Its the Night Before <Christmas>|<Hanukkah>|<Kwanzaa> and all through the house.....


Paw Prints: Writings of the maddog

Dec 24, 2012 GMT
Jon maddog Hall

It is the Night Before <your favorite holiday name> and all through the house, geeks are panicking because they STILL do not have some Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa presents for those they love.

Do not panic. With Free Software you can fix it all in a couple of hours.

First of all you need to design some nice cards for those on your list.

Go to the Internet and find some appropriate images for your particular holiday. Make sure they are covered by Creative Commons licensing or otherwise are in the public domain. Photographs that you have taken in the past (perhaps of the loved one at this same time of year) are also good to use for this. Holiday scenes drawn by young hands and scanned in are also appropriate.

Pick a nice phrase to put on the interior of the card. Stuck for something appropriate? Search the Internet for “<your favorite holiday name> phrases for cards”, substituting the name of your actual holiday in the proper place. You will find there are many helpful sites that give you sayings. If you don't find one for your holiday, try another holiday's name in the search and change the mention of that day to yours when you find an appropriate phrase.

Fire up Inkscape or GIMP and put the picture on one page with a “Happy <your holiday name here>” above, below or on the image, and your “personal phrase” inside. Save this into a file and print it. Next year you can use the same card for distant relatives.  Colored paper of a slightly heavier stock used in printing would also be fine, but that might mean you have to leave the house to do some shopping, and you have some money, and if that was true you might be tempted to buy a manufactured, commercial, heartless gift like everyone else....but I digress.

One card is done. Repeat for the number of people on your list. If you have the time and get good at it, you can probably put this into a shell script, creating a database of phrases and randomizing the selection of the phrase for each card. that too “commercial”....?

Now the hard part....the actual gift.

Remember the old adage: “The best gift is the gift of your time.” This is something that was definitely not a saying of most commercial companies with regards to gift giving, but it rings true. And in today's world, the closer the person is to you, the less time we seem to have for them.

For your mother and father, you can help set up their computer system for them. Or introduce them to a new Free Software Program that might be useful to them.

For grandmother and grandfather, help them create an on-line photo album with the pictures they have. If they have old pictures and you have a scanner, offer to scan the images in and put them in some type of order with the name of the people in the photo and the year it was taken.

Make a video of your parents and grandparents talking about their early lives, where they grew up and lived...what life was like back then. You can do this with a camcorder and FOSS software to capture and edit the video. This video will be useful not only as a present to them, but in future years as presents to people who know your parents and grandparents...and even you.

For your siblings you can show them a FOSS music player or introduce them to Audacity or Openshot or some other multimedia tool to make music or videos.

For little children you can introduce them to TuxPaint, or some other FOSS game that they can play for free.

If you say to yourself “Great idea maddog, but I do not know how to use these programs myself”, then what you put inside the card is a written promise to give them one day of your time in the next year to help them do these things with Free Software. This “IOU” will give you the time to learn how to do that particular thing, and then you can spend the time showing them how to use it and helping them to arrange their pictures, music and other things. Now they have the “promise” in their card, and then you will learn something new and you will teach them something new. There is nothing more rewarding than this...a win-win situation.

You are giving them the most precious and sought-after commodity you have...your own time...your own love.

Carpe Diem!

P.S. If you see this too late for the holiday season, this idea also works for birthdays and anniversaries - md

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