Monday, April 14, 2008

Several Musings . . .

I have been starting posts left and right, and then I get bogged (blogged?) down and I never finish them. Here is a summary of some of the ideas that I was trying to express:

I Have Changed

Since beginning this project, I have been mainly interested in the practical aspects of Linux (e.g., "Wow, this works!," "Where do I find this or that driver?," "I wonder how KDE & Gnome are different?" etc.). I had said from the outset that using Linux for me was not at all political, but slowly, as a result of using Linux, and from reading/seeing the books and other media about Linux, GNU, and Open Source, I have a greater understanding and respect for the entire ethos and philosophical framework for these movements. The result of this is twofold:

  1. I am now enthusiastically searching out open source alternatives for proprietary software. I recently did a blog post for our library system about this. I am also talking to others about my experiences ad nauseam.
  2. I have come to view proprietary software very negatively, especially now that I have an understanding of the many benefits of keeping software open and free (as in liberty).
The best thing I can compare this transformation to is a religious conversion. I have "found Linux!" Given the pride, fervor, and devotion of Linux users, I imagine this is not an uncommon experience.

Getting Under the Hood

Because of the requirements of certain employment opportunities in my field, I have decided to learn Unix commands and scripting. I had taken a networking class in grad school that required us to know some of this, but that was nearly three years ago and I've gotten quite rusty. I'm also trying to learn Perl for the same purpose. I was a science/math kid, and then in high school and college I was drawn to literature and the liberal arts, and with my M.S. in library and information studies, my science/tech side was reawakened. However, my current skillset doesn't quite match my enthusiasm. This is what I'm trying to remedy by learning shell and Perl scripting.

Open Source Libraries

A corollary to my interest in open source programs to do everyday computer tasks is my interest in applying all this to libraries. My system uses a proprietary Integrated Library System (ILS) that we all (patrons and staff) tolerate at best. When we want a certain customization, the answer is almost always "no," and I just don't see a good reason why this should be true. Fortunately, in a rare case of my home state of Georgia being ahead of the curve, the Georgia Public Library Service developed the Evergreen ILS, which is released under the GPL and is completely home grown. I would love to get involved in this project, and I am trying to develop a skillset (see above) to let me get my foot in the door.

So there's the gist of the six or so posts I was working on!

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