august on Tue, 24 Apr 2001 04:10:28 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Re: Review of the CODE conference

regarding the discussion around CODE and previous points on free software 

on basic software use:

Even though i don't think it was meant that way, describing switching to a
free software as a luxury is drawing upon the, in my opinion, out-dated
argument that the users of free software are elitist and that
free-software itself is much more difficult to learn.  yes, it is somewhat
true that up until now, the user base of free operating systems and such
where college-aged or younger, individuals who have the free time enough
to invest in all the research and reading required to configure such wild
and untamed systems.  it is also somewhat true, that such individuals,
after investing such time and energy into learning to configure their
systems, have unlovingly  answered newbie inqueries with the brush-off, 
RTFM (read the fucking manual).

However, the learning curve for such free operating systems is indeed
becoming less and less steep. 

And, lets not forget that the age of computing altogether is relatively, as the first generation of hackers approach retirement, it
is becoming less and less unusual to find commercial FREE software
packages that are easy (if not easier) to install and maintain than
commercial CLOSED software equivalents. 

the point is, i think, that computers are inherently complex entities,
requiring a certain amount of education, and that switching from any
system to another is relatively time-consuming.  all of sudden, now you
have to click three times in the upper left corner instead of clicking
once on the bottom right corner, and then two times on the shiny blue

what is more important, is that the user base of certain proprietary
systems are growing and are bound to grow even more: aside from Mexico and
China, these systems are now being taught in schools worldwide.  the good
word of the free software gospel is thus being out-advertised (go figure),
and what's even worse, the contending proprietary software is even still
today being justified by defenders of user-friendliness (artists are most
definitely among them).


regarding more specific software, art:

open source software expands the space of possible software.  this has
conceptual and aesthetic consequences as much as it does, technical,
structural, ideological or political.  formal limitations of the
technology aside, it only takes a quick glance at the web to notice the
aesthetic dictatorship of flash and director.  knowledge as well as
aesthetics are embedded in the tools we use.  

and with all due respect, I can mention free viable alternatives to "Nato,
video editing programs, Max, MMdirector":  Gem, broadcast2000 for video
editing, PD (afaik, written by the same developer as Max), and SDL
respectively.  albeit, some of these programs are relatively new and rough
around the edges.....some, if not all, of them are also highly-developed,
powerful, real-life alternatives to commercial artware. 

this begs a number of questions: if there are viable alternatives (even if
only in matters of *degree*)  that are in most cases more innovative and
in ALL cases less restrictive, would the "artists" among us really take
the time to switch?  if not, why? 

or maybe the question actually is: is the art that uses software really
dictated by the software being used?  if so, if to any degree, why would
any artist choose a proprietary set of tools over a free set of tools?

- august.

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