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Going Open

Posted: December 3rd, 2009   |   Category: Blog | Labs | Tools

Crisis = Opportunity.

Right?

Right.

This morning, my main computer crashed, taking the hard drive with it.  Right now, I’m operating from my laptop, so I’m fine and functional, but I’m dealing with the blowback of losing some data and lots of work.

However, despite being prepared for such a situation, it opened a real question that I’ve been preparing for for some time:  what to do with the desktop?  Do I send the hard drive to a data recovery expert, hoping to wring the last bits of work that I did over the last week or so, or do I just rewrite it, start from scratch with this computer and move forward?

I have chosen to move forward.

Crisis = Opportunity.

I’ve installed Ubuntu on my desktop and it’s now working faster than it ever has in it’s 3-year life time (which makes me wonder if computer years are like 30 or 40 human years).  Ubuntu is an open-source operating system that is based on Linux.  It’s capabilities are updated by an active developer community and I’m looking forward to working without viruses, malware and other traps that befall Microsoft users.  NOTE:  I’m sure Ubuntu is subject to hacking and attacking as well, but given its smallness in market size, it’s hardly worth the effort, right?

Ubuntu comes pre-packaged with Open Office.  This is an extremely low-cal version of Microsoft Office, but it’s functional, free and relatively compatible with MS products.  Of course, I’m a bit of a coward because I’ll still have MS Office on my laptop.

Another issue was data storage and backup.  I’ve lost some work, but I’m not going to cry about it because it’s finally pushed me off the fence and into a brave new world of 100% online computing.  For a long time, I was doing exceptionally inefficient things like backing up my PST file with Microsoft Outlook (which is about 3GB and takes about 5 hours to accomplish) and making copies of all of my work files for multiple locations (desktop, laptop, remote work, cell phone access, etc).

All that madness is going to end.  All of my email accounts will be forwarded to my Gmail account.  You can still use whatever email I’ve given you, but they’ll now be centralized and permanently saved by the Big G and not me.  I’m also in the process of seeking out a reliable data warehouse service and once I find something, I’ll be sure to let you know (NOTE:  if you have suggestions, please let me know).

The upside of being more engaged with Gmail is that I’ve finally run out of excuses to use all of the incredibly innovative products that are happening over at Google.  When you look at the options available for your account, the list is virtually endless, from allowing video to be played in your email to embedding video to having canned responses (something I shouldn’t admit to being tempted by in my blog) to having multiple in boxes.

Now, many of you are probably sitting there saying ‘well duh’ (assuming you’ve been kind enough to read this far) and maybe I’m being naive in feeling like I’m the first one who’s ever realized this epiphany, but the world works with open software.  It really does.

Ultimately, I’m just one person, so my choices may not make a big impact in the world of marketing, online usage, software products and so on, but I can’t help think of some of the savings and the cost impact involved if our governments and companies make similar choices.

For example, in Canada, my guess (and I mean guess) is that there are probably at least 5 million computers that are part of a vast network of hardware used by public institutions.  If the average cost of operating software and maintenance is about $200 per year, that’s $1 billion per year in immediate savings if our public institutions went to open source operating systems.  And that guess-timate doesn’t include all of the upgrades, Office products and other software that our governments might use.

The other part of all of this is that I will have to practice what I preach (or what I intend to preach).  I’ve been reading a lot from David Eaves lately, a prolific expert on the merits of open source software but more importantly, open data for cities, and it’d be an understatement to say that he’s had an influence on some new projects that I’m working on (none of which I can mention yet, unfortunately).

So, at the end of it all, it’s really just a new beginning.

Crisis = opportunity.

2 comments for this entry:
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  2. Forest City Journal SAYS:

    Sorry to hear about your loss.

    I understand your reluctance to abandon the Microsoft suite of products, they are the standard. Fortunately, all the competitors know they need to play nice with the competition.

    In my house we are all on Macs. When we first switched we purchased the Office suite. After a while I found myself never opening the programs. I preferred the Apple alternatives and even preferred the open source alternatives.

    I have found that there are situations that MS products are the only ones advanced enough to accomplish a task, but for what I need the alternatives often get the job done.

    BTW the only time someone gets suspicious that I am not using MS is when a document looks too good. Not to say it can’t be done in other programs. I just don’t have the patience.

    I would like to hear if Ubuntu spreads further into your infrastructure. I am planning on writing an article about London businesses who have cut costs using open source software.

    Jason Fredin
    forestcityjournal.ca