Absence of open source at IUPUI

21 06 2010

Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis is an urban campus shared by Indiana University and Purdue University, two large, well-funded public education institutions. There are Schools of Computer Science, Computer Information Technology, and Informatics. IU’s University Information Technology Services does an excellent job of supporting students on all of IU’s campuses. (I am not just saying that because I work for UITS.)

However, despite all the up-to-date computer labs with dozens of computers, free software deals from Microsoft and Adobe, and 24/7 technical support, IU seems to be lacking one thing: open source. There is some Linux/UNIX software available through IU’s software site, IUWare. However, the amount of Linux software there is far outmatched by the software available for Mac and Windows.

Indiana University has deals with several software vendors, in particular Microsoft and Adobe. These corporations provide free software to faculty and students in the hopes that they will continue to use their respective software after graduation. A copy of Adobe CS5 Design Premium can cost as much $1,900. A Microsoft Office 2008 license can cost at least $150. OpenOffice may not be as feature-rich as Microsoft Office, but it would certainly get the job done for 99% of users and it’s free.

Unless it is detailed in IU’s agreement with Microsoft and Adobe that it not push open-source options too hard, I do not see why it should not become a bit more open about open source. At the very least, it is free software that the University will not have to haggle over every few years.

There. That was my first rant over open source. I will get hate mail.

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WebKit, two weeks later

20 10 2008

About two weeks ago, I decided that I would try using WebKit as my primary browser. I have to say, the experience was very positive, for the most part. For those unfamiliar with WebKit, it is the open source application framework that is being used as the foundation for several current browsers. Among them are Apple’s Safari (including the version being used by the iPhone and iPod touch), Google Chrome, and mobile browsers from Google and Nokia. Of course, that isn’t a definitive list of all the companies contributing to the WebKit project. More information is available on WebKit’s site.

Every night, a new build of WebKit becomes available in an RSS feed. They have versions available for Mac OS X and Windows, as well as the source code itself. I only downloaded nightly builds three times, with little noticeable difference between them. If you are on a Mac and using Safari, you know that Safari is really fast and loads pages very quickly. When running WebKit, it’s even faster. Plus Webkit scores 100 out of 100 on the Acid3 test, a measurement test for a browser’s JavaScript performance.

While running some sites, WebKit did crash where Safari never did. This is probably because Safari is a finished, stable product where WebKit is not. I do not recall the error messages I received. However, these crashes only occurred two or three times and did not really affect me too much.

In Mac OS X, you launch WebKit using a typical icon. The icon looks just like the Safari icon, but with a gold rim and a purple background, where Safari is silver and blue, respectively. I do not understand how WebKit works exactly. I do not believe it works as its own application, because it shows “Safari” in the menu bar. You really would not guess you are running something other than Safari, because the interface is the same and all of your bookmarks and history remain.

If you have not tried WebKit, I recommend it. It is a free download and easy to install. If you have used Safari, you should feel right at home in WebKit. All in all, I would give this great browser a shot.