Mon 30 Mar 2015 10:56PM

Open Tools

MS Megan Salole Public Seen by 303

What are the best OPEN alternatives to the proprietary tools we use.
If you are looking for an open source alternative to the non open source tool you're using, do ask.


Dave Lane Tue 31 Mar 2015 12:11AM

Where to begin... I use free and open source tools for 99.5% of my computing needs, so I've confronted this regularly on both a personal and commercial level for the past 20 years. I'm confident in saying there are almost no places where using free tools requires any sacrifice of capability.


Dan Milward Tue 31 Mar 2015 1:19AM

Wow! You got my brain juices flowing and made an opinion piece in me :D

I think open source is great but its not evolved enough for me to use 99% of the time.

Most free operating systems suck because of their UI. Even Android is (or was) UI hell, I'd be prepared to try out the latest with Material design though.

The Gimp as a graphics tool is a terrible replacement for graphics tools. I do not know many professionals that would switch.

Open Office always used to crash. Thank the lords for Google Docs. OMG yes!

These are where I've tested the waters.

For me where Open Source shines in the web development space. Javascript libraries. Web servers.... APIs... probably other areas too. Raspberry Pi anybody?

As a way of life? I'm not convinced about the success of Open Society yet. I hear a lot of passionate people talk about passionate stuff buuuuuut whom are also too busy to do passionate things. I fear important influencers will ultimately judge Open Society on the tangible benefits that it delivers as opposed to what people are passionate about.

What are tangible benefits? Things like stable Open Source software and sustainable Open Source businesses that make a difference.

True OS for me is where passion meets tangible deliverables, products are made and shits gets done :)


Dave Lane Tue 31 Mar 2015 2:33AM

@danmilward As you might imagine, I have a rather more positive view of many of the open source tools you mention... (not sure if you were implying Google Docs is open source (it's not)). It's fair to say that openness has a cost, namely taking some responsibility for things that aren't (or don't work) how you'd like... But it also conveys things that many people value, like freedom. We each have to work out what price we're willing to pay - it's possible I'm willing to pay more than most... perhaps I fear losing my freedom more than most. That said, I don't see using open source software as a sacrifice. I usually see it as a privilege, because I'm using the work others have gifted the commons (some of which I've had a hand in myself, which is very satisfying). To me, open source simply "tastes better", and proprietary software leaves a bad taste. I completely agree that there are large parts of the computing world (for instance, everything to do with the Internet and its infrastructure) where all the front-running technologies are open source, and there's no rational argument for using anything else... but I'd rather see people recognise that there's a principle involved here. Yes, we all have to pick our battles, but if we want to adhere to our principles (and I very much hope we all do), it sometimes requires taking a stand.


Dan Milward Tue 31 Mar 2015 3:22AM

Thank you for responding. I love this topic :)

Sometimes with my Open Source friends we'll talk about Open Source values and approaching things with Open Source spirit in mind. For me that is one of the elements that guides my moral compass. But it is not the only one.

I'm also practical and if there is a proprietary tool I prefer using because of UI or that means I can do a better job of something and impact the world in a better way I will use that and hope Open Source catches up somehow.

... the price I'm willing to pay is just before that point where I cut off my nose to spite my face.


Dave Lane Tue 31 Mar 2015 3:54AM

Dan, the way I see it, the best way to value software is to commit to it. Something a guy called "Utah Philips" once said, while telling a story about his experiences in the Korean War (but it applies in this context too): "It was all wrong, and it all had to change... and the change had to start with me". I've absorbed the idea that championing "open" means taking responsibility for living the change you want to see, even if it's sometimes difficult. I personally think that much of the current status quo is deeply messed up... but there's only so much I can do. Free and Open Source (I always try to use the "Free and" because that's the "principles" part of it - "open source" alone doesn't convey the principle part - it's just a software development methodology, and is therefore far less compelling to me) is something I can do, and so I have. If something open source that I use needs to catch up, then I figure out which bits I can help to improve. Sometimes improvement also involves helping a project achieve critical mass - I see advocacy as a powerful contribution as well.


Dan Milward Tue 31 Mar 2015 4:06AM

I don't think "free" conveys open source principles at all. I think the best open source products are the ones that feed their community members (especially lead developers) by putting food on their plates.

In fact when choosing Open Source products I choose the ones where I can contribute financially.

I've met, and I am friends with many "open source loosers" (in the sense that they lost big time) by investing hundreds or thousands of hours in products that were not sustainable.

They loose. And their "free" users loose because the tool they use is no longer supported.

I'm not saying this is right or wrong. It is just the reality for many an open source developer and it has lead to the death of many an open source project.

It is not possible to contribute code, support or your time to all pieces of software that you use. After living your life, going to work, eating, sleeping, relaxing, being a good parent, good friend, good human... contributing time sounds like it could do more harm than good.

Anyway... its just another side of the same coin.


Dave Lane Tue 31 Mar 2015 4:17AM

Ok, major confusion here, I think (my fault) - the word "free" in this case refers to liberty, not cost. Recommend you read this for a clear synopsis of the distinction: http://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/the-gnu-manifesto-turns-thirty

In my opinion, it is essential that we all (those of us providing leadership at this conference) recognise this "Free Software" vs. "Open Source Software" distinction to even have the language to discuss "open" and its implications on society.


Dan Milward Tue 31 Mar 2015 4:41AM

Yes agreed.


Greg Cassel Tue 31 Mar 2015 10:11PM

Do you guys think that the term FOSS generally has the right feel or connotation for most relevant audiences, or do you prefer Libre or something else?


Dave Lane Tue 31 Mar 2015 10:31PM

I've personally chosen FOSS as the least "precious" term that's still accurate :) - it's tricky dealing with a language that has the vagaries of English (the unfortunate overloading of the word "Free" primarily). Libre is a good word, but to some it appears to come across as elitist being a "foreign" word :) (and some people don't know what it means, I've been told)

Load More