The one where I reference Plato.

It came to my attention the other day as I packed away my old Nokia 6230i that we often hear how well Windows just works with gadgets and peripherals but we never hear about how the gadgets and devices do not work well with each other. Is it possible , I pondered, that the problem is not with the operating systems but the gadgets ?

When I look around my home and office I can see quite a large collection of Gadgets and devices all designed to use and share data with my computer. Theres is my iPod nano in which only the songs I purchased from iTunes will only work with my Nano! Theres my old Nokia 6230i whose contacts and notes and data had to be parsed by way of Windows Address Book before they arrived in my Sony Erricson 990i again my phones wont easily swap information. Theres my Canon Ixus whose SDcard wont share data with my Sony Ericsson’s because the Erickson’s takes Sony Duo Memory Sticks and the other devices in my house are SDcards based.

Moving from Gadgets to applications theres my large collection of Word Documents are purposed only to be accessed in Word. The same for Excel and powerpoint. My financial data is stored in MYOB and Sage will barely recognise or import that ! Its not the operating systems or the devices that are creating the problem of not playing together, its the data !

There are however a few good examples of when data has become so ubiquitous that no matter whom the manufacturer it has become universal in its profligation. JPeG Images, MP3s, HTML, XML, Plain old Text files have managed to spread and embed theyre own ubiquity because the internet has conferred a requirement that they be common, established and acceptable. Devices, Applications and operating systems will have to work with them or loose out.

Coming hot on the heels of all that data freedom is the new moves by manufacturers to enforce some level of Digital Rights Management ( DRM ) on such universally accessible data. Recognising they cannot quell the flow of access to such formats they are seeking a method by which they can control the flow of those formats and staunch supply of usable information.

It occurred to me then that one of the many reasons that Open Source Software must thrive is that it will enable freedom for not just applications and operating systems but freedom for the very life blood of those mechanisms; the data.

I realised then that open source answers in the applications and operating systems which I use are able to handle and deal with many of the data sharing issues experienced. Certainly from previous posts I have seen how well Ubuntu has handled the sharing of my data with trusted 3rd parties.

It is a subtle message to pass onto the end user, that the cost of using non open source software will be more than the credit card transaction from PC world. Understanding why we need to keep data in an open and usable format may be the toughest conversation we can have with many end users. They will not realise that they have been watching shadows on the wall and have yet to experience freedom in their data.

Thanks for reading.

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