Unfortunately it opens the system up for other malicious uses, not to mention voiding ‘fair use’ for all intents and purposes.

Seems to me you wouldn’t want to punish the people who pay you money for your product, something I’ve meticulously done when music that I like is available on disk. You know, plan A: follow the law, reward the creative types with the money they deserve for creating the music we enjoy; doing the “right thing”. After Sony’s little fiasco, I think I’ll go with plan “B” from now on.

As someone who does computer maintenance as a sideline, I’ve seen what it takes to clean up a hijacked system like they are describing. It’s called “Fdisk, format, reinstall”. If that’s what you get for following the rules and purchasing music from the RIAA supporting music vendors, then I think I’m a rule breaker from here on out.

This is what you get for letting the corporations dictate policy for you, as the link under the RIAA above points out. Snooping bastards poking around in all the nooks and crannies on your system just to make sure you don’t have a secret copy of Bob Dylan’s version of “Watchtower” (or heaven forbid anything by Metallica) out there that you didn’t actually pay for.

Do any of us need that?

I’m thinking of digging out all my old vinyl and re-mastering the content to MP3 just for the hell of it now. All those old Barry Manilow and Earth, Wind and Fire albums in fresh new MP3 format. That’ll show ’em, right?


The Sony BMG rootkit scandal is finally winding down.

The settlement that Sony has agreed to includes a payment of 150 dollars to anyone who can show damage due to the rootkit, as well as replacement of any CD’s which contain the rootkit. I hope the rest of the media companies are paying attention to this.

Yahoo story, ARS story