World's tiniest open source violin

Inspired by this XKCD strip, MaskedRetriever created a model for "the world's tinest open source violin," which you can use to offer mock sympathy to people who didn't listen when you warned them of the dangers of proprietary software and who've now been bitten on the ass by it. Erik fabbed it and it's playing even now.

Speaking of which: recently, a librarian friend was telling me that her collection had gotten an extra staffer that they'd been begging for for more than 20 years, but that they weren't allowed to teach this new person anything about cataloguing. That's because their site license for their proprietary cataloging software requires that they pay for another seat for every person in the department who is qualified to catalog, and they can't afford another seat.

Tiny Open Violin by Erik (via Make)


  1. I disliked that xkcd comic. He seemed to be claiming that facebook’s abuse of user information was due to proprietary software

    1. He seemed to be claiming that facebook’s abuse of user information was due to proprietary software

      The missing link there is the comic title — “Infrastructures”.

      Facebook’s abuse of user information was due to people not paying attention to who’s getting unchecked control over pieces of infrastructure. Another example of people not paying attention to who’s getting unchecked control over pieces of infrastructure is the use of the .doc format.

      1. But that is history now since Office 2007 you can convert “all” your .doc to OOXML .docx. Even the zip format used is now becoming ISO standard.

        Like many files I have from the 90’s, I have old Quattro Pro spreadsheets that I really don’t know how to open. Perhaps reinstalling the original software in a virtual machine and copy paste it…

        1. Well, no, MS Office 2007 can convert your .doc to MS Office .docx; the ISO OOXML effort is at best misdirection.

          1. The OpenDocument format is dated, by design, to fit the OpenOffice that is 10 years behind Microsoft Office in innovation. Maybe Microsoft wanted their own format to allow future feature improvements, or just keep their foot in the door on the market, but anyway it is now an open format fit for archives and supported on multiple platforms.

            Apple iWork is the one to take the proprietary heat for a while. Neither OpenOffice nor Microsoft Office can open those files, afaik.

          2. Sork you really have been swallowing MS propaganda.
            It is MS that is ten years behind Open Office. Open Office has a better feature set than MS Office. Word does not work well with long documents and still does not support frame based document layout very well. On the other hand Open Office supports frames very well.
            OOXML may appear to be an ISO standard but that was due to blatant corruption by MS packing committees with cronies. OOXML fails to define functionality in an open way that may be implemented by non-MS developers.

        2. @Sork:

          Gnumeric reads Quattro Pro spreadsheets.

          It does have a windows binary (Cross your fingers. maybe in ten more years, when you won’t be able to open your microsoft files, there will be an open source software that will read them).

    2. Precisely. Plus the fact the comic would have been so much better if it had ended after the first two panels — for open source software to be used in the real world, it has to deal with .doc and other MS formats, rather than smugly assert that they are proprietary. Nobody is going to install Open Office just because you send them a .odt — they are just going to ignore it.

      1. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah

        Plus the fact the comic would have been so much better if it had ended after the first two panels

        Your desire for an argument to go away because you don’t like it inspires wordless screaming in me, which I shall return to presently.
        Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah

      2. my friend, open office does EVERY format. i’m writer. i have no problems with it.

        “…to fit the OpenOffice that is 10 years behind Microsoft Office in innovation”

        again, i am a writer. i have no problems with it.

        1. I *like* the concept of Open Office, I’ve written GPL software myself (unlike 99% of the open source fanboys), but the point is it is only useable in the real world by using the .doc format (or .xls, etc.) — the whole smugness war failed — the first two panels of the comic captured perfectly the sort of fanboy who would send things out in .odt format and expect that the world would be so anxious to read his stuff that they would go out and install OO.

          1. yeah…but i still maintain that the third panel captures something else.

            no hate though man. :) keep writing under that gpl.

  2. Wow, the comment about converting from .doc to .docx is completely missing the point. Converting from one proprietary format to another one which is just as proprietary, but people are less concerned about it because it has the word “open” and “XML” in the name.

  3. An OPAC that won’t allow more than one person to catalog? As a librarian I’ve got to see this for myself. What software is it?

    1. @crios, as I understood the article, it does allow more than one person to catalogue, the vendor just charges more depending on the number of people.

  4. To break away from the xkcd comments. Does anyone remember the expression “Here is the world’s tiniest violin, playing the world’s saddest song”?

    It’s what a particularly hard-nosed tutor used to say to me and other students, and it’s effectively the equivalent of saying “boo hoo” to someone after they’ve told a self-pitying sob story.

  5. What they said was the library couldn’t afford to pay for another “seat” (user) for cataloging at the library, not that no more than one person could do it. Many software licenses require payment for 1, 5, 10 users and so on.

    Still wrong to have purchased that software and wrong for the software company to do this. Libraries are fee and open to all, and so should the software be. Has anyone from this library contacted the software company to see if they would donate an extra license, and give them credit for it? That would be my suggestion.

    That, or take turns at the computer. I don’t believe you can stop people from learning how to do things, license or not.

  6. It amazes me how here we have such an object of beauty, in such tiny dimensions and it can play apparently, but people can still find the time to whine on and on about what’s open, what’s not, and why which is worse. For farksake, use whatever you want to to read this page, but appreciate the violin!!!

  7. I really want to get one of those. I can’t remember how many times I’ve been in the situation portrayed in XKCD.

  8. I know I’m years behind, (and not a computer person to boot), but I’m a writer and I’ve always found Open Office to be more useful. It’s faster too.

    Also it’s free; considering it opens more formats and does pretty much the same thing I think open office is superior.

    (Plaus Acer put an un-installable 20 gig Microsoft office 2011 thing on my computer that I can’t delete and they refuse to give me the keycode to activate it!)

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