Graffitti on the Great Wall of China

Graffitti on the Great Wall of China

Friday, July 23, 2010

Lefty Politics and Software Systems (I'm Clearly the Nerdiest in the Land)

I am writing this on my newly downloaded open office writer program. If you guys don't know about this go to Seriously, you can download this whole program, it is exactly like Microsoft office (complete with software that is nearly identical to Microsoft word, excel, power point, and a fairly powerful paint program). Wondering why I am talking about a random software download on my fairly political blog? Because this entire software program is completely free.

Lets start from the beginning. Have you ever heard of Linux? (Btw, don't freak out I am going to quit talking techie in just a minute and get back to my typical political bloggy brilliance.) Anyway when computers first started becoming a mass market kind of thing and not just something MIT dudes did in some lab basement, people started being like wow, we can be millionaires (see Bill Gates) and started copyrighting their software. As everyone knows Microsoft pretty much corned the market on operating systems (an operating system is what runs all the other programs on your computer).

So anyway, there were some programmers that thought operating systems and basic software stuff shouldn't be a profit kind of thing so they made Linux, an operating system that can be used instead of Microsoft...but for free. So Linux is an operating system but I didn't need that because I already have Microsoft OS on my computer but I didn't have Microsoft Office (or the couple hundred bucks to buy it). Anyway, that is where the Open Office came in.

At this website, you just click a button and download the system. It takes about fifteen minutes to get the whole thing. I've only had it for about an hour, but so far I can't tell much of a difference at all between this and the Microsoft system. (Except that when you save a document it is a .odt instead of .doc so I guess if you are a student and your teacher says you can only turn in .doc's then you may have a problem. I dunno, maybe they are convertible or something, I haven't had enough practice with it to be sure yet. )

From that, this whole movement started called the open source movement and the ideology behind is it to make software that is accessible to everyone, that can be shared by everyone and can be improved and worked on by everyone. It is an interesting thing.

So why am I babbling on about it in my blog? Because the company is paying me a TON of money to tell all my millions of readers. Just kidding. It is because I think this is a real cool example of a social need being met by people who aren't doing it to make bank. Because now I have a eff-ing awesome NON-CAPITALIST office package on my computer and it makes me pretty happy.

There are lots of people who aren't psyched about this whole Microsoft obviously. In this totally neoliberal system that we live in, the idea of people freely giving away their products seems crazy and companies who are NOT giving it away for free are getting kind of pissed. But then again, since it is free there isn't a whole lot people can do about it.

So yeah, enough tech stuff, but lets really look at this issue. Social need, social solution. Seems reasonable right? Now lets use this same framework for some other stuff that is created to serve a social need but that you can only get if you have enough money like medicine, or education or the internet. We live in a capitalist country obviously, and I'm sure 90% people are like me don't have the economic freedom to be like "eff getting paid, I am just going to donate my life to volunteer work" but still, stuff like this makes me hopeful.

Also, just so you guys know, It friday night and I am at home eating tofutti(delicious vegen "ice cream") and watching documentaries with my cat. And also am posting a blog about computer systems. I kind of feel like my life is a female version of P. Diddy's. (he's cool and hip, right? That reference makes sense, right?)


  1. Hi,

    Just to say we on The Socialist Way blog love your blog and your characteristic style of writing!"

    So would you consider doing a guest post for us on say Obama and the US today if that's not to much trouble I can send my email address.

    In the meantime keep up the good work!"

  2. Wow, thanks:) I would love to be a guest blogger! Can you email your information at Look forward to talking with you.

  3. Open Office is pretty kickass. The only problems I've encountered with it are when the school sends me a form to fill out that uses macros. Open Office can see them, and I can enter my responses, but when I send it back they can't see them. Fixed the problem by either typing outside of the macro box or saving as a pdf. I guess there have also been some issues with formatting/text placement/etc when I run powerpoints from Open Office in MS Office, but whatever. Oh, you may have figured this out by now, but although odt is the default, it can also save in doc format, just choose it from the drop-down menu.

    I never really thought of freeware as being socialist... That's it I'm not using it anymore, my skin is turning pink!! Haha.

  4. Hi, found my way here via TSW!

    Glad to see you're using OpenOffice! An excellent product. You should dig a bit deeper on the whole concept of 'open source' and 'free software', as they're neither 'capitalist' or 'socialist', have a look at the free software foundation for more info!

  5. Hi, Chris, glad to see you found your way here and thanks for reading! I was pretty careful in my post not to explicitly call it socialist, just that it was a social need being that was met by a social solution...which is how it was explained by the creators in a documentary called "linux"..I think that was the name anyway. Maybe I will have to do some more reading on the subject. My main point was though that it isn't capitalistic, which is a bonus in my book :)


Further thoughts on the subject? Let me know what you think.