Why I prefer open source, above closed source software

You rather see a video on why I prefer open source? This video on “why to change from Windows to Linux” I recommend.

Since the early ’80-ties I am implementing information systems.  In 1983 I was a system adminstrator of a Philips 7000-minicomputer. This minicomputer looked like these pictures:  (found on retrospace.org).

I learned secretaries to operate work stations (as on the left). And I made back-ups every week. All data were stored on removable disks (as on the right). These disks were used in a grandfather-father-son rotation back-up-scheme. I still following this backup-method. Today with USB-keys. Much easier to handle!

Since 1983 I have been implementing all kind of financial and logistic systems. Mainly closed software (also referred to as proprietary software). Like: IBM-Copics, Mapics, Dun & Bradstreet, AMAPS, Grote Beer, King, Exact, Baan, Oracle-products, SAP R/2 and R/3, etc. etc.

Since 2006 I started to explore the added value of open source software. Starting to install Linux on Apple Macintoshes. (Not the most easy choice. I learned that Apple does includes a lot of protection to its hardware. So if you want to try Linux, install it on a computer which can run a Microsoft operating system. You encounter less incompatibilities.) I also started to orientate on different Content Management Systems  (CMS). A CMS facilitates the construction of websites. As there are a lot of open source projects one has to choose. So I concentrated for CMS on: Drupal (drupal.org/user/80418) and  WordPress. And for e-Learning on Moodle.
Using e.g.: Ubuntu as operating system, Inkscape to draw, GIMP to edit images, FileZilla for transfering files, PHPMyAdmin for administrating databases, OpenShot to edit video.

Today we can use our portable computers everywhere. Here you see my laptop computer in our kitchen (on the left). And my Linux UBUNTU 14.04-desktop (on the right). A lot of differences with minicomputers as on the B&W-pictures above. In 1983 it felt magic that we could exchange e-messages with other Philips-computers at local Philips-organisations in America, Africa, Asia etc.. A big difference is that today we can connect to many, many other computers, via internet. Possibilities have so much increased. So much more functionality. And I can sent messages to many places, in many ways. Other people can communicate with my computer, much easier. Also spammers and criminals do try. And they succeed. So among other issues, also security is an issue.

I prefer open source above closed source. Why? Short as open source is free. Free not as in free beer, but as in free speech. I see many advantages in open source. Just to address -only- two aspects:

  1. Reliability. One example: in general I’ve more confindence in open source Wikipedia as source of information, than closed sources.
  2. Security. In open source projects a large group of independ volunteers looking into security issues. At closed source software companies people with less independ ties (often they are paid by the company) have influence on security issues. The independency of open source environments, do give me more confidence of good care for security.

All aspects do have a relation with the fact that open source projects can have a hugh number of contributors. In general I believe in the strength of the big amount of people joining open source projects, with all kind of different opinons and interests. More than the often smaller groups of employees who working for closed source companies.

I feel the older I get, the more I realise how little I know. Well I know I have a preference for bigger, open group of people. With different insights. Personally I keep on thinking that our future is based on all the individual decisions we take. So if I have a choice between a Coca Cola and a local flemish brewed beer. I’ll choose for this beer. As I do not like to support the Coca Cola company. Thinking on Coca Cola I see a multi-national company which are is more efficient. And also more efficient to avoid to pay tax. I see Coca Cola’s efficient marketing. And I see the obesitas-problem. Therefore I have rarely chosen for a Coca Cola. And still it can be difficult. Local flemish brewed beer, can be part of a big enterprise. An enterprise where its stockholders are most important. And where earning money can be of bigger importance than producing good food. In the end I think it helps if we all try to chose good food. So personally I like to make my favorite recipe of backed rice : “nasi goreng” (on this blog I have the recipe in english, and french) with as much as possible local products. However the rice, cacahuètes, etc., I have them imported for me. But I try to add local carottes, cabbage, eggs, (a bit of!) porc, and …   …. flemish beer.

