Posting to Autocat
Mary Mastraccio wrote:
No one knows why the IE application software has these periodic problems ; it is easier to just switch to Firefox.
Whenever you are building a webpage or site that is in the least bit complicated, debugging for Microsoft Explorer takes a lot of time. Probably almost every page on the web has what is called an IE hack somewhere. It’s also very slow and far behind the other browsers.
This demonstrates one of the primary advantages of open source, which makes it very difficult for traditional proprietary companies such as Microsoft, to keep up. Today, lots of people have the rudimentary knowledge for a little computer coding, *and* the coding has gotten simpler (primarily through standards); when the source is open, an individual can make a program do what he or she wants. It’s like working with Excel or Word and saying, “Man, I wish I could do…” and then you could do it.
With proprietary software, the source is closed, which means an average person can’t get into it. So your only choice is to ask the company if they will include what you want, and they never will. But with open source, you can. And now with tools such as “plugins” that are much easier to make and/or edit an existing one for your own purposes, you literally have the entire world collaborating to develop a product, plus, since it’s free, all versions can update automatically at the same time. This makes things much simpler. With something like Microsoft Word, you need to pay a lot of money to very expensive, specially-trained people to code it, and, not least important, they have to make everything backwards compatible because lots of people will not buy the new versions and everybody needs to be able to share files. This becomes *very, very* complicated.
Exactly the same thing goes for library catalogs (coming back to the purpose of this list). With open source, you are not locked into processing materials the way some programmer from a few years ago thought you should do it, but you can do things yourself. You stop being an automaton and start thinking about improvements.
Naturally, there are associated problems with open source since nothing is perfect. One mistake is that people tend to think that this kind of software is free, i.e. it costs nothing, but what it means is “Free as in freedom.” An interesting history of it is in a book available online “for free” from O’Reilly: “Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman’s Crusade for Free Software” by Sam Williams at: http://oreilly.com/openbook/freedom/. Stallman himself hasn’t had that exciting of a life, but the free software and open source movements are pretty well explained.