2011
06.24

Free (as freedom) disappointment

The freedom sucks sometimes… Well, not the real freedom. I mean rather the approach of open source community. The community which, in some circumstances, is able to sacrifice quite a lot in the name of the freedom.

There was a great piece of software developed many many years ago. I remember using it with Debian linux somewhere around 10 years ago. The software was available for free, but the source code was closed and maintained only by the company itself. Of course it changes. Some day the sources were freed and we all welcomed a great piece of office software for everyone. Free, of course, both as a beer and as a freedom. Years later the software got better and better and, some day, it forked. The new product was born, named LibreOffice. It was supposed to be better, well developed and ah oh, all the bells and whistles onboard. Many news portals, including one in Polish language which I read frequently, did spread some disinformation. The one I disliked mostly was naming a great improvement of LibreOffice Impress – the Presenter Console. Sure, it comes with LibreOffice for free. Of course, it’s great and using it makes really fun. The only problem is, it’s not an improvement of LibreOffice itself, rather a “PresenterConsole” extension from Oracle.

I don’t care forking that much, really. What I hate though is lack of freedom. Freedom of a choice. Most distribution maintainers were so excited by the new office suite fork, that they decided to obsolete original openoffice and removed it from repositories. Now, that’s bad.

I had to make an A0 sized poster for the next conference I’m attending in 10 days. LibreOffice Draw was my choice of suitable software, since I did posters with OpenOffice Draw previously. It was pretty unstable as I was working on the document. I mean it crashed every 10-15 minutes. Sometimes I was triggering the crash just by trying to change the bullet symbol, sometimes by trying to change the font size. I’m absolutely sure the problem is not hardware related, since that one was intensively tested already. What really shocked me though, was it’s inability to print into postscript file. All it happened was memory usage growing up drastically. LibreOffice never printed the document, since kenel’s OOM killer was in action. Every time. A day at work, a nightmare with free software…

Sure, I investigated the issue a bit. It turned out, LibreOffice attempted to convert the A0 page at 1200dpi resolution to bitmap first, before converting it to postscript and sending to the printer. Why? I dunno. Really. I had to redo the entire work on my poster in new document, which (oh, miracle!) was printed as a postscript without any issue. That reminded me old IT jokes about one huge company, saying

“Maybe if we turned the car off and on again, it would fix itself.”

I’ve never thought it would fit so perfectly to free software…

I want to have the freedom of choice. I want my OpenOffice back on openSUSE 11.4…

Comments are closed.