The Endless Wars: The Descent

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Open Source & Writing

There are certain benefits to having absolutely no direction in life. One of them is that you accidentally learn a lot about a variety of subjects. You might be amazed what you pick up when you bounce from being a Video Game store manager to an art school student (graduated with a 4-year BA!) to a restaurant manager to an IT student/professional.

One of the best discoveries along the way has been open source software. I used to be just another brainless Microsoft-using drone, banging out my stories on Microsoft Word on Microsoft 95/ME/XP, until John led an intervention.

He mocked me ruthlessly for months, saying unkind things about my intelligence, waistline, and penis, until I finally caved and installed Ubuntu on one of my PCs. From there, I discovered all kinds of open source applications and now the only software I ever pay for is games.

Open Source & the Writer
I'm a writer. I also work in IT. I don't know if I can properly explain to you how diametrically opposed these two worlds are.

Allow me, then, to tell you why every writer out there should use open source software.

There are few things in this world that I find more childish and obnoxious than the person who prides themselves on their ignorance, as if being open to being taken advantage of is some idiotic badge of honor. Technophobia was cute back when the Church was still allowed to be transparent about its hateful agenda, and they were killing people who pointed out that the world is round. Nowadays, you have companies like Apple & Norton who prey on the technologically retarded by making them pay for services they don't need and overpay for various wares that could be more easily gotten if the user dared to challenge themselves a little and learn the basics of computing.

I'm a writer and a musician. I love musicians but tend to battle most other writers. Most musicians have a grasp of two basic principles very dear to my heart: the embrace of technology & the ability to play well with others. Again, that's most, as I understand that there are plenty of self-absorbed pricks in the music industry.

Anyway, by and large, musicians tend to be pretty cool dudes, and as long as they're hungry, they'll let themselves be pretty versatile and learn any skill necessary to let themselves quit their horrible retail/fast-food job.

Writers, though, aren't always the most tech-savvy, which surprises me, as they should be using computers all the fucking time.

Talk to any serious writer, ask them about their writing process, and they will lay out for you this amazingly elaborate ritual that takes place in a very specific setting during a certain time of day. I don't know why so many writers want so badly to restrict the circumstances under which they can be most productive, but hey, ya gotta be at least a little neurotic to be an artist.

This isn't to say that I don't understand the need for ideal comfort when writing, as I absolutely do. When I write, I like being alone, I like bright lights, I like being able to recline a bit, and that's about it. My process is another post unto itself, but I just wanted to point out how much cooler I am than other writers.

Writers, though, with all their twisted neuroses, need for attention, and desire for cripplingly specific creative process should LOVE open source software.

For me, it came down to three things. One, free software. Two, customization. Three, community.

If you want Windows 7 & Microsoft Office 2007 this fall, you're forking over $500-800. No shit. If you want Ubuntu + OpenOffice, it's free, and just as powerful. If you need to, you can save as MS Word docs, or as .pdf, or whatever you need.

Additionally, by opting for the free open source solution, you're helping adjust the market in that direction. Software tends to be outrageously overpriced, and every little market correction helps.

As for the customization, this is the big one. Ubuntu is fully cuztomizable, and very easily so. OpenOffice has many, many extensions, and can be easily customized, as well. What this allows the writer to do is create his/her ideal writing space on their computer. By being able to tweak both the OS and the word processor, you can make things more comfortable for yourself, and allow yourself to cut the bullshit and get to the writing that much faster.

I've found this is especially nice on my netbook, which I use quite a bit for editing. I write a bit on it, but the keyboard's a little small for the furious slamming of keys. It is, however, perfect for curling up on the bed and editing.

The last point, community, was one I wasn't expecting. Being a user of FOSS instantly connects you with a huge community of people who not only use the same software as you, but often times contribute to the project, so if you ever have questions, you have a vast pool of people who are willing to help you out.

Additionally, you're able to help out quite a bit by contributing feedback on the various projects, which is invaluable.

What's nice, too, is that you may find yourself actually pulled into the tech side a little more, and may just learn a thing or two.

It took me ages and ages to finally lock down and put out my book, and I can easily say that switching to open source software was a huge reinvigoration, as it allowed me a free and easy way to create the perfect writing environment for myself.

So, if you're a writer, I urge you to check out the FOSS scene, and see if there's anything there for you. You may be pleasantly surprised by how much you can get for nothing.


PS - any other writer-ly or tech stuff you wanna read about here?

Please be sure to check out my novel, the Endless Wars: the Descent! Thanks!


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