An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
My first experience with Open Source software (there is some debate about the term) was not unlike most people's in that I abandoned MS Internet Explorer in favor of Mozilla's Firefox. In short order I found I much preferred the latter for many reasons. That was the beginning.
A couple of years ago I began to feel guilty about the fact that I had a version of Microsoft Office on my home computer to which I had no legal right. (Hopefully I don't get myself in trouble here for admitting this!) I had all manner of schemes for justifying this, and I am sure that mine were not unique amongst the people who have similarly “borrowed” Microsoft's products. Amongst them was the all too common “social justice” lie that whispers cunningly into my itching ears saying that Microsoft is a big old mean and greedy company and I am just a poor humble computer user who isn't doing anyone any real harm by using the evil big corporations product. I mean, really, think of the wealth of Bill Gates, surely he could afford to let me “borrow” his software!
Well my excuses were running out of steam in their ongoing effort to assuage my guilt, but what could I do?!? I didn't even have that cheesy lower end office set called “Works” which Microsoft will sell Dell buyers who don't want to shell out the big bucks for the real “Office.” How would I open or create word documents or excel sheets? It was a real dilemma for me.
Oddly enough, while I was on my first trip to Uganda, I was introduced to a program suite called “Open Office” which was running on one of the computers in the IDI lab where I was training technologists. I found it by trying to open a word document on that particular PC and after double clicking my odd *.doc file, it automatically opened it with Open Office's “Writer.” Not seeing the intro screens (I must have been looking away) it would take me a while to realize I was not operating MS Word. I thought perhaps it might have been an older version of Word because things were a little different and aspects of the graphics seemed both different and perhaps not quite as polished as I was used to seeing. But I had no trouble quickly and easily adapting and thereafter efficiently accomplishing all that I needed to do. I was immediately intrigued and amazed when I learned that this was part of an open source and totally free software package readily available to anyone!
“Surely it must suck!” I thought. “Freeware” almost always is lame and something as extensive as an office suite (documents, spreadsheets, drawing, database, presentation slide shows etc) being free surely cannot hope to be more than a mere fraction of the quality of the product sold by Microsoft. Well, I've been using it now for around two years and as I rack my brain in search of a memory, I cannot discern any complaints or bad experiences I have had with Open Office. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I've only used the “Writer” (equivalent to MS Word) and “Calc” (equivalent to MS Excel), but for the most part that is all I ever use at home, so I guess the presentation or database program could conceivably be awful and I would not know it. But, more than just meeting the same criteria of quality with Microsoft in most areas with regard to my needs, OO goes one step further (that I know of) in which it allows me to export my files as PDF documents quickly and easily! I was quite excited by this feature.
Additionally Open Office is fully supported by a large community who are, because it is open source, constantly adding new features, fonts, tools, templates, etc etc. The community is also often extremely helpful in answering questions about any problems you may encounter. Last but not least, the program is regularly updated! My guess is that for most folks the Open Office Suite is more than sufficient for their needs.
Now, one final thought. I am NOT the sort to begrudge Microsoft its success. I don't hate them, though I might not appreciate their near monopoly. I'm a big proponent of freedom...I think you all know that. But my appreciation for freedom coupled with my desire to have greater control over my computer environment led me to go one step further into the world of open source, I'll talk about that more next time.
Find out more about Mozilla Firefox HERE. And Open Office HERE.
It would certainly be nice if more who prefer freedom and decentralization would recognize how such an outlook might be applied to their patterns of consumption. Shall I complain of Big Brother while I cede my liberties to some private entity?
Likewise, the FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) movement would do well to attend to matters outside the world of computing (though, it should be noted, they do well with the question of intellectual property). A FOSS advocate should stand alongside those who save heritage seeds from being patented by corporations. Nature is open source.
Finally, this entry deserves a Wendell Berry quote:
"'Intellectual property' names / the deed by which the mind is bought / and sold, the world enslaved. We / who do not own ourselves, being free, / own by theft what belongs to God, / to the living world, and equally / to us all."
The poem may be freely found here: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~pfa/poemquot/berry.html As with all poems, it is best read a whole, but this one is so very quotable.
But yes, all rights are reserved on his published volumes. However, I would direct one to a statement he places at the beginning a collection of his of essays, I apologize for not being able immediately to recall which, he does give special thanks to those who bought his volume as well as special admiration for those who exercised thrift in borrowing it. At least this attitude is consistent with his work.
As for copyrights, for my part I am still trying to determine what is proper. It is quite simple when you make something with your own hands, this you clearly have the right to own, sell, and buy. But the idea, the form of something? That is more difficult. My pottery instructor once said that all pottery is plagiarism and I do not think him far from the mark. What of a painting? a song? a book? a lecture? We surely must have the rights to the fruits of our own labor, but at what point are we claiming ownership over that which cannot be owned?
By J Powell jmckaypowell at gmail dot com, at
Did you not read that I felt guilty and this was my motivation for changing what I was doing? I thought that's part of what we call metanoia, no? I'm sorry if I didn't make clear enough to your satisfaction the full extent of my perception that my action was wrong. Generally I reserve the details of my confessions for someone other that my blog readers.
Gary, would you hear my confession? I must admit, stealing Microsoft's software is not my first sin, though likely not my worse...further more, certainly not my last.
Yes, Gary, I've heard of the Last Judgment. Thank you for the kind reminder. If I may, I'd ask your prayers, please.
Ubuntu is very easy to install and also very stable.
If you haven't tried any of the Google products, I can highly recommend them. Of course the Google programs are OS independent, so you can use them on any computer, anywhere you have an internet connection. And, you don't need a large harddrive. Nothing to install!
I have a 16gb solid state drive on this HP Mini. Room to spare!