Do you smell that burning? That's all of the passion of people on a US Presidential election day. Pardon us if everyone is a little weird today. Of course, one of the discussions that I find pretty interesting is the "Vote, but only vote for someone who matters" discussion. It contains phrases like "Unless you vote for someone on this list you are throwing your vote away."
No, I'm not turning the blog political today, but I am going to spin this thinking a little. Essentially the idea is that you should only vote for someone who has a chance of winning. Does that mean that if your candidate loses that you "threw your vote away?" You have to vote for what works for you and you run the risk that you might not be in the majority.
Ready for the spin? Here it comes!
I see being a GNU/Linux and open-source software user to be the same kind of thing. I use software to get things done. Sometimes I have a business requirement to use a particular tool, but often the finished product is all that matters. I have consistently been able to explore new skill and do things that I had never tried before simply because I could download an open tool without having to wrangle money or licenses from my organization. It is true that the majority of computing is done on two specific platforms and there are clearly leading tools for specific tasks. However, in my quest to get things done I still have all my choices open. In most cases I'm able to do things in a way that is compatible with people who use commercial tools, so no one has to worry about it. In any case I'm learning about a particular skill in the tried and true fashion of simply exploring.
If you are voting today you should vote your conscience and not worry about whether your vote will count. They all count... even if they are only recognized by the people who received them... a sign that they shouldn't give up their cause, even if they don't win. If you are trying to get something done or build skills and you can't get your hands on the "right stuff" look around for open alternatives. You will accomplish something and either find that it works well enough for your needs or that you can more clearly demonstrate the value of having the tool that you want. "I did this with what I have, but if you buy me that I can do these other things."
Doing something almost always accomplishes more than doing nothing.
There's a Storm brewing
I want to take a quick opportunity to send my heart out to the people who are victims of the storms along the East coast in the United States. Nature is a tremendous force that we do not fully appreciate until there are events like this. I hope your family and friends are safe and unharmed. My condolences to all who did not make it through unscathed.
I'm going to turn to a different storm, now. Twitter has created the interesting phenomenon of a massive stream of real-time data from people all over the world. There is an incredible wealth of information in there, if only you could get it out. One of the tools which might help is Twitter Storm. While not brand new it's a relatively new player in the data space. M. Tim Jones takes some time to introduce it and lead you into the basics in this developerWorks article, "Process real-time big data with Twitter Storm - An introduction to streaming big data". Take a look at it and other material in the Open Source section.