And in many cases open source is not a suitable solution. For example for a lot of financial and logistic applications made with closed source/proprietary software. Not easy, rather impossible to replace them by open source solutions. I can’t imagine how big organisations like factories, financial institutions replace just like that their enormous administrations towards open source solutions. For sure I see possibilities for open source solutions. It might be compared to changing the actual fossile energy systems towards less polluting ones. In a lot of occassions we can decide to take a bicycle, instead of a fossile energy driven car. But a society without fossile energy driven cars? That is a long way ahead.  So I promote: if you can choose for open source. Consider to do so.

A lot to reflect on. How to improve the added value of all these IT systems? I try to concentrate on a few things. Choosing for open source, when I have a choice. Plus trying to approve my capabilities to speak, read and write in French.  So to finish this blog post, my opinion en français :  Je préfère logiciel open source. Parce que c’est libre. Libre pas comme un bière en libre service (bière gratuits), mais comme en liberté d’expression.

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To be found by search engines

The simple way, according the “follow the money”-principle, just buy this from Google.

In theory being ranked high by search engines is that web sites contain :

1. Relevant content

It helps to have a site filled with a lot of data, which all helps to get a more clear idea of the goals and means of an organisation.
For example for a second hand car dealer.
A site yoursecondhandcar.com with some photo’s of actual cars to buy, plus description, prices of each car is more relevant. It can help to have users add experiences with cars they bought, with stories on what to take into account with the coming seasons, promote special actions for customers.

2. New content

A site which shows contiously new, relevant, information will be ranked higher.

3. … and yes there is more …

… but in short:
Sites will rank high if visited by a lot of people who have interest in the subject of the site.

Sure there are more things which are stimulating higher ranking.
Like understanding how visitors navigate on your site. So you can place your essential data on places, where users can find them easily.
This applied to a web site of e.g. an construction company, can look like this:

  1. Site title which makes clear the kind of product being sold
  2. Here a sub site title contains more specification on the product sold.
  3. In the main article the main characteristics of the organisation has to be found. (Not visible in this picture.)
  4. Photos and videos with relevant descriptions, plus adding regulary new projects. (Not visible in this picture.)
  5. Publication on a regulary basis of relevant and new articles . (In picture below an article is visible. Containing essential information on the product of the construction company: ….. bâtiment basse consommation ….. etc. etc. !)

web site SBHQ

Who can help with better ranking?
There is a hugh amount of parties which are promising to give better ranking results.
One can also google: “how to improve search engine ranking”.
Today I just choose this from the many results:
http://www.wikihow.com/Improve-Search-Engine-Optimization

And besides other means, this site advises :

Have quality content. Quality content, in other words lots of original, error-free text organized well on a modern-looking website, is what matters most in terms of SEO that you can control. Hiring a professional website designer can help with the cosmetics and get you taken seriously by your visitors. You’ll also want to be sure that you’re not misleading visitors, they should be getting what was advertised when they looked at the site’s description.

I think this quote puts it well. In a nutshell. I wish you luck and a lot of time with implementation of all these advises above! However this quote ignores the capacity of powerful companies with a lot of assets. Like Google. See the first line of this blog …  … in the end it is quiet a complex subject. In my humble opinion it is wise to put energy in talking to potential customers. Which does cost a lot more energy than just some clicks and pay for an Google Adwords-advertisement. I think that all people paying for Adwords-advertisements, are making Google bigger and bigger. In the end delivering a short satisfaction to the Adwords-buyer. And a profitable Google company. It might be like a coke from Coca-Cola. Quick satisfaction which do not last long, for a lot of people, which are making the enterprise bigger and bigger.

What do you think?

P. S.  To proceed to a proper SEO, I like to add a question. In the French Language :  “Référencement naturel, Adwords, e-mailing, affiliation… Faut-il créer du trafic à tout prix sur votre site Web… ou penser rentabilité ?“. My answer : “penser rentabilité!

Activating students. And e-Learning.

My start in education

In 1996 Olga, principal part-time MBA-course (Fontys deeltijd-HEAO) asked me if I could organise an IT-course. I prepared and start, being a bit uncertain. But I filled the whole black board. Plus flip-overs. And showed quiet some slides at my first IT-lesson. The students rested quiet. I felt I had been telling them quite a lot. I remember from my first IT-lesson, that I felt relieved. I felt relieved after a stressfull period of preparing this first IT-lesson. I felt I rather gained some experience in different IT-projects since 1983.
However deception came when evaluations forms were filled out by students. Students indicated they had been learning poorly. Olga explained me that this was not very unexpected. She explained me that it is inevitable. Being a teacher is a specialism she told me. And not to be learned from a book, or in a crash course.

