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The Network is the Document

The way I use my computer or rather, the way I relate to computers in general is changing. Used to be that computers were some kind of desktop publishing thing. Using a computer meant creating some document or report that would ultimately be printed out. A good computer would be one that had a nice printer and a suite of desktop publishing software installed. Like Microsoft Office.

At some point someone realized that you really didn't need a printer for every PC. Especially in a work environment, you could have a bunch of PCs (and even Macs) that would share a community printer. Productivity in this case would consist of creating your document and then waiting around watching to see when your print job would come out of the printer.

The other day my friend pointed me to an article about OS X that included a point about how "Microsoft would never release a version of Office for the Linux OS", and that because of that Linux would never be a viable option as a desktop platform. There are probably many reasons that Microsoft would not release a version of Office for Linux. Because of the rise of the Internet and the interconnectedness of all computers (the ones that count are on the internet anyway, as a matter of definition) the desktop platform has evolved into more of a means of communication --the computer, and the network itself have become the document. To a degree larger than I had realized till recently this has made desktop publishing environments (like M$ Office) irrelevent. The network has become the document. It dawned on me the other day that I haven't used my printer --or even had it hooked to my computer for almost two years. When I need to read over some document (who really likes to read web pages while sitting at there computer?) I just sync it to my Visor and read it offline. Right now there are a couple of fiction books, several complete technical manuals, and many, many articles from various web sites on my Visor. I don't read stuff on there because it saves trees (that is a benefit though.) It's just a hell of a lot faster to sync something in there than it is to print it out. I don't have to worry about pages getting out of order, I can search on text, and it comes with a built in light source that I use to read at night. Paper is nice and I still like reading books, but in many ways it's hard to beat reading stuff on your pocket computer and back to the point I'm trying to make --the document hasn't left the network of computers that I use.

It doesn't make sense to have a suite of office applications on my Linux desktop. In the first place it goes against the *NIX philosophy of using small applications that work really well at one thing. The real reason though is that because the network has become the document it no longer makes sense to work in an environment where you are constantly looking at what you are working with as if it were just about to be printed.



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