Saturday, February 26, 2005

New Sermon and Longish Techo Musings

I uploaded a new Lenten sermon on my home page. I don't upload them all, but it at least gives you an idea of what I'm up to. One funny thing: after speaking of "first word" and "last word" as devotional practices for families at the beginning and end of each day, a wonderful member of our congregation told me after church, "I don't think I'll ever get the 'last word' in with my wife!"

On a totally different note, musing on the computer technology I am using these days:
I use the Microsoft XP operating system, and I have enough Microsoft compatible programs that I will probably stick with Microsoft operating systems for the forseeable future. But I am quickly becoming less dependent on Microsoft programs in general, not because of some anti-Microsoft prejudice, but because of frustrations with Microsoft products. Let me just name a few:
1. I used to use the M's Internet Explorer. But many parts of the program do not work anymore: opening pdf files, accessing secure sites, etc. And, to fix it, I would have to re-install the whole operating system, which is a major day long task, and it still might not work. So I switched to Mozilla's Firefox, and it works great, is easy to customize, and easy to re-install whenever you need to. It's also free. Because it is not a part of a giant, immensely complex system, it is easy to upgrade and use.

2. Same with M's Outlook & Outlook Express for e-mail. I had one at work and another at home, and I wanted one program at both places to handle email. I switched to Mozilla's Thunderbird. It works better, it's free, it's easy to upgrade or re-install. Again, it is not a part of a master system.

3. Same with M's Office suite. I like it, and I have two different versions, one at home and one at work. But for most tasks, I have switched to OpenOffice.org Again, it's free, it's easy to upgrade or re-install, and the version I have is newer than either M Office Suite I have. For a simple document writer like myself, it is also nice to use, because it does not have as many bells and whistles. And again, it is not integrated into some larger system.

4. Last year, I wanted a good calendar/planning/scheduling program, that was easy to use and back up. It seemed like a real hassle to use M's Outlook, and have to purchase two copies of it to have an up to date version at home and work. It was also not very flexible and customizable. What I really wanted was not something that integrated into a larger system or office suite, but a standalone, secure database scheduler that worked well. So, I went with Franklin-Covey PlanPlus for Windows (not free).

Anyway, it seems to me that Microsoft, with its 30,000 some employees and billions in cash, is so focused on making everything an 'integral part' of its system, that the individual pieces of the system suffer. It cannot seem to improve one part of the system quickly, especially if it is not something people are spending a lot on. This is especially true of its 'free' products, like I. Explorer or Outlook Express. What if they just focused on making their core product, their OS, secure and stable, and spun the rest off as independent entities?
Anyway, this is not a very theological post, but it is worth noting how well open-source movements and smaller, focused companies can compete with the Microsoft System. M's focus seems to be on keeping people dependent on their System, so that we connect to the world through It and are stuck with It. I, for one, don't think It's evil, but simply not flexible or customizable. With M, I feel out of control, because even the act of downloading and installing updates or upgrades is out of my hands - the System does it for me, just as the System checks to see that it is not a stolen System; it's kind of creepy. Maybe someday I'll go Linux!

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