In an earlier phase of my life, I worked as a professional astronomer, and I've loved space and astronomy since before I could pronounce the words. So naturally, I've gotten a lot of personal pleasure from the free software astronomy tools that are included in my Debian GNU/Linux system. But ironically, I haven't written about them much. Recently, though, I was asked a question which I used KStars to answer, so this is a good chance to talk about how to use it.
Language and lock-in
One of the favorite arguments for free software is that it avoids lock-in to a particular manufacturer's products. Something similar happens due to choice of programming language, though, which accounts for the sometimes-baffling project rivalries in the free software world. While this may be a surprising result to end users, it makes a lot of sense if you think about how developers—especially free-software developers—work. Occasionally, you hear complaints about these "divisions" of the free software world, but is this really a bad thing?
Why don't people switch to GNU/Linux? It's not the difficulty (GNU/Linux has evolved far past its Bash days, although it still stays true to its roots). It's not the stability (GNU/Linux' stability is far superior to Windows'). It's not the security (ditto the stability). It's the applications. People feel like they can't do things in Windows that they can in GNU/Linux. They can. But they don't know it. This book was written to correct that illogical thinking.
When considering moving a Small to Mid-size Business (SMB) client over to GNU/Linux or talking to someone who is considering the same, there frequently is a “but” somewhere during the process. The hesitation is one that is rarely talked about, or one that I have rarely heard; the lack of specialized applications from Independent Software Vendors (ISVs).
Google's new “My Maps” is one of the coolest new web technologies I've come across in a long time – I love it! But this, combined with an off-hand remark in a blog, got me thinking: where are all the free web apps?