miércoles, 2 de noviembre de 2016

Open Source Is not an Unknown Concept Anymore

I remember when, several years ago, Mechatotoro and I started to use Libre Office and moved to .odt for all our word processing needs.  Some colleagues did try to force Microsoft file formats on us in spite of the university's approval of ODF.

But slowly, more people have come to understand that open source is here to stay and that closed source is neither better nor safer. At the end, most of the complaints by closed-source defenders can be reduced to the following:

1- They are used to X and don't want to learn anything new.

2- They want to use open source but are locked into closed source.

3- They think closed source is better because X has more features. [Which, by the way, most people don't know about or don't really care for because they don't use such features and probably never will.]

4- They had a negative past experience with open source and did not care to update their knowledge.

5- They don't really know what they are talking about but pretend they do. 

6- They simply prefer closed source as a personal choice.

In spite of all that, I've noticed that more students know about ODF and some of them are using Libre Office themselves nowadays.

An interesting case happened a few days ago: a student who wants me to direct her thesis is interested in using Twine, an open source tool for writing interactive texts.

The world is changing.  Many just don't really see how it is doing it.

3 comentarios:

  1. Indeed lots have changed. We have more and more options to chose from. And there is no reason why we should turn a blind eye on them and not take a glance.

    Albeit I wouldn't say that open source is inherently better than it's counterpart. It would depend on the case and what the user needs. About safety we can say that for the moment open source is safer in terms of malware, but in terms of network related vulnerabilities I'd say it would once again depend on the case (how safe is your network).

    I support the idea that we should use the right tool for the job, independently of it's source code openness.
    Although I would accept #6--> In the end you should be able to use whatever you want. Otherwise I feel we would be forcing users to use something they don't want (and wouldn't that be in some way in conflict with some open source philosophy for being open to more options? or maybe just some other philosophy). Let them shoot themselves on the foot if they want.

    If we want to compare "office files", odt ~ docx etc, it would mean also comparing the underlying formats which would be OpenXML (Microsoft) and ODF (Sun) correspondingly... which in the end both are XML files with different use of fields and different headers, but XML all the same. It brings me to the funny idea of why not a format with a JSON backbone rather than XML? Maybe there's already one out there.

    That Twine project looks interesting. Actually I was thinking on developing something similar once I had enough experience with Node.js. It probably already has plenty of JSON incorporated into it. I'll look further into it if I have chance.


    1. I agree with you in principle, but unfortunately one thing is principle (theory) and another is the practice (reality). For example, I agree that we must use the right tool for the job, but in reality open source is placed last most of the times even when it is the right tool for the job. Why? Because there are agreements that benefit someone, and that someone is not the end user.

      For example, netbooks used to be great tools when they came with Linux preloaded but once they got XP, the devices became sluggish and then they were taken out of the market because they were not up to the job (supposedly).

      The same is true about choice. Usually, closed-source advocates use that argument when an entity requires or mandates open source... But are they so fair about choices in reality? No; choice is good ONLY if it means choosing closed-source. Let me give you an example: Have you filed taxes? Filing taxes should be done smoothly regardless of the OS of your choice, right? But what happens in most of the cases? "To use X tool to fill in your taxes, you need Windows, MS Office, or any other MS-related software".

      Where are your choices? Why are they using my money to pay licenses I do not agree with and on top of that, they mandate me to use something I do not want to pay for because I will never use? So much for choices...

      MS played that same "choice" card in England with its hideous OOXML format. Why didn't they complain about choices when they were forcing everyone to move to that format with MS Office 2007? Do people have such a faulty memory?

      By the way, do you know if the latest MS Office is finally using the real OOXML (the standard they pushed)? Or is it still using the other OOXML (not the standard) as the default saving format? Is MS informing its users appropriately so that they can choose the open standard? Last time I checked MS Office, the real open standard was buried down the file format choices and it gave me the impression that closed-source companies simply don't care about choices (Windows 10 and all what happened with it comes to my mind as another sad example).

      In that sense, I do prefer open-source required by law. If you don't like one tool, you can always choose another. You don't have to pay if you don't want to do it, either. But at least you will have a real choice, not the hypocritical idea of choice that many closed-source proponents use to their convenience.

      Concerning JSON, I must confess almost total ignorance, but the idea of using javascript, which is language independent, to build a format for document files sounds like a great idea to me! :D

      From my uninformed perspective, it could solve a lot of compatibility issues and that would help the end user, regardless of the OS and office suite he/she uses. Wouldn't that be nice? ^_^

      Thanks for stopping by. It is always a pleasure reading your ideas. Cheers!

    2. I see what you mean. You are right. One shouldn't have to incur into further inconveniences in order to go through a bureaucratic process.

      State related processes shouldn't be involved with licensed formats. Having to fill a docx and send it back and forth over email or something similar, is indeed biased. I haven't filed in taxes so I wouldn't know exactly how it's like but I guess it might be similar to that scenario. I have applied for US visa, and the methodology was through web forms.

      I see potential security problems by filling forms through web, however the entity wouldn't have to bother thinking about their customers' specific technological access like whether they have MS office or not. Also, data quality checking becomes another risk (Was the data inserted on the form's textbox really what was recorded on the database?). This is risk is alleviated by filing a text file. Whatever was sent, is/should be visible for both parties to check the data. (now, why should that text file be in MS format? Probably no real reason).

      There's this relatively new framework for desktop applications, called Electron. It is made with javascript and runs a custom Chromium version. It behaves like a desktop app (having interaction with local resources) but applies web technology for logic and UI. One would never guess its a custom web browser running.
      With the same framework it can target for linux, windows and osx without having to change the source code. I have high hopes for technology like that in the near future.

      Cheers! =D