Monday, January 12, 2015

Software written for whom?

I going to start with a quotation.  I'm not sure of the author, but it was a photo tweet by @SwiftOnSecurity:
It's kind of poetical, I'm going to rehash:
What problems are you solving? Is your neighbor any more secure, free, or empowered by the things you build and the things you preach?  Or do you betray them from your ivory tower by abandoning them to the wolves you empower?  What is a gift that is used only to build things the common cannot operate?  
As my friends know I'm a GNU/Linux hobbyist.  Lately though I've been super frustrated by the usability of the some of the cooler free software that is out there.  But the more powerful the software tool the more impossible it is to find clear straightforward documentation for it.

An example: I have a tape storage drive, I want to use it to keep a back up of hard drive.  There are some excellent free software programs out there Amanda, and Baccula to name two.  I'm intending to use Baccula, cause it's AGPL3.  The first thing I was able to find is the "Brief Tutorial" on Baccula.  I won't waste your time ranting about it; it is neither brief nor a tutorial.  I gave up on that and went back a step to the table of contents for the Baccula documentation; if printed the table of contents would be eleven pages long.

So bottom line: If I want to understand and use a modern automated backup software package I need to spend several months studying and struggling with some absurdly complicated and obtuse documentation.

Same thing happened to me when I recently attempted to try out virtuilization.

Same thing happened to me when I first started using GNU/Linux.  I'm very glad I persevered; but why did I have to?

The amazing people behind the free software movement have created incredible software; and they have shown incredible selflessness by sharing their success with humanity.  Unfortunately, selflessness isn't the same as generosity.  This software wasn't written for our neighbors, friends or humanity.  We, the neuro-typical, are excluded from this martyr-ware.

I hypothesize that powerful software does not have to be difficult to install, understand, or use.  I think the free software movement would be a loved, successful, and popular social movement if it stopped abandoning humanity to the wolves it empowers.