Free software and open standards have always been a point of debate for the confusing line between hardcore tech world and the whole other world of users. However, very recently, tech pundits have beaten a retreat on the issue, claiming that free software and open standards do not really matter much. This can only be understood better if one understands the factors that have always been taken in to account in the face off between free and proprietary software or open and close standard hardware.
Every great country of the world is identified with its pioneering leaders who represent them. It takes a figure head to lead an endeavor to success, be it in a war, in an organization or in technology. The question people are asking now is does a free software need an enigmatic leader? Microsoft has Bill Gates, Apple has Steve Jobs, so does FOSS need a face for its machines? TuxRadar attempts to answer this question in a recent poll — does free software need a figurehead?
There have been several occasions where I have written about Linux and I remember most of the stuff that I have written reflects on how good Linux has been and the kind revelation it has brought about in the software world. Some have been on latest open source products like the New Linux Mint 10 and some other on bright forecasts made for Linux; some on its innovative ways of collaborating with private proprietary firms and some on the battle between Open Source and Proprietary Software companies. There seems to be enough proof that Linux has thrown up huge competition to the private proprietary firms.
Photo by Nils Geylen
Microsoft has been known for the proprietary softwares and need no introduction! There has always been a conflict of views across communities. While some claim that Microsoft provides value for money, FOSS activists have often denied it. Suites and programs like Open Office and GIMP have often been compared to MS Office and Adobe Photoshop, on various grounds. One of the factors being the price.
However, there are a lot of free programs that Microsoft has to offer. We list 11 of them, today;
- Windows Live Writer
This is undoubtedly the best desktop-blogging application that comes for free. The amount of flexibility it offers is matchless, making it one of the best picks for bloggers across the world, both professionals and amateurs.
- Server Quest Game II
Do you find it relaxing to sit and play on your console of PC for hours on end? Well, there is one more item to include to your inventory. If you are into classics, it is one classic you will want to try your hands on. It features the same pixilated graphics featured in King Quest and Leisure Suit Harry. The game is designed with Silverlight and runs on the Internet browser.
- SQL Server Express 2008
This is a slimmed down version of the SQL server but with the same powerful tools to enable you create your websites and applications. The server comes in three variations – Express, Express with Advanced Services and Express with tools. The program is simple to learn, easy to use and offers the same database capabilities as the SQL server.
- Office Accounting Express 2008
Structured on the familiar Microsoft office interface, Office Accounting Express 2008 is a simple to use but powerful accounting tool of all times. It is engineered to blend seamlessly with other office applications.
- SyncToy 2.0
As the name has it, SyncToy acts a synchronization tool that is tailored to help you keep duplicate files open on your computer or over a network. It is also a powerful back up tool. It has a simple to use interface which is a plus.
- Windows Steady State
If you operate a cyber café or a large class and the chances of computers getting crashed is high, you might want to try out Windows SteadyState. The program allows you to restore every computer to the first day of configuration.
- Worldwide Telescope
With images straight from the Hubble Space Telescope, this program brings the power of outer space exploration right into your house. You can engage in a rich user experience where you shuffle through hundreds of images from space.
- Virtual PC 2007
This program allows you to run several operating systems and applications on one physical computer. A simple to install and run software.
- XML Notepad 2007
If you find XML scripting task boring, you might want to give XML Notepad 2007 a try. Featuring different colors for different tags and classes, it is developed to make scripting and editing your XML files easier and fun.
- Visual Web Developer 2008
Wannabe website developers have something for them! This program allows you to get as imaginative and diverse as it can possibly get. Tagging along powerful tools, it is one of the easy-to-use web design tools.
This is simply a clever, well designed image editing software. Structured on the .NET platform, it is set to take your image editing to an entirely new level.
How many of these have your had a hands on? Which are the other Microsoft programs that are free to use? Do share your experiences with us.
Photo by Andrew Abogado
Open Source has substantially altered the dynamics of the software business that runs in the competitive world. It is not just a strong competition in the web-servers’ business, but a reason for Microsoft to cut down the cost of its propriety software. Microsoft shall not be scared of Linux taking it for a ride but there certainly is a price check. The areas for operations in Open Source have increased phenomenally and it is used in sectors where proprietary software once dictated the ethos. The increasing use of OpenOffice in organizations is just an example.
Open Source ensures win for those who adopt the Darwinian principle. It helps in propagating technology which is deemed to be successful in a business use-case, thus creating value for a customer which is the supreme goal of a business. It is better to face a real competition than existing in an oligopolistic market where the professionals always surpass the amateurs. These amateurs are the ones more often who have the passion and enthusiasm in them.
FOSS for the community
The most interesting thing that Open Source has to give the community of startups, bloggers, hackers, coders etc. is the ability to work from an environment which is driven by a society of like minded people and is free to use, share and extend. What sustains over a period of time is the bottom-up approach in which Open Source compels the amateur user to make what he wants; and if that’s good enough it survives and succeeds.
The greatest lure in FOSS is of it being free and community driven. Support can be made available at a price, when needed. There are companies minting good money, just by providing support, add-ons and customization to the already available open source softwares.
Back at a conference I attended earlier this year, someone said, “There are no free lunches”. I agree. But how about paying a small amount and you get to have the lunch and dessert come as an assortment? Above that, you’re entertained as a privileged guest. That’s how most businesses which work on Open Source development make money.
