Every day I make use of literally hundreds of interlinked projects which come under the banner of open source or free software.
I started writing this article on a phone powered by Android, in the Epistle editor, in the markdown format. The router I’m connected to is based on Linux, and I will post this onto my blog powered by WordPress. My house has at least twenty virtual machines running Ubuntu, on an ESXi host, providing a range of internal and quasi-external services with 99% of them being free software solutions. About the only software I pay for is games, operating systems and things that Atlassian sells (I’m falling more in love with them all the time!)
I think I have made my point, there is a lot of free software I use, and have come to realise it’s time to try and give back.
Recently I added a patch to the open source project sickbeard which fixed a cross platform compatibility problem. That was a good feeling, adding to something and helping someone out with something they couldn’t fix. It started with me having an issue, looking in their project page, finding a solution then going “I wonder if I can help someone else?”
RMB recently asked me for help with a problem she was having, namely inserting Latin-useful characters into Microsoft Word while trying to type up her homework. I pottered around a bit and ended up writing some macros which did the heavy lifting of inserting the characters.
While writing up the above article, I couldn’t work out an easy way of making the source available at the same time as being able to accept bugs for it/track versions, so I threw it up as a repository on github.
I didn’t think of it at the time as creating an open source project, more just scratching an itch. Thinking back, this is the genisis of most open source/free software programs. Scratch an itch, show it to someone else, eventually put it online and then a community grows. I don’t see that happening with this particular little bit of code, but I hope at least a couple of people find it useful!