25th October: Linux Day 2008 in Italy
I found this very interesting application, Gapminder, to show dynamic data evolution in time and in comparison with other data. I have already seen it in action in a quite famous video of Professor Hans Rosling speaking at the TED-conferance 2006 about “Myths on Developing World“.
Some more notes about it: Google, always them, acquired the software few months ago and will add it to their free sw package pretty soon. Let’s reflect on this approach.
Google’s mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. Distributing software for free helps doing that. Google will redistribute it for free as it is doing with other tools like Picasa, Analytics, Google Earth, etc. This can be considered good or bad, according to the point of view.
At the moment my judgement is positive: having this software for free means that we can transfer knowledge and capacities in an easier and faster way. Obviously there a price to pay. It is not visible, and not quantifiable, but there is: our data will be known, analysed and used by someone. At this point of the reasoning, the question is still open: I can considered myself “supported” or “spied” according to pros being more or less of counts. I have not yet formulated my idea as, until now, I’ve seen only the first and not yet the second…
Open source vs. proprietary software is an old discussion and I don’t want to afford as “something vs. something else”. Many things can be said about Open Source and many have already been written about. I want to try to approach it in a different way, starting from my own needs and looking for what satisfies them. I approached the great confront between Firefox and IE in the same way.
Let’s consider some points:
– knowledge sharing: the main benefit of OS stands in its definition, the “openness”. Being “open” to everyone means that the knowledge it contains can be potentially acquired by everyone: users and developers can make it theirs and build their capacities on it.
– capacity building: under this point of view, I see OS products as “gyms” or “garage”, places where you can train yourself and get your finger dirty with the smell of oil and grease. I’m pretty convinced that a good driver is also a good mechanic. That’s why OS helps capacity building: when the engine of your car is open and you can look inside it, even if you are driving in the desert and it fails, you are in the conditions of repairing it. You can decide you are not interested in getting into it and want just to travel comfortably, so you can hire a good driver and a good mechanic who, in case, can do everything you need. Using OS is learning and adding capacities, at the same time. It is something like the passengers of a bus would learn how to build a bus during their travel. When arrived at the final destination, without having paid any ticket, they are also able to build a new bus and drive it themselves: at the end of their trip, they will have the tool and the capacity to set up a new activity of their own. Learning by doing can potentially happens every time someone use an OS product, while this does not happen with proprietary products, with which users can learn “how-to” but not “what-it-is”.
– cost: costs are also important. OS products are free. You don’t pay for the product as you can download it for free, most of the times. You have two choices: you can pay for the knowledge about it or you can decide to learn by yourself, putting your hands inside it, and save the money.
– innovation: as OS products are usually produced by large groups of people, are quickly released and frequently updated. A good idea is the core around which people create good tools. Maybe they are not so well known as other commercial ones, as developers don’t spend much time on marketing their products, but technically they can usually rely on clever minds and active people.
As a conclusion, I decided to support OS because I see more advantages for everyone.
I see many people around talking about Firefox and IE. Personally, this is something very important for my job and I have my idea: I spend my time on the Internet to understand it and to be able to suggest my colleagues how to use it properly to better their job. So, the first question for me is: “how to browse the Web” which means: “how to work everyday”.
I don’t want to tell you “what” to choose and I don’t want to replicate the usual discussion about choosing one browser or the other. I just want to proceed a different way, with the following question: “what do I need when I browse the web?”. And my answers are:
– I particularly appreciate innovation and speed. I like to have the possibility to go deeper in a website or a webpage and be able to analyze more things than a usual surfer does. to do that, I need specific instruments.
– Second, I like customizable environments which make me feel “at home”. Changing colors, icons, buttons, toolbars, etc. is a way to make mine something I use so a lot.
– Third, I have my ideas and philosophy and I appreciate when I find support and correspondence to them during my job. I like them and I support them the way I can.
So, now that I have cleared my needs, let’s see what fits with them:
– First, evolution: Firefox is a relatively new product with many different versions and evolutions during the past two years and many more to come. IE is very static and has not changed much during last five years. Moreover, Firefox provided features not adopted by IE like the tab-browsing, a better bookmarks management, an easy way to control security options and an interesting way to plug-in new extensions.
– Second, customization. With Firefox I can reshape almost everything in the tool, from look and feel to functionality. IE does not permit anything like that.
– Third, I like the “open source philosophy“. Firefox is an open source product while IE is not at all.
At the end of this discussion, I ‘m sure it is quite clear what browser I’m using…