Free Software in the Wild

Free Software in the Wild

Article from Issue 197/2017

Even outsiders feel the benefits.

Dear readers, I have found a new job. This means I have to leave the house at roughly the same time every day, I have to communicate in real sentences rather than grunts, and occasionally I have a shower. I also get to talk to people who aren't obsessed with free software.

These poor souls will never know the dirty thrill of updating Arch without reading the wiki first. They'll never spend ages configuring KDE to get it just right. They'll never switch their operating system for a new one, just to see if they like it.

I'm also having to use Windows on a daily basis for the last time ever. I'm used to Linux Mint and OS X, so I know that it's rubbish. But the muggles at work know that Windows is rubbish even though they've never known anything different. It's really impressive.

One chap, for example, has installed a Chrome plugin to take screenshots. Another uses Pixlr to take screenshots. Another uses Gimp to take screenshots and edit images – adding text to photos, color correction, cropping, and whatnot. Of course, he gets mocked for using software with such a stupid name, but at least it's getting used. Gimp works, and that's all that matters. Not the license, not the stupid name, just the fact that it works.

Likewise with development. There's a big web project that's taking a little while longer than expected; of course, and it is being developed using proprietary software. So the head of another department has gone off-piste and developed his own version of the site using WordPress – "the great thing about Wordpress is that it's open source and built-in PHP, so you're not locked in. You can get any developer to write you a plugin." That was part of a real conversation with a real person!

Non-developers are choosing languages based on the license. Non-geeks are choosing free software because it offers features that are superior to paid-for alternatives. And it's still way too much trouble to take a screenshot on Windows. There's a breakthrough coming, and for one reason: the software we've been promoting for all this time is really, really good. Keep up the good work, everyone.

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