Archives for posts with tag: free software

I read an article a few years ago about someone noticing a cyclical trend in computing: going from dumb-terminal-connected-to-mainframe to personal-computing and now back to cloud computing.

I’ve always loved the idea of creating a website, since I made my first one on an IBM ThinkPad running Windows 95 in 5th grade. It was both my foray into “programming” (just HTML, not much javascript) and sharing something I’ve created with the world. I’ve held on to that feeling through all the websites I’ve made since then; the feeling of looking at my own creation, that I could change at any time to my liking. Like a painting that never dries, and is on constant display in space— where anyone in the world can see it. This is quite the image of grandeur, but one that attracts me to what I do, despite missing the hubris to match up.

So when new services come about—ones that allow you to create something, especially—I’m instantly hesitant to trust them completely with my data. Back in “the day,” any Myspace designs would be best hosted on my own site, in case / when they change the design. Important Twitter-like statuses are best stored on my local machine. I can only use Dropbox knowing those files are actually saved on my computers, and not purely on their servers.

It’s this visceral feeling that makes me uneasy and mostly apprehensive towards the longevity of activities I partake in on the internet. Some creations aren’t as important as others: I won’t miss a Facebook status disappearing into the great /dev/null in the sky, but some products of using these platforms (a Facebook note, for example) are worth keeping, and it’d be nice to know they’re safely on one of my own hard drives.

In my own case, there’s LunchTable: users post statuses (long and short) and interact with each other, adding to a group’s conversation what is necessary or interesting. They have the ability to create something they otherwise can’t in offline software— but why shouldn’t they reap the benefits of both worlds? With LunchBox, the accompanying open source project for using exported LunchTable data, I’m hoping to encourage users to both create something meaningful and feel like they’re not dependent on a service to forever access their own data. It’s a trend I would love to see more of.

$ logout

People like to get their petticoat ruffled over this issue, but I don’t like to start the platform bashing simply because I have an opinion. I think more people should realize that the reason they generally pick an OS (including mobile OS) is purely on preference. Other times, it’s just best for you.

After surveying the field of OS’s, Ubuntu fits me best. I’ve had the joy of using it regularly since I bought a $300 Samsung netbook with the joke that is Windows 7 Starter Edition on it in 2010. I went into that purchase blind– I only wanted a small computer to bring to class for note taking. When I realized I couldn’t even change my desktop background (among other atrocities), I wiped the hard drive, installed Ubuntu 10.04, and fell in love. In July I bought the Gazelle Professional from System76 (who, for the uninitiated, sells hardware with Ubuntu pre-installed)– best computer I’ve ever had.

As I programmer especially, I love this OS. The community behind it is amazing, and has always helped when I wanted to tinker. I love the extent to which I can customize everything, and when I need to do something quickly, I can pop open the Terminal to issue a few quick commands. Also, if I’m in less of a hurry, the GUI doesn’t stop me from doing the same things. Finally, on principal, I like to support free software (free as in “free speech”), and Ubuntu / Linux helps me do that.

Mac OS

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Mac OS X sparsely over the past four years in school, and post-graduation for iOS app development with my software company. Before college, my last interaction with a Mac was Word Munchers on OS 9, if that tells you anything.

Despite my still-limited interaction, I can see the appeal it has to most people. But as a developer with the need to work with this OS, it was initially frustrating (especially Xcode). Most frustrating was the OS’s “quirks,” like how the Home / End keys control window navigation (beginning / end of document), not the cursor (beginning / end of line). Or having to go into the Terminal to show / hide hidden files. And I’m not a fan of the document-based rather than application-based window management, especially for programs like web browsers. And Xcode– ugh.

These are minor complaints. Ultimately, my gripes are its incompatibility with other systems in what usually comes off as an attempt to be overly esoteric, and Apple’s walled-garden approach to everything (like developing iOS apps).


I grew up on Windows, and to say that fact alone wasn’t formative would be willfully ignorant. But I learned HTML and started getting into programming and doing gif-animated cartoons around the turn of the millenium– and did it all on Windows. However, I remember questioning this fact when interacting with Windows 2000 for the first time, and it’s been downhill since then (plateauing, maybe, at the precipice of XP). But as the internet grew, and I grew, I stopped using IE for Firefox, learned bash instead of DOS, and now my only need for this OS is the occasional website-in-IE test or quickly laying down a beat in some music software.


Avoiding the minor gripes, I need the following out of an OS:

  • Quick task-switching between large numbers of applications (why I prefer Windows / Gnome’s way of keeping windows over Unity / OS X)
  • General UX conventions followed or improved upon
  • Freedom to modify / improve / destroy the system myself
  • Not to feel like I’m constantly being sold more crap

Ubuntu delivers.

matt@wp:~/Documents$ logout