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Once You've Gone FOSS, It's Hard To Go Back

Posted by Robin 'Roblimo' Miller on Jun 17, 2010

I've been using Linux for close to 15 years now. I've written three books in OpenOffice.org, and my favorite text editor is Bluefish, which I'm using to write this article. But there are times when even ardent Linux and FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) users may end up using proprietary software. For me, those times are when I'm editing video, because there are still no professional-level, full-featured video editing software suites that run in Linux.

After testing just about all the video software in the world a few years ago, I settled on Sony Vegas Pro. It's fast, it's stable, it's not too hardware-hungry, and it has not only many Sony-supplied transitions, effects, and plugins, but a wide variety of third-party add-on programs that help me produce broadcast-quality video using a low-cost, generic desktop computer.

The only problem with Vegas is that it runs on Windows. I have never been a Microsoft fan. But then, I'm even less of an Apple fan, because Apple wants to control not only your software, but your hardware choices, too. And -- while this may be heresy to Final Cut Pro users in their black turtlenecks -- I don't like FCP nearly as much as I like Vegas.

Upgrading Your System the Proprietary Way

Ugrading your Ubuntu box is no big deal. You  stick in the appropriate CD or DVD, make sure you are doing an upgrade rather than a fresh install, and in less than an hour you are running 10.4 instead 9.whatever you were running before. Everything works, and all your XChat settings and Firefox bookmarks survive the experience. And even if they don't, you saved all your user stuff (Documents and Settings folder) just in case, right?

Windows Vista to Windows 7? Not so easy. First you need to get over your anger that Microsoft demands over $100 for what amounts to a bugfix release for Vista. In my case, an OEM copy from a system builder friend helped stop me from driving to Redmond, Washington, (from Florida) and going 2nd Amendment on Microsoft executives. So fine. Money was not a factor.

But compared to Linux, Windows has never respected my time very much.
First you have to scrounge up a legal copy of their OS at a rational price. Then you need to type in a long alphanumeric code, probably to make sure you're not drunk, before you start the installation. Then the installer routine tells you that you can't upgrade but must do a fresh install.

Geh! That mean reinstalling all the software on this sucker from scratch, and Windows doesn't have a nice, universal software repository or a simple, universal installer like Synaptic that can install a dozen different programs with a single click. Geh again!

OK, I save all my settings and such. Data? I keep just about none of my video files (which is about all the data I have on this PC) on external hard drives, with those I'm in the process of editing on a 2nd internal drive, and I unplug all of these drive before I proceed with the operation.

So: Windows 7 DVD in drive. Boot from DVD. Type in long secret code before grabbing a beer and settling in for many reboots. Grind, grind, grind. Reboot, reboot, reboot. Finally Windows 7 is installed. Yay!

And Grr!: Now I get to install Sony Vegas. And Nero 8, which I need to download fresh because I don't seem to have a copy of it on a CD, as I do for most of my downloaded software. But when I go to Nero's site, they tell me Nero 8 is not certified or tested or something with Windows 7, and that I should upgrade to Nero 10 for $59.99 or so. Sigh. This sucks. $59.99 to keep using a program I already paid for because I upgraded my operating system? This has never happened with any of the software I run on Linux. Grr again!

But wait! That's not all!

Would you believe that when I go to transcode a group of "master"
MPG4/H.264 videos to MPG2 to make a DVD for standard "hook-to-the-tv"
use, Nero 10 is so different from Nero 8 that I can't figure out how to do it? And that for some reason I can't get their PDF manual or help files to download? I mean, here I am, my credit union account $60 lighter than it was, with a new version of Nero that I can't use to do a job for a paying customer who expects the finished DVD today?

I check Nero's online support stuff. I fill in all the little blanks and stuff and hit "Send." Then I get another beer, find a downloadable copy of Nero 8 on a non-Nero software download site, and install it. Luckily (really, astutely) I have my Nero secret number saved (along with all my secret software numbers) in a folder in the Yahoo! email account I've had just about as long a Yahoo has offered email accounts.

Guess what? Nero 8 works just fine on Windows 7. No hassle, no hoohoo. I jam in my menu and label-printing presets (which I saved along with all my other pre-ugrade data), crank out the three DVDs my client expects, and call him to tell him they're ready. He comes over with a nice check, I pop a beer for him and another one for myself, and we sit on the front porch for a bit and discuss his next video project.

Epilogue: a little over a week later, I get an email from Nero telling me how to do the transcoding in Nero 10 that I've already done in Nero 8. Should I ask for my money back? Forget the episode, write off the $60, and move on? Write a nasty blog post about proprietary software and the way it has hidden costs above and beyond license fees that make FOSS by far the better deal aside from the better FOSS price, which is usually $0.00? I still haven't decided...


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