Top Linuxy Alternatives and Staying True to FOSS

The past week or so has been a time not just of evangelism on the Linux blogs, but also of reflection.

Specifically, even as many Linux bloggers pondered the best ways to spread the Linux love, others have performed the equally useful function of taking stock of where things stand in the Linux world.

To wit: Following up on its “State of the Penguin” report from late last year, the blog of Helios recently posted a look at the state of Linux in the business world, specifically.

‘Advertise or Die’

“Most CEO’s and CFO’s believe, and rightly so in most cases … You Get What You Pay For, or … If It Sounds Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is,” Helios blogger Ken Starks writes. “Unfortunately, it is difficult to convince someone responsible for an entire business that Linux is the exception to that rule.”

Starks goes on to cite several specific obstacles and suggest ways to overcome them — but not everyone was convinced.

“None of this is going to do a damned bit of good until people hear about Linux on TV, radio and in newsprint,” charged Anonymous in response.

“The community has no one to blame but themselves for not getting the word out,” Anonymous added. “Everyone wants someone else to do stuff and nothing gets done. Meanwhile, MS and other software companies remain in the lead because people know about them. Advertise or remain in obscurity and die.”

Top 50 Linux-Based Alternatives

As if on cue, a recent article on LaptopLogic did its best to spread the word on Linux-based alternatives to many mainstream applications. Titled “Top 50 Linux Alternatives to Popular Apps,” the article covers myriad categories including animation, audio, video, graphics, office, utilities and Internet.

Garnering more than 1,100 Diggs and near 150 comments, the list generated a fair amount of discussion.

“Nice list, maybe I’ll stop using Internet Explorer under Wine and try this ‘Mozilla Firefox’,” quipped kd420.

‘Fundamentally Confusing’

“It would be kind of cool to explain which applications these programs are supposed to replace, but in general this is impractical because the Open Source equivalents are missing major pieces of the feature set,” Slashdot blogger drinkypoo told LinuxInsider. “The most likely feature to be missing is an interface that makes sense to human beings.”

Drinkypoo took exception to several of the article’s suggestions. For example, Handbrake — not Acidrip — is the best program for making video files from DVDs, he asserted. “XBMC, which originated on the Xbox, IS however an excellent media center,” he added.

On a higher level, though, the list is not just “fundamentally confusing (if not simply wrong)” — it also “doesn’t really tell us anything about whether these programs are a worthy equivalent to anything,” drinkypoo charged.

‘More Difficult to Use’

“Unfortunately, while the OSS (these are not Linux programs, really) tools are often more powerful than the commercial ones, they are usually much more difficult to use,” he added. For example: “I’m not one of the people that thinks that Photoshop is the moonshot of interface design, but I’ve spent a significant amount of time with it and the gimp and I can definitely say that using Photoshop sucks less.”

Still, some found some helpful ideas.

“I loved the list of Linux alternatives since there were a few in there I didn’t know about,” Montreal consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack told LinuxInsider.

How Faithful?

Finally, a poll on LinuxHaxor asked readers, “Do you use Linux as your only OS?”

A variety of environments appeared to be in use by the majority of respondents, many of whom said they were forced to use Windows at work — or choose it for gaming.

“I learned Linux like a lot of people did, especially when I got involved,” drinkypoo said. “By no means one of the earliest adopters, I began with Slackware 2.0 (on floppy disks) on my 386DX25 with 8MB RAM and 120MB disk. I’d had other experiences with Unix before (including SCO Xenix on a 286 with 1MB RAM and 40MB disk, and SunOS on a 4/260) and was amazed that my bucket-of-bolts PC could provide me with X11, Netscape AND a compiler.”

Today, however, “my primary computer runs Windows XP because the binary nVidia driver does not correctly support my Quadro FX1500 (it does in Windows) and the modem (which right now I depend on, sadly enough) also has problems even though I PAID for a driver from linuxant,” drinkypoo explained. “Their response to my complaints was that if I should figure out how to fix the driver, they would be glad to ship my solution to other people.”

When it comes right down to it, though, “I did make Linux more or less work on my system, and probably could have stuck with it if it weren’t for gaming,” he added.

‘Linux Just Keeps Getting Better’

So where, exactly, do things stand in the Linux sphere?

“One thing is clear: GNU/Linux is happening,” educator and blogger Robert Pogson told LinuxInsider. “The chatter about GNU/Linux has reached a crescendo.”

OEMs “are pumping out netbooks and selling out with GNU/Linux; new products are announced almost weekly,” he explained. “Firms stuck on Wintel are sagging with the economic downturn while firms running with GNU/Linux are keeping busy. The emerging markets for GNU/Linux are still hot while the places that other OS is popular are cool.”

In short, “MSFT is sagging on the client segment and blaming netbooks, while RedHat and Novell are doing well” — though “netbooks are only half of M$’s problem,” Pogson said. “That other OS is the other half. Old versions of that other OS are better than the new ones, while GNU/Linux just keeps getting better.”


  • I wanted to see if I could give up Windows XP and survive with Ubuntu. I have been using Ubuntu as my only OS now for two years, and my opinion is that it’s not any worse than Windows to install and configure. Your mileage may vary, but for me, any additional hassle (wireless adapters, for example) is offset by the additional flexibility Linux gives me in things like media playing and control over system updates.

    Linux works for me, and, since the cost of trying it is zero, downloading, burning and booting an Ubuntu live CD is probably worth your effort if you are interested in exploring alternatives to Windows.

  • When I heard that the Linux Foundation was having a Linux user advertisement contest I said that it is about time!!!

    I second the persons notion who said that until he sees Linux ads on TV and elsewhere it will not be enough. I can not agree more. I want those user generated GNU+Linux ads on TV like last year already!!! These things do not happen with out cash and Lord knows that the Linux Foundation knows where to get it if it wants.

  • From the global perspective, one does get what one pays for. That is, there is a cost of production but the means of production can be paid for indirectly. Businesses often pay A for the installation of a software system, while A pays a couple of suppliers and so on in a tree structure of transactions. With FLOSS, there is a structure and it can be a tree, but it can also be a mesh with the business obtaining a system being anywhere in the mesh, fulfilling any role, not necessarily paying for stuff at the end-user point.

    Businesses can support the web of FLOSS in many other ways than paying a clearly-defined transaction cost:

    *hiring one or more developers/packagers who contribute to FLOSS as part of their employment or not

    *donating to a FLOSS organization/project money/equipment/information/licences/copyrights

    *advertising for FLOSS

    *charity of any kind somehow giving back to the web that provided them software (e.g. education, training, seed capital/equipment)

    The bean-counters need to see FLOSS as not something bought but something shared. Linus said it best when he said "Imagine ten people putting in 1 hour each every day on the project. They put in one hour of work, but because they share the end results they get nine hours of "other peoples work" for free. It sounds unfair: get nine hours of work for doing one hour. But it obviously is not." The same is true for a business using but not paying for GNU/Linux. It is not a zero-sum game but a process of sharing.

    GNU/Linux is a cooperative product of the whole world. Every business is a part of the world.

    This is why M$’s way of doing things can be replaced by FLOSS. The whole world needs an OS and it can make one. The world does not need M$.

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