[nmglug] open source advocacy presentation,

Mark Galassi mark at galassi.org
Sun Mar 11 20:36:24 PDT 2007

    Andres> If you had one hour with regular people to explain why
    Andres> using open source instead of proprietary tools, more
    Andres> specifically, why using openOffice instead of MS office,

An important thing people have to focus on is what is strategic for
them.  Once people focus on strategy for their office or family they
are thinking of a longer time line.

On a timeline of several years proprietary packages are almost never
strategically sound for your application.  This is because it is
unlikely that the company's marketing focus will stay aligned with
your needs.

One rather extreme example: I have developed and launched a couple of
astrophysics satellites.  You design and commit to hardware 10 or 15
years before you launch, and 15 or 20 years before the mission is
over.  In one of our missions we had committed to using Inmos
Transputer chips.  Anyone remember those?  When the company
disappeared there was no more support for the compiler and libraries,
with the result that we had to keep a whole set of computers available
to run the legacy compilers and development tools.  In the end we had
to re-write around a lot of that, and it was very frustrating.

Less extreme examples involve people waiting years for bugs in word
processors and spreadsheets to be fixed.  There are amusing articles
describing the history of DOS, Word and other bugs, and how marketing
interfered with fixing them.

A more normal example, although in a specialized arena: I made the
mistake of not thinking strategically in 1990 and I convinced my
graduate physics department to purchase Mathematica for a Silicon
Graphics IRIX workstation.  We upgraded the workstation to a new
version of IRIX and Mathematica stopped working.  Instead of offering
us a binary for the new version of IRIX at a simple
shipping/handling/media cost, they made us pay for a new version of
Mathematica.  I had already forced my poor theoretical physics group
to spend all its spare s/w money on Mathematica, and it was a real
embarassment to lose it almost immediately.

More information about the nmglug mailing list