My training in education

So I followed a course myself. On didactic skills. What Olga said, I learned little by little. Being a teacher is an specialism indeed. One has to learn it. Regarding the enormous amount of literature on education, I sure will not try to give a crash course in this single blog post. I will stick to some observations.

Focus on a problem a.k.a. case studies

Among a lot of different methods in my view the last decades education shifts more and more, from telling about theories, trying to get students be busy solving situations. No passing through a lot of theory. But hands-on. This I see becomes common practise nowadays. And there is much more. Only some observations you’ll see below.

Some experiences with motivation

Motivation of student is a subject where writers have been filling libraries with. I will stick my personal experience. In the Netherlands it is more and more promoted that everybody gets a final degree. Plus Dutch government has applied a finance system where school are being financed on ratio of the number of final degrees being achieved by students. I do not know the exact figures, but let’s say a 33% of the total sum per student is made available at the beginning of a students his study. When this student successfully gets a final degree, the other 66% is financed to the school. (This finance system was implemented in 2000 by VVD-minister Loek Hermans) So there’s an incentive that all students will be getting a final degree. And preferably these final degrees as quick as possible. Students leaving a school without final degrees, results in less money for the school. Where the costs do not lower. I learned about this the hard way. In 2002 I was assigned coach for a student’s last project. Where we let students let find a final project themselves. He could not find a project himself. I suggested an organisation for him. He worked quiet lousy for this organisation. And at the moments he had to show progress in the project I told him that it was not of sufficient quality. I judged that he could not pass for this project. That was somewhere half way the project, as you I am convinced that a teacher has to tell bad news half way, not at the end. As at the end a student can not improve any more. Then he said something quiet remarkable: “Sir, you do know very well that I will get my degree, any how.” It became an issue which I reported to the school management. And in the end, the management, organised a final judgement-seance, where I was banned. This student was being told that he did a minimal job. Plus he got his final degree! So for this student the final degree was his motivation. Not to learn. Motivations can be different, for different people. Unluckily this student was not the only one I encountered my career. There have been several students who did really below the level which I normally take for minimal effort. But again and again the school management urged us teachers, to look at the student again, and in the end they all got a final degree. (Needless to say that this has an influence on general quality as a whole.)
Motivation from within a person him or herself, is one of the success factors to really start to learn something. To acquire knowledge which one can reproduce in a later stage. For this reason I more and more started to try get motivation as clear as possible, at the beginning of every educational process.

IMG_2023 640pix_width
In red : start of this workshop is noting down students their motivation : what do the want to achieve, following the workshop. This text is being discussed carefully.
trainende wifisoft
In this workshop motivations were gathered before the workshop. Using a web form. Which we studied carefully during the workshop, showing them on screen.

Successful education needs a lot more

Like in workshops as pictured below. They all have to do with an attempt to have students in an active state. A lot of issues will not be addressed here. I would like to show you the way I have seen e-learning can contribute. In order not only understand something a the moment of hearing it. But also be able to reproduce the knowledge at the moments in future, when students want to apply the knowledge.

yoeri
So often I encountered fanatic, wise open source experts. Looking at the participants here, I ask myself: how much will they be able to reproduce, at those moments in future they will actually need the knowledge?
trainende floris
This situation I like more. This trainer is giving instructions, the participant (on the right) tries this knowledge, on-the-spot, hands-on

So how can e-learning help?

If motivation is established enough. If courses are organised in a way students are active theirselves. Then it helps to add information technology. Often referred to as e-learning. E-learning is more than digitalize books. E-learning helps if it activates students. With a lot of different means. For example user guides where students can SEE how a task can be done. After this it helps students to grow competent in certain task, if they can actually TRY it. A third form is that students can do a test, in order to check if they KNOW it. The 3 links to be added above are going to show the different modes, in this example link the first “SEE it”-mode is shown (opening the demo will take some moments) – – –