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Editor's Note: Happy Birthday to Me, Tech = Change, Change is Good

Aug 08, 2009, 00:03 (23 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Carla Schroder)

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by Carla Schroder
Managing Editor

August 6 was my birthday, and I am now 52 years old. I like to mention it every so often just to kick a few stereotypes in their behinds---middle-aged woman does Linux. A pretty average middle-age woman: I have no piercings anywhere. No tattoos. No fanciful hair colors or avant-garde styles held in place with pounds of goo; it's been silver for years, wash-n-wear, and sometimes I cut it myself. I'm a snappy dresser if you think old jeans and barn coats are stylish.

Using computers doesn't require any kind of special geek talents, just study and a mind open to letting some actual knowledge in. Anyone can learn anything, despite the anti-Linux FUD that insists Linux is not ready for "the masses" because it's not magically simple; these fictional moronic masses who exist only in the mind of FUDsters and astroturfers. It's a shame to waste so many electrons on such dumb stuff.

Obligatory disclaimers: of course we should continue to work at improving computers and making them easier and friendlier to use. But not at the expense of power and flexibility, or continually inventing ever-more resistant, dimwitted mythical average users as usability targets.

Change is Opportunity

High tech isn't going away. The industry is still in its infancy, and it's going to be in a state of flux for the foreseeable future. It takes some effort to keep up, but change means more opportunities. What opportunities? A big one is the mom-and-pop shop revival. The industrial revolution almost destroyed the independent artisan and businessperson. The Internet and FOSS have given them a second chance. One example is the independent bookshop which now has the best of both worlds, both a welcoming, friendly physical space, and access to any title in the world via the Internet. Out here in the boonies is one of the world's leading manufacturers of hunting bows and accessories. They have a worldwide reach, and their physical location doesn't matter.

Another successful local business with a worldwide customer base builds custom old-fashioned horse-drawn wagons. They're big sellers in Japan, of all places. Computers have revolutionized photography because photographers have better tools than ever for capturing, editing, and publishing their work, at lower cost and without stinky chemicals. I'm giving serious thought to self-publishing my next book. Why not? The biggest hurdle is publicity and marketing; the rest is just logistics.

And so, without wearying you fine readers with yet more examples, the moral is obvious: sitting down and crying about how computers are too hard, and they keep changing too much, and everything should go back to the way it was is a waste of time. There is a whole new world to explore thanks to tech and FOSS. Linux and FOSS are key because without them we would never get past the proprietary corporate gatekeepers. Just one more reason to be thankful to all the great people who make Linux/FOSS possible.