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Open Office

I’m still in the honeymoon phase of owning a new laptop; it’s light and sleek and pleasant to handle. But if the honeymoon isn’t yet over, the end is in sight.

I”m writing this essay in Open Office, a freeware utility designed to mimic Microsoft Office. And it’s pretty good. No doubt minor technical differences can be found, but as long as I’m just typing text, instead of operating at the cutting edge of document design and formatting, there’s no meaningful difference.

The reason I’m writing this essay in Open Office is that the copy of Microsoft Office that came with the laptop crapped out after a thirty-day trial. Okay, that’s a bit of a nuisance, especially for a tool that’s meant primarily to write papers and journal entries, but I can accept that. The cost of a proper copy of Office, nearly as much as the laptop itself, is harder to swallow. Setting up the trial copy so one cannot even cut-and-paste what he’s written using the trial copy into a new utility is abusive. No editing the document, fine. But the words are mine; I should be able to take them elsewhere.

Unsurprisingly, Microsoft clearly objects to the new, content-based vision of the evolving internet, text and pictures and sound and everything else available to all formats and all operating systems. Microsoft likes the old system, when all content had to be Microsoft-compatible to reach the largest audience, and all systems had to be Microsoft-compatible to access all the content offered under that pressure. I suppose it’s unsurprising, as well, that Microsoft would do whatever it can to delay and, ideally, prevent that vision, including abusing its users. I mean, Microsoft is like the serial wife-beater of the information age. They’ve got a right to their intellectual property. They have that.

But then, you have a right not to use it. Once again: Open Office does everything a modest writer could want from a word processor. (Presumably, the same is true of its spreadsheet, etc.) And you can get it without funding an evil corporation and, with it, efforts to sabotage your computer use and world markets for profit.

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