Sunday, February 05, 2017

Learning, Unlearning and Relearning

Most people will be starting work tomorrow. The past week has been good as the traffic in KL was still rather sparse; it was great being able to zip from place to place easily.

I've made a resolve to be more independent when it comes to work. I used to have to depend on the services of a graphics designer to do some of the design that comes part and parcel with app and web development. Engineers are usually hopeless when it comes to even the simplest graphics design. They are almost aesthetically blind, having no sense at all of the basic elements of balance, contrast and harmony.

I've been spending the past week doing some of the graphics on my own. All graphics designers have Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator as their basic tools. Many use pirated copies. I don't own or pay subscription to any of these tools. And I was reluctant to invest time to build up proficiency in using proprietary tools, even though they are considered industry standards.

Frustrated by the entire industry's dependence on these tools and how we are forced to pay for them, I made a resolve to find open source alternatives. Here, I'm glad to say that I've tested and found good open source substitutes: GIMP for bitmap images and Inkscape for vector graphics. Using them, I'm already able to import all my old Adobe Illustrator assets and make modifications to them. I am finally free, at least for what I'm doing, from the need for the services of a graphics designer and the tyranny of Adobe tools. And it feels very liberating indeed.

I've also made another resolve (I actually have new year resolutions after all!), to be free from the Windows operating system. Unlike many of my friends in the industry, I'm also not a Mac die hard. On the server side, I've been using various distribution of Linux for years and have no issues with it. My laptop is set up to dual-boot with Windows and Ubuntu. And lately, I've been finding myself using Ubuntu exclusive for all my needs and I'm doing just fine. GIMP and Inkscape work beautifully on Ubuntu. Being completely free from Microsoft, Apple and Adobe definitely gives me a great sense of satisfaction.

I rarely write about IT matters on my blog, even though that's been my profession all these years. Today's entry must seem like a rare exception. But I'm also trying to inject fresh subjects into this blog of mine and there are many philosophical insights that one can gain from IT too. These will be interesting blog topics for the future.

I guess 16 years is long enough time for me to get over any disillusionment I had with the industry. I realized that it is the only industry where the skill to learn is perhaps the most valuable skill of all. The pace of change in this technology is staggering and the only survival skill one needs is the skill to re-skill oneself. As the eminent futurist Alvin Toffler once said: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

And that's the only thing that I've been doing consistently all my life.

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