In creating the list of digital tools I use right now, several thoughts about identity came to mind. I seem to be in transition from commercial software to a fully open source existence, emanating from the cloud.
I recently dropped several Microsoft products (or only use them in case of emergencies) in favor of OpenOffice and the Google toolkit, especially the Chrome browser and Google Docs. FreeMind, Audacity, Skype, FileZilla, iTunes, etc., all of which I think are important programs for me to have right now, all of which are free and open source. The lone commercial holdouts for me are Adobe's Creative Suite (especially InDesign and Photoshop) and EndNote (although I was on the fence in the beginning between EndNote and Zotero; if I had to do it over again, I might have went with Zotero, but I think it's too late in the dissertation process now to switch). Quality level is the primary reason I stay with those programs. As soon as I have an open source option of similar quality with CS4, I assume I would switch.
Cost is a factor, too, since CS4, for example, is about $700, and that's with a student discount. I think EndNote was about $150, again, with a discount. I know these companies need to make money, but, as a consumer at least, I have a hard time justifying that much cost for basic digital products (with no packaging or delivery costs). I prefer the "freemium" model, in which I get to use basic services for free, but if I am using the software for particularly complicated, or proprietary, actions, that give the software its business niche, then I don't mind paying for it. What I don't like paying for is the basic functions, like saving a photo without a watermark. I wouldn't even mind the commercial model of this system, I suppose, if the versioning wasn't such a rip off.
As an example, I bought CS4 about a year ago, and now Adobe wants me to pay full price to upgrade to CS5, for just a few new features. I don't think that's fair. Honda doesn't come back to me a year or two after I buy a new car and say, "You know, we've added a lot of features to later models, and your car just won't be compatible with the roads in the near future." Instead, as long as I can find gas and spare parts, that Honda should work just fine for the rest of my life. Why can't my computers and software work that way, particularly when I buy top-end products?
Microsoft has pulled this versioning trick on me too many times to count (pushing me through all of the versions of Windows), building obsolescence into new versions of software and hardware, forcing customers, like me, to either upgrade or lose the functionality that we already had bought (Chrome OS, where are you?). I find the business model offensive. So, in reflection, I think my tool choice demonstrates that I am fed up with the heavy-handed capitalistic money grab of the system.
The sneaky commercialization of "free" software also is concerning. I was listening to Pandora yesterday, and, for the first time for me, an audible advertisement played. It was a shock to hear that ad for McDonald's. I found it so abrasive that I immediately turned Pandora off and plan to uninstall it soon, if that policy doesn't change quickly.
Pandora just plays music in a genre, based on similar musicians, like an Internet radio station. It really doesn't do anything so special, except play without advertisements (and, at times, introduce me to a new artist, just like a radio station). So now that it is playing with advertisements, I find very little use for it, and will turn back to public radio stations (without advertisements), or other commercial-free Internet radio, or play from my CD collection, which I have digitized and imported into iTunes (yes, saving the hard copies, with respect for copyright concerns). If nothing else, I think, my choices for digital tools show I am moving away from corporate control systems and further embracing the wonders of the altruistic collective (for as long as that lasts).
- ▼ July (5)
- ► 2009 (68)