Monday, 14 December 2009

Social Inclusion and Open Source Enabling Technologies

No matter how hard our beloved ICT providers try, there will always remain individuals within our community who resolutely defy any attempt to welcome them into the age of the Internet. You might imagine I am speaking of the elderly, but no - most members of that demographic group are keen to become involved, if only to impress (and possibly scare the pants off) their grandchildren with their intergenerational skills set. Who wouldn't want a techo-savvy grandparent? Hey - some of them even drove the movement in the early days of interconnectivity.

No, I'm talking about people of any age who, for one personal reason or another, have decided not to become part of the revolution. Is it a strongly held belief in the evil of the technology or is it just an irrational fear of change? A fear of failure to perform in a new environment? These are just conjectures and I could be barking up the wrong hill of flying bananas.

Anyway, I have several very dear friends who have slipped through the 'Net and so they have no means to visit YouTube, Facebook, Flickr, MySpace or whatever to view material that I am sure they would enjoy.

How to include them? Of course! Drop it all onto a DVD and post it to them for Xmas! Surely they have a DVD player? Thereby hangs a tale...

If you are the kind of person who just buys retail and bugger the expense, fine. Your posh retail PC or video camcorder possibly came with all the software necessary to burn DVDs that can be played on a typical domestic DVD player. If, like me, you build your own kit from OEM components (or if you're trying to upgrade old kit), you might find that any software bundled with your components is of the "30-day trial" variety. It is all too easy to install the software and forget the T&Cs until months later when you try to use it.

Knowing that I had DVD burning software, I began such a project for a techno-refuser friend of mine. After an hour of work, the software informed me that my trial period had expired and that I would have to pay £39 to acquire the licence to complete the burn. Fair enough, payment-wise, but they could have told me at the start, not after an hour's work, surely? That's just a sneaky and underhand way of attempting to secure a sale. Had they told me at the start, I might have considered paying the £39 (maybe yes, maybe no) but after an hour's work? No way. Deliberately waste an hour of my time and they owe me £39 in my book. Lost sale. Indeed, lost sales, for I will never purchase any of their products at any time in the future, nor recommend them to my clients.

Oh dear, what to do?

To the rescue! Open Source software! After a brief hunt on the Net, all recommendations pointed to DVD Flick as being the solution, and it did everything it promised (Google it). This free package gobbled up every media file I threw at it and turned them into a playable DVD that worked even on my budget domestic DVD player. Deep Joy! The authors invited an optional monetary contribution and I will be making that, just to support the great Open Source initiative. So many times the Open Source guys have got me out of a hole when the Big Boys didn't really care about my predicament.

Priority assessment:

Open Source: enabling and friendly (if a bit geeky)
Big Boys: money and trouble

Which would you support?

Whatever you want to do with your computer, take a look at Open Source software offers before handing money over to the bread-heads. A great recommendation from The Secret Laboratory...

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Bring on the Flying Trappists!

This month, the Secret Laboratory gets all metaphysical and investigates what happens in the brain during those early morning moments before full wakefulness.

If you have ever woken with what you thought was a deep insight into the workings of the Universe, which later proved to be utter bollocks, add a response to this posting and we'll discuss it through December.

You see? The Secret Laboratory is not just about "exploding test tube" shit, although there is some of that...