From: Peter Schlumpf [mailto:pschlumpf@...]
>From: "Erkens, Carol (LIB)" <cerkens@...>
>Sent: Oct 31, 2003 8:39 AM
>>***I think the "expense" part comes from having someone take the time to
>>learn OSS systems enough to install, setup and maintain them. I know it's
>>taken me a year to get the basics of php/mysql/apache/FreeBSD to install,
>>setup and run a R&D database website, the prototype for the new website
>>designing. I'm by no means a "guru" but feel pretty confident. For most
>>MS-only systems you can find admins a dime a dozen (what with the economy
>>the way it is) and therefore the initial "expense" is out of the way for
>>staff. **But** if you factor in the cost of software, you can run in to
>>With the 4 softwares I mentioned, the only "cost" was in my having to take
>>the time to learn it all...the software is Opensource. Anyone who says
>>learning OSS is arduous has never learned how to admin any system and
>>therefore has no basis from which to make a sound judgment. You would need
>>to get feedback from different kinds of system/network admins for that.
>At the risk of sounding a bit heretical in this forum, I want to point out
that you probably underestimate
the value of the time it took to learn the skills you acquired.
I would like to point out that "this is my job". Full-time Webmaster. Yes, I
was a "floor Librarian" before that but after much research, was not able to
find a "packaged deal" to fit our system's needs, so I had to design one.
Learning the OS (FreeBSD) and apache, perl, php modules was relatively easy
compared to learning to code in PHP (or ASP or JPS or CFM or any other
markup language). I learned to admin a FreeBSD Box in 2 weeks. Installing
apache, perl and php was another few days of reading about how to configure
and setup. No worse than having to do it myself with installing any basic
Microsoft software (not referring to any MSserver software). It would have
taken me that long to read and figure out any other OS.
Coding is a different kettle of fish. That is long and arduous task, much
like learning a foreign language.
>Generally the purchase price of software is insignificant compared to the
time it takes to learn the
>skills to install and manage complex software systems, open source or
If you will read what I wrote, (or what I thought I had written) I was
referring to library systems having to hire admins already versed in the OS
that the library has chosen as opposed to having someone "learn from the
Not having anyone onstaff who can handle the system is like between having a
fleet of cars that has to be taken to the shop every time something breaks
as opposed to having an inhouse mechanic to fix things.
> Time *IS* a very expensive commodity in most organisations and companies,
especially small ones.
>It may have taken you a year to learn the basics of installing and running
open source based systems.
>Though doubtlessly well invested, that's a lot of time.
See above response about how long to learn the OS etc. And again I say, this
is my JOB.
>But probably 95+ per cent of potential users don't have the time to learn
the complex skills needed to install and >manage typical Unix based open
source programs (and yes, for most people this IS and will remain an arduous
task. >Most people can't be expected to do that.)
I cannot argue with you here at all... it IS time consuming to learn new
software. But learning ANY new software takes a lot of time, I don't care
what it is.
>The time the user needs to learn these things really should be viewed as
overhead -- or a user excise --
>by developers of software. It is something to be minimised, because it
takes time away from what the users
>really want to do, which is to be able to use their tools -- not to have
to fiddle with them --
>and get on with their work. They just want to use the software to get
their jobs done.
Yeah, I'd love to have my "bought software" work right out of the box
without my having to know how it works, but I tell ya, I still don't know
everything Photoshop does, nor can I apply everything I've read about what
it _Can_ do. Nor do I know everything about all the other software I use.
It's a matter of time/priority.
>As an analogy, most people probably would not get a washing machine that
came disassembled as parts
>from several independent vendors, and required some knowledge of mechanics
and electricity to put together
>and get up and running. Most people just want to plug the finished product
in the wall and get
>their clothes clean, even if it means paying a price.
But most people should know enough to do routine maintenance. Or have
service contracts, which some OpenSource software provides.
>As developers of open source solutions we need to jettison the RTFM
mentality and lower the barrier of
> entry. Don't turn the user into a sysadmin. We can't expect the average
end user to learn to
So it's a matter of hiring a Microsoft admin or a Linux/Unix/FreeBSD admin?
Or not having anyone on staff who can fix computer problems? Anyone "hired"
or promoted to the "Database Admin" position, to run the library catalog or
webpage, _Should_ have training in how the OS works, no matter _What_ it is.
> Until an open souce library system is elegantly designed and packaged in
an easy to install and use form,
>with the underlying technology interfaced away, it will never gain wide
acceptance in the mainstream
>library automation marketplace, especially those areas that stand to
benefit the most from the economical
>and effective solution that open source software could provide. Until then
OSS software for libraries
>will remain on the periphery, those curious but dark corners where only
sysadmins and intrepid techies
>dare to tread.
I'm neither a developer, sysadmin (by education, I have an MLS) and I don't
consider myself a "techie". I do, though, think it would be better to have a
simpler install of software. Believe me, if we could have afforded it, I
would have said, yeah go with Cold Fusion and have Macromedia install
it...BUT, being the webmaster, I would have STILL needed to learn how to
code the scripts.
For our catalog system, we use a unix-based software ....and are at the
mercy of the Vendor for upgrades, patches, system failures, security
holes/leaks etc. . Their techs don't even KNOW how to install Apache beyond
a basic, unsecured install, much less anything else. A few times a year, our
Database Admin (who started out as a librarian, just like me) has to go to
Utah for conferences on how to run the software or RTFM or call for
"support" which costs money. I can't see that as too "user friendly".
This is just my perspective and do not reflect the views of my employer.
I'm not disputing that software needs to be easier to install and
understand. Any software. And "Point and Click" is easier than lines of
code...oh yeah. What I'm saying is, a library system needs to explore all
variables before choosing a system/software and not be frightened away by
"how much time it takes" to learn. Or else be willing to hire someone who
already knows how it works. When are the OS Library software vendors
planning on having training sessions to teach how the software works? Are
any of them planning on instillation and service contracts? When OSS starts
training sessions, even using people in the areas of the country who _Use_
the software teach the sessions, then more people may be willing to use
them. If support is out there, human being support you can call on the
phone, (not wading through miles of forums or archived emails), then you're
getting more user-friendly. OSS needs, _Not_ the "pretty interface" but the
>Peter Schlumpf, Project Manager
>Avanti Library Systems
Carol Erkens, Webmaster
Omaha Public Library
"Slick doesn't always mean better, it just looks prettier as it crashes."