GNU/Linux Desktop Survival Guide
by Graham Williams
Why bother with open source software when Microsoft has the market sewn up? But does Microsoft have the monopoly? Certainly it has the market share to force its will commercially. But open source has significant, often unrecognised, market share.
The cost of GNU/Linux (it is freely available for no purchase fee to whoever wants it) is not necessarily the primary issue! In fact, the driving force has been the freedom to access the source code and to use the software without limitation. If we have a new idea and want to implement that in the Microsoft operating system, we can not. We are free to do so with open source software. Usability, reliability, security, and developerability are often the most important issues for many users, and this is where open source excels.
GNU/Linux offers a value proposition that money can not buy! The investment in GNU/Linux is really an investment in human beings working to bring a better and coordinated solution to the organisation. A solution that in the long run delivers more for less, without the traditional tie-in of proprietary systems.
Where does open source play a role in the computing world? In fact, everywhere! In November 2005, 71% of web servers in the world were running apache and 20% were running Microsoft's IIS. In 2006 IBM noted that GNU/Linux has won the server market, with 83% of servers being sold running GNU/Linux. The open source implementation of domain name services (which provide the backbone system for the web names that we see all the time) has 95% of the market. The open source sendmail email server has 42% of the market compared to Microsoft Exchange's 18%. And the secure shell market is dominated, 89%, by the open source OpenSSH.
But what is wrong with proprietary systems? Look at Microsoft's power from proprietary MS/Word documents - on 27 October 2005 (see Infoworld and Neowin) they threatened to remove MS/Word from South Korea because they did not agree with its free trade investigations into their commercial practises. This would have an adverse impact on government and industry who have locked in to the proprietary format and potentially would no longer have access to their own documents. Of course Microsoft is keen to retain proprietary formats and its ability to sway governments to suit its interests, rather than yours.
We begin here with a review of major decisions by governments and organisations the world over to move to open standards and open source, then review some of the key benefits of such an approach.