Open Source is Less Evil

Open source software “gets” that users like choice. I was just walking the boyfriend through his first installation of OpenOffice.org, and when he got to the registration screen, he was pleasantly surprised by the I never want to register option. For most installs, you get a register now or I will bug you every x days for the rest of your life until you succumb to the pressure to finally register.

A few minutes later, I ran across David Weinberger’s blog talking about the pain of most installation programs that automatically assume ownership of any file that they might want to associate with at some point in the future without giving you a clear option to not allow the program to take over. The point of Weinberger’s blog entry was that OpenOffice.org is different:

Having just done a reinstall on my wife’s computer, I’ve then had the annoying pleasure of extirpating the various ways arrogant programs try to take the machine over. Norton Antivirus takes up an inch of the task bar. Real thinks it owns everything that makes a sound. Everything installs an entry to the Explorer popup.

But not Open Office, bless its modest soul. During the installation process, when it asks if you’d like it to be the default program for opening Microsoft Office documents, it clearly says:

If you are just trying out OpenOffice.org 2.0, you probably don’t want this to happen, so leave the boxes unchecked

The bigger the app, the more likely I’m going feel I’m at war with it. Except for Open Office. It’s so clearly on our side. (Joho the Blog)

While I’m writing this and the boyfriend is using OpenOffice.org at the other end of the couch, he’s clearly impressed with how easy and intuitive it is to use, and one point (slightly tongue in cheek) he actually said, “I can take the yoke of oppression off my back.” A little over the top, but it highlights the idea that open source is not difficult, it gives us choices, and it is clearly less evil than some of our other options.

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