The CSC Leading Edge Forum report on ‘Open Source for Business‘ correctly says, “Open Source is a movement that is technical, political and sociological”. Though Open Source chairs Linux in the hands of the world as software environment, the open for everyone and collaborations with anyone approach makes the competition equal for all. There are also several key business driving decisions that have over a period of time placed Open Source and its relative strategies as the most important ones.
The promise that Open Source beholds for the business fraternity is real. Matt Asay shares a great list of 10 things that the world can learn from the Open Source fraternity. Open Source paradigm gives a feel that the software industry’s work culture can be well drafted and replicated in the other industries. Newer terms such as Open Source Business Intelligence and their implementations in real time business scenarios have proved that they are not just fad or jargons like others. Open Source is here to stay and it is also set to make a bigger impact on the software world.
Photo by SuMarDi
Over the last several months, majority of businesses have been hit brutally by the recession wave. However, it has served as a blessing in disguise for Linux and the FOSS world. A lot of large organizations have found Linux as a pillar to operate upon and migrate to, in today’s cost cutting scenario. This change is pretty much functional in the BPO sector as well. There have been numerous news on them shifting to OpenOffice and Ubuntu, leaving behind their MS counterparts. Free and Open Source movement has traditionally proved to be beneficial for innovation or research related work.
Open Source is one such model which has not been hit hard by the credit crisis and it’s aftermaths because of its open exchange business model wherein users contribute towards the success of one common goal and the companies make money but offering support to the client after the deployment of the product. The same happens with Linux distributions like RedHat Enterprise. The best part about Linux is that it’s not chained to a corporation, instead a community of enthusiastic developers and fanboys.
The severe liquidity crunch prevailing in the markets have resulted in a boon for the Open Source propagators. Many operations which can be run at a bare minimum cost will find its way up the organizational ladder and will prove its usage in critical times. Open Source will also benefit as it is often shipped with a free-license.
However, experts would know that Linux still has miles to go before it becomes a household name as Microsoft is. An IDC Survey reported,
“55 percent of the 300 IT executives surveyed already had Linux systems in use; a full 97 percent were running Windows.”
The key to promote Linux effectively not only lies with Linux enthusiasts but also with Open Source vendors who are yet to find out a way in which it can be monetized efficiently to expand recognition amongst its probable user base.
Keeping all considerations in mind, Linux is doing pretty well in the times when the best in other business have shut down. Earlier this year, Ken Huss wrote an interesting article on five reasons why Linux is recession proof and it surely does instill a hope within the Linux community. Today, when money and not time is the problem with most companies suffering with the recession wave, such initiatives can act as a motivating source to develop a product or service that the world needs; proving to the software fraternity that FOSS shall contribute in overcoming recession and probably stand out as a winner.
It does not require immense general knowledge to know that all those things that have been successful irrespective of their fields have had lots of myths attached to them. FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) being one of them and it is the responsibility of people like you and me to make others know that these logics are just plain and jane myths and nothing more than that. I feel honored to enlist few of the top myths we have in the society regarding FOSS:
- FOSS is 2nd Best: Presently the myth is not at all true as applications like Firefox and OpenOffice.org are equally competent than their proprietary software counterparts. But there are areas like OCR Scanning where functionality and usability still has a larger scope to move to perfection.
- FOSS is just for developers: Contrary to common belief, FOSS is not just for its developers, users and their founders. But in recent times there has been a plethora of opportunities for technical writers and other category of users to develop their expertise in the highly rewarding FOSS community.
- FOSS is devoid of support: The enhanced feature of codes being available to everyone actually increases the chance of getting software support. For example,Red Hat earns huge profits by offering support solutions to enterprises.
- FOSS is monotonous: Initial attempts of FOSS trying to copy and offer monotonous software has been completely replaced these days. FOSS now has revolutionized its business operations in entirety by being able to market its services domain in equality with the software domain.
- FOSS is not free at all: By contrast, there is just a FOSS license which has to be purchased and the result is an individual’s decision to use FOSS as and when he likes. Two types of licenses which can be used are BSD style licenses which are very permissive in nature and Copyleft licenses which are very restrictive in nature.
- FOSS requires money: FOSS is absolutely free and open source supporters’ infact have a long term relation as the availability of code and generation of ideas by interacting with the community serves as a major advantage to them.
- FOSS has lesser security: People perceive that things which are hidden are safe. But, in FOSS, the focus is more on the protection of information than the methodology used to implement it. Several codes are made and rectified in the public and it thus increases the knowledge of all the users worldwide.
- FOSS works just for small projects: The truth is that FOSS has projects ranging from medium to large scale and a few examples of it are GIMP, Xfce desktops, Ubuntu, etc.
- FOSS is only for software: After initial hiccups, FOSS has started manufacturing 3-D games, though it continues to be 2nd best because of the unavailability of free 3-D video drivers. Nowadays, several online games support Linux/GNU clients as well.
- FOSS costs nothing and does no good: The availability and shipping of FOSS actually costs nothing and is thus perceived to be not of superior quality. But, it being an exception has falsified the fact and thus presented a new business logic which says that “Free can be good too”.