When I was an undergrad back in the 80′s and 90′s, I started a small computer company in order to remain current with technology and to earn some extra cash. At that time computers were very much a tool for my other academic and professional interests. When I was in graduate school in the late 90′s and early 00′s, I became disillusioned with the academic world, had lost my advisor to another university and so did not complete my Masters. I was at an impasse in my life and needed to make some decisions. I was already impressed with the philosophical and ideological aspects of the “open-source” model of software development and distribution. I believed there was far more potential value in this model of “knowledge sharing” than simply software development so I started a new computer company to advocate, support and build/sell Linux and other open-source software solutions. In other words, computers and technology were no longer “tools” that I used for some other purpose, technology and computers were pursued for their own sake.

Since then, around 1999, I have been a very vocal advocate of Linux and open-source software. I dedicated my own business efforts to promoting, supporting and consulting on Linux and open source deployments. Of course I also use Linux on my own workstations and have been through a number of desktop distros from Yggdrasil, Corel, Mandrake/Mandriva, Suse, RHS Linux, Fedora, Suse, Ubuntu and now Mint. Not to mention all those who’s names I don’t recall. Some of the software I use, or have used, are simply not available under Linux or their “equivalents” are not really “equal” enough for me to use them, so I often go back and forth between a Windows OS and a Linux Distro.

Between around 2006 and 2010 I found myself spending around 90% of my time in Ubuntu, and then Unity came along. So for the past year or so I have been a relatively happy Windows 7 user. My history of using, supporting and (some) development on Windows goes back through every version to Windows 2.0 (except for Microsoft Bob). I have found Windows 7 to be the most stable, reliable, “snappy” and even aesthetically pleasing Windows version EVER, and with the upcoming Windows 8 and “Metro”, maybe the LAST decent Windows release. IMHO, Metro might make inroads on Tablets or other small touch-screen devices. But on the desktop, not a chance.

Recently I made the decision to return to graduate school and now that I have been accepted into the program, I have been rearranging my life and priorities in order to spend less time on technology for its own sake (fiddling, configuring, optimizing, playing etc) and return to using technology as a tool. It simply MUST WORK, and enable me to get things done, particularly writing and blogging. I just don’t have the time, or interest, in spending hours, or days, trying to get something to work properly. Something I definitely enjoyed doing in the past as it was fun, educational and provided me with improved skills for supporting clients. So I booted back into Mint this morning, launched LibreOffice and got to work. Hmm, no spellchecker. Ok, fine, I recall in the past with OpenOffice I just had to set the right language so went and did that. Still no worky. Ok, search Google. Ahh, others having the same problem. Download/install aspell or any other spellchecker – didn’t work. Ok, keep searching for suggestions, download English dictionary and install – OpenOffice Extension Repository “not found”. Ok, try another suggestion, set language to “English (USA)” – no worky. After 10-15 minutes guess where I am now? BACK IN WINDOWS!

In my opinion this is absolutely inexcusable! What might be one of the most common tasks or tools (besides a browser) any user might need in an OS? A Word Processor or Office Suite!. Which are the LARGEST and MOST popular open-source Word Processor/Office Suites? OpenOffice and LibreOffice. And what might be one of the MOST commonly used and needed features of a Word Processor? A WORKING SPELL CHECKER! How the hell can the open-source community expect anyone to take their alternatives seriously if something as basic, common, necessary as a WORKING spellchecker in a decent Word Processor/Office Suite DOES NOT WORK out of the box! Yes, I could spend more time fiddling with every application I need to get my work done, but what’s the point? Open source and Linux have been around now for way too long, and have made far too many great and successful inroads into so many sectors of technology to allow this sort of thing to happen. Think about the first-time users experience. It is easy to see how this one single experience when they try to use Linux and LibreOffice for the first time, could lead to dismissing Linux or other open-source software outright. Think about it this way. You go in to buy a new car from a large, reputable company, maybe Mercedes Benz. But when you go to drive off you find that the steering wheel does not work and you have to open the hood and start fiddling with things to get the steering wheel to work. You think to yourself, “If they can’t even take the time to get this most basic, most necessary of features or functions to work out-of-the-box, how can I possibly trust them to get the rest of the car’s functions/features working properly?”

Ok, rant finished and maybe later I will try again to get the spell checker working in LibreOffice under Mint! Or, maybe I will remove LibreOffice and try OpenOffice. I also believe that when I can afford one, it is also time to try out a Mac.
Johnny Stork