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Nov 05, 2003

Slashdot points to this article from Syllabus magazine, titled “The FREE, 0% APR, Better Sex, No Effort Diet: Syllabus.” The article basically asserts that Free Software and Open Source software are just forms of “the mythical free lunch.” In other words, stay away from open source software because you always get what you paid for.

Where to start? Open source and Free software has made a big splash in the news over the last few years with the emergence of Linux, but the fact of the matter is that open source software has been a staple of computing for at least 40 years. The infrastructure was developed using open source/Free software, and most mail servers and web servers (including this one) are served using open source server packages.

So why should you care about open source software? Frankly I don’t know; but I can tell you why I care about open source software: it gives me alternatives. Better yet, it allows me to perform my required computing tasks such as typesetting, numerical processing, plotting and GIS at comparable quality and much lower costs than proprietary alternatives. Not bad for $0.

I’ve used open source software to build robust data analysis systems that have significantly reduced analysis time and provided increased flexibility. These systems would have cost several thousands of dollars to implement using proprietary systems, while providing little increase in quality. This has both increased efficiency for projects I’ve worked on, and saved money for my clients.

Now I’m not trying to say that open source software is suitable for all tasks; it’s not. In fact my primary computers run the “non-free” Mac OS X operating systems and my data loggers run Windows. But in choosing these platforms, I considered alternatives like Linux, and NetBSD and picked what was cost-effective for me.

So if you feel the need to drop big money on proprietary software without considering the alternatives, go right ahead — it makes it that much easier for me to compete.


An editorial from the News-Press (Fort Myers, FL) has the guts to say what is on the mind of many: “Hate noise? Don’t build near airport.

The New York City council takes note on NYC’s noise problems. The article makes specific reference to New Yorks subway system. It may not be common knowledge, but New York City Transit actually does a lot of work to reduce noise and vibration on their system. Noise levels could be lower, but considering that the system has 650+ miles of track and several hundred vehicles, NYCT is doing pretty well with limited resources.

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