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Linux Journal: Practical Questions

Feb 04, 2003, 13:00 (1 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Doc Searls)


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Hollywood movie sets make a distinction that would be good to borrow for software. Sets that are actually useful--kitchens with running water, floors that bear weight, roofs that keep out rain--are called 'practical'. On a typical set one commonly sees signs that say, 'WARNING: This is not a practical balcony.' The Old Tuscon movie set, for example, was built in 1939 by Columbia Pictures, and for decades it served as an all-purpose Western town for dozens of movies: The Last Roundup, Winchester '73, Gunfight at the OK Corral and many more. These days it's a tourist trap that boasts '75 buildings including 32 practical buildings.' Meaning 43 buildings are there only for appearances.

"We might say the same thing about software boasting features that exist for the sake of appearances. The features might work, but how many of them are actually practical? Or barely practical? That's what you tend to get with a lot of commercial software. To keep you buying, the vendor piles on features that attract purchase more than use.

"What if software did what you wanted it to do, for as long as it could, without breaking down or causing problems for everything it touched? What if less really is more...?"

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