Gifts that keep on giving


Paw Prints: Writings of the maddog

Dec 22, 2008 GMT
Jon maddog Hall

This time of year a lot of people exchange gifts in celebration of various holidays. Chanukah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa to name a few. Making things a little harder for me, both my brother and my father celebrate their birthdays in December.

If you are like me and coming up with the extra money this time of year is difficult, or trying to buy that gift for the "person who has everything" (my father) think about giving a gift of Free Software, sprinkled with that gift that really means a lot, your own time.

Think about what the person likes to do. Are they inclined to like music? Take photographs? Did they get a new video camera recently? Do they like astronomy? Find some Free Software that can help them do their hobby. Take your time to find the best software for the task. Investigate the software to find out how it works. Learn it well yourself, then sit down with them and show them how to use it. If the software is complicated, and you can not find any written instructions for the software, perhaps you can write some instructions for the software and give it to them in a "manual" (either physical or electronic) of your own making. You might even consider dedicating this manual to your loved one and making it publically available.

Perhaps they are already using some Free Software for doing their hobby. You might be able to help them tune the software better to their needs, or if you have programming skills, even change the software to make it better for them. And don't forget to upload those changes to the developer.

If they ask you something that you do not know, or if you do not know whether the software does that or not, tell them you will investigate it and get back to them.

Gifts do not have to cost a lot of money, but remember as you deliver your gift of time that it is your gift to them. Be patient. Remember that they may not have the computer skills that you do.

In the end, you may find out that your gift gives to you as much or more as it gives to them.

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