Friday, November 28, 2008

OSS: A galore of choice or confusion

This thread gave birth to this post.

If you are a simple windows user and if you want to voice chat with a friend of yours, what will you do? Most likely you will download gtalk or YM messenger programs and chat with your friend.

But, what if you are using Linux? Will you use pidgin, kopete, ekiga, gizmo, kphone with your own asterisk/sipx setup, empathy, meebo, imo or the browser avatars of the YM or gtalk? While lot of this won't support voice or video, it is very unlikely that, as a novice user, you know about them.

So, you go and ask in a fsug forum. What do you find? 10 different users of the forum suggest 20 different solutions to you. It is not bad per say. After all, OSS is about choice, isn't it? However, our poor novice user tries these solutions one after the other. He may install a few which may not support some or other feature that he needs or after a successful installation of application (remember he is a novice user, he might have struggled for hours and hours), he will find that OS does support his hardware :(.

Result? Pop in a windows CD and say install and forget about OSS, free and geekdom. After all, windows is free for him, right? ;)

Now I had posted about this years back when there was a flood office suits in Linux which were using incompatible formats to save same kind of files. I don't know whether my arguments are still valid. However, let me start this argument with myself. I am not going into the details. Just adding some points as a starting point.

The arguments in favour of choice:
1. Well, how about same rice and sambar every day, everywhere? (A world with out choice will simply be... boring)

2. Every user has a different need. Different software are needed to satisfy this varying need.

3. It is impossible to combine all the features into one software. Even if we do that, it will lead to monopoly.

4. When a new user is asking for help, you should not try to impose your choice, but allow him to make his choice

5. Even on windows, today there is lot of choice

The arguments against choice
1. Ok, you want seven course dinner with varying dishes every day? Try telling this to your mom
(There are some cases at least, where choice is simply not possible. For instance, try choosing not to breathe or choose ears for breathing and keep yourself alive :) )

2. The classic example. MS Office. For years this has remained as the only office suite of choice. Even after the arrival of SO/OO, MS office is still there at the helm. Its positioned is not even threatened as much as IE is threatened by FF. So, it is possible, at least to a large extend, to satisfy the needs of a large user base with a single software. (Flare me... with the OOXML story..)

3. Monopoly? Tomorrow if Linux becomes the best OS and every one start using it, will you call that monopoly? Remember, it may not knowingly become anti-competitive deliberately. But, when you 'have' the 'best', will there be any desire for better than best?

4. Advice or informed advice?

5. Yes, but you guys are against windows, aren't you? Is it pro-choice or just against monopoly? There is a very subtle difference here!

There is lot more to write. But I have to do some coding now. I can only say BFN, the IM way :)

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