Open Source Living

The other day, I was reading a security analysis about the impact of viruses in the Linux world. Viruses are not quite unknown in Linux, but they are so rare that most end-users don’t bother to install any virus scanning at all. How can that be?

It’s probably a combination of factors–market share and architecture among them–but the prevailing wisdom is that it’s mostly open source that protects Linux. So many eyes look at the code so often, there is nowhere for agents of propagation to hide.

I submit, however, that there may be something more basic at work here. Linux, in all it’s flavors, exists to get stuff done. Microsoft products exist to drive sales. Microsoft needs to pack it’s SKUs with feature lists. Linux products live or die by end-user reviews. What doesn’t work is soon reworked or soon swept away.

I recently discovered that OpenOffice/LibreOffice has a “Compare Document” feature. It works exactly as you would expect. You load one document, then click “Edit- Compare Document” and select a second. Changes between the two documents then appear through the standard track changes feature. It could not be any simpler, and it’s hard to imagine how it could be improved in any substantive way.

Unless you work in Redmond.

Before tweeting about this feature, I thought I should google MS Word. Surely, it has this feature too and I just never knew it. Indeed, it does, and it’s a doozy. Why, it has a side-by-side feature and legal line-through and all sorts of other bells and whistles that I can’t be bothered to read about, much less remember to use.

The blogosphere tells us the OpenOffice feature just works, and gives endless lecture on where to go looking for the Microsoft. Feature set vs quality.

Did I ever mention how many times Word corrupted by first two novel manuscripts before I abandoned it three years ago?