“A foolish person only learns about fire when he burns himself”.
This is a phrase in my mother tongue, After being burnt by closed source software I finally made the switch to Free and Open source Software. This is but this particular experience is new to me and I felt like I should share it.
In 2009, after much research and reading countless reviews, I bought a Dell laptop for my sister. I had purchased a laptop without an OS on it. Well it came with basic Free-DOS installed on it.
I got the delivery at night, and like any other gadget that I bought I was excited and started to set it up without wasting any time. I had downloaded a Linux distribution called “Ubuntu” beforehand.
Unless you muster up your will and plunge into the water. You won’t learn how to swim. Without any deep knowledge of Linux, I installed it slowly by reading guides and help forums. My internet connection was not good since my neighbourhood had not yet dreamt of Fibre or broadband, I downloaded and finished installing the OS till 6 AM with good PPP and dial-up connection from local ISP.
I was greeted by the purplish and orange wallpaper, I poked around a bit and I liked it. It was working great, I wondered how can someone give a whole Operating System for free and that too with all the tools that are needed for daily task without even charging a penny. My sister liked it too. She still uses that laptop with Ubuntu 14.10 on it.
I was smitten by the idea and philosophy of Libre software and having complete control over your system and not having hardware upgrades forced on me was cherry on top of the cake. But as a professional Illustrator and designer, I couldn’t justify the switch. My heart was telling me to take a leap of faith, but my brain was rejecting the idea, because of lack of software for illustration and graphic design on Linux. I knew about gimp, but I had no time to adjust to a new work flow and some other workarounds were time-consuming. This was my initial assessment as a novice.
The Breaking Point
I had Windows 7 on my desktop workstation it got upgraded to Windows 8, I had Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscription and my work flow was near perfect. Then one day I read somewhere on Adobe’s forum, that if the Creative cloud subscription ends one couldn’t open their software. Which sounded fair to me, no rent no key to the house that’s the analogy I thought in my mind. But if you can’t even open the software then you can’t open or view thousands of .PSD .FLA .AI you have painstakingly created all these years. It was in fact, no rent no key to the house along with your belongings that are within the house. How can I justify paying rent to get access to my own creations, this idea seemed stupid to me. Some people on the online forums suggested that I should stick to cs6 but that will be outdated soon, and I can’t rely on it.
Also, Windows and Photoshop was being updated with new options and features continuously, to run them I needed to upgrade my hardware with more ram more G.P.U at a faster rate.
Then one day, I read a post from a French Illustrator named David Revoy. He had written why he chose open source software, that post helped me clear my mind. Now my mind and heart were all singing in sync.
I immediately started preparing for the transition. Most of the open source applications that I found suitable for my work flow also had windows executable, I downloaded them and tested them on Windows beforehand. I slowly converted all the files to open format wherever required, I converted my Photoshop brush tips to PNGs, I converted my colour swatches, shapes and other assets for the switch.
Now some of you might wonder if the open source application had windows packages then why am I making a switch to Linux. The answer is fine-grained control over the hardware and OS itself. I have used my sister’s laptop throughout these years for developing some android apps with her and I loved the freedom of choice it gave. It felt like I actually owned the machine which I can inspect and change to my hearts content. The OS never came in my way or was in any way hindering my workflow.
So once again I took a deep breath and installed (dual booted) Ubuntu 14.04 on my main desktop.
Everything went smoothly I installed all the application that I required, and I was back in business. One particular application that had a great impact on me was Krita. The application is so good that it feels like it is made keeping my workflow in mind. I read about it on the internet and the more I read the more I got influenced. I joined the forum and joined the IRC. The experience was overwhelming. I had never seen a software developer who actually asks the end user for new features and improvements and listen to them seriously. Their goal is simply making the best free digital painting application. And I think, they have already achieved that goal. The brush engine is the best, there are so many more features and improvements for my workflow that I cannot write it all here.
I suggest you to download it and use it yourself to know how good it is. I also warn you that is not jack of all trades like Photoshop, but a master application only meant for painting and creating original artworks.
Ever since I made the switch, I have never encountered a single problem. I share files as .psd (Krita supports PSD) or .tiff or .EPS. I have a Cron job set up for backing up my entire work and home folder. Even if my hard drive crashes I have the backup which also includes all the settings and assets of my software. I just need to install the OS and restore the backup. All my files and favourites brushes, swatches etc are there. I can do whatever I want with my system, My OS works below 1gb of ram without coming in my way, without all those update pop-ups or restarts pop-ups. If I want some software all I have to do is write
sudo apt-get install <software name> in terminal and boom! I have it installed it’s that flexible. If I don’t like the way Ubuntu is, I have a choice of hundreds of other Linux distributions to try.
I am glad that I made the switch, it’s been wonderful journey so far, and I am sure that it will be that way 🙂