Thursday, November 10, 2005


open source blues

Open source is a lovely idea -- kind of like world peace, or a pollution free world. Sadly, ideals don't translate into reality without a bit of disappointment.

I want to give Firefox the opportunity to shine. Heaven knows browsers can stand improvement. But whenever I invest a bit of time to enhance Firefox, I get burned.

I spent the weekend adding various extensions -- things that actually make Firefox qualitatively different -- which required me to download a newer version than I had loaded previously on one of our home PCs and deal with annoying questions from the Firefox development team. Firefox is annoyingly preachy by the way. Note to developers: you are making software, not saving the world. You won't be getting a Nobel peace prize for your efforts.

A few days later, something has blewn up, and now nothing is there, apart from a reloaded, completely clueless version of Firefox that doesn't even know my bookmarks.

Yes I am getting this for free, but I'd rather pay someone, even Microsoft, a few bucks to assure some kinks are worked out ahead of time. My time is more valuable than the retail cost of the software. What problem does open source solve? Companies aren't the evil, payment isn't the evil, the evil is how monopoly can stiffle innovation. When open source encourages innovation, great. But what problems does open source unleash? Often crappy beta software, enough to make even an experienced computer user into a cynic. What a tedious waste of time for users to try to choke-proof software, creating back-up files, because there are no robust systems in place to verify compatiability of add ins. The wild west of software can be exciting, but is dangerous. Trouble is, you don't know that you are bleeding edge until something innocent looking fails. I am not a sucker for the taunts saying "hey you don't have our latest build!" Even supposedly stable builds can be too flakey.


If we are going to live in a multi-browser world, we should have a common file for bookmarks. I am hoping to find a way to synchronize bookmarks saved in either Firefox or IE. IE has a clumsy utility to import and export bookmarks (I have had no success figuring it out). Firefox only lets you import bookmarks from IE, but doesn't let you export them to a common file folder. Who is playing fair? If users are being offered a real choice, and your product is supposed to be better than everyone else's, why try to prevent them from defecting to a competing product?

If I can never get bookmarks saved in Firefox into IE, but can do the reverse, I only want to save bookmarks in IE, which encourages me to use IE more. What is obnoxious is the entire notion of a "default" browser, where everything is supposed to live.

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