Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Making the world a much more literate place. What are YOU waiting for?

Some great things are happening, again and again, with open source ways, more freedom and hard work in the community to help everyone, rich and otherwise.

People of Pittsburgh, it is time to get on this bandwagon. You need to be running open source software -- this year, this month, this week! We can't be left in the dust. The rest of the world is work and understanding technology. They are blowing past us. We need to take the plunge and get serious about OpenOffice.org, about open-ways and open-source.

The article link goes to three predictions for the future. One of them details the embrace to all things open.

Article in The Economist
Surfing—and everything else computer-related—will open

Rejoice: the embrace of “openness” by firms that have grown fat on closed, proprietary technology is something we’ll see more of in 2008. Verizon is not the only one to cry uncle and reluctantly accept the inevitable.

Even Apple, long a bastion of closed systems, is coming round to the open idea. Its heavily protected iPhone was hacked within days of being launched by owners determined to run third-party software like Skype on it.

Apple’s initial response was to attempt a heavy-handed crackdown. But then a court decision in Germany forced its local carrier to unlock all iPhones sold there. Good news for iPhone owners everywhere: a flood of third-party applications is now underway.

The trend toward openness has been given added impetus by the recent collapse of the legal battles brought by SCO, a software developer. Formerly known as Santa Cruz Operations, the firm bought the Unix operating system and core technology in 1995 from Novell (which, in turn, had bought it from its original developer, AT&T).

Short of cash, SCO initiated a series of lawsuits against companies developing Linux software, claiming it contained chunks of copyrighted Unix code. Pressured by worried customers fearing prosecution, a handful of Linux distributors settled with SCO just to stay in business.

But IBM, which uses Linux, was having none of it, and fought the firm through the courts until it won. SCO is now operating under Chapter 11 of the American bankruptcy code.

The verdict removed, once and for all, the burden that had been inhibiting Linux’s broader acceptance. Linux is now accepted as being Unix-like, but not a Unix-derivative.

Bulletproof distributions of Linux from Red Hat and Novell have long been used on back-office servers. Since the verdict against SCO, Linux has swiftly become popular in small businesses and the home.

That’s largely the doing of Gutsy Gibbon, the code-name for the Ubuntu 7.10 from Canonical. Along with distributions such as Linspire, Mint, Xandros, OpenSUSE and gOS, Ubuntu (and its siblings Kubuntu, Edubuntu and Xubuntu) has smoothed most of Linux’s geeky edges while polishing it for the desktop.

No question, Gutsy Gibbon is the sleekest, best integrated and most user-friendly Linux distribution yet. It’s now simpler to set up and configure than Windows. A great deal of work has gone into making the graphics, and especially the fonts, as intuitive and attractive as the Mac’s.

Like other Linux desktop editions, Ubuntu works perfectly well on lowly machines that couldn’t hope to run Windows XP, let alone Vista Home Edition or Apple’s OS-X.

Your correspondent has been happily using Gutsy Gibbon on a ten-year-old desktop with only 128 megabytes of RAM and a tiny 10 gigabyte hard-drive. When Michael Dell, the boss of Dell Computers, runs Ubuntu on one of his home systems, Linux is clearly doing many things right.

And because it is free, Linux become the operating system of choice for low-end PCs. It started with Nicholas Negroponte, the brains behind the One Laptop Per Child project that aims to deliver computerised education to children in the developing world. His clever XO laptop, costing less than $200, would never have seen the light of day without its clever Linux operating system.

But Mr Negroponte has done more than create one of the world’s most ingenious computers. With a potential market measured in the hundreds of millions, he has frightened a lot of big-time computer makers into seeing how good a laptop they can build for less than $500.

All start with a desktop version of Linux. Recent arrivals include the Asus Eee from Taiwan, which lists for $400. The company expects to sell close on four million Eees this financial year. Another Taiwanese maker, Everex, is selling its gPC desktop through Walmart for $199.

When firms are used to buying $1,000 office PCs running Vista Business Edition and loading each with a $200 copy of Microsoft Office, the attractions of a sub-$500 computer using a free operating system like Linux and a free productivity suite like OpenOffice suddenly become very compelling.

And that’s not counting the $20,000 or more needed for Microsoft’s Exchange and SharePoint server software. Again, Linux provides such server software for free.

Pundits agree: neither Microsoft nor Apple can compete at the new price points being plumbed by companies looking to cut costs. With open-source software maturing fast, Linux, OpenOffice, Firefox, MySQL, Evolution, Pidgin and some 23,000 other Linux applications available for free seem more than ready to fill that gap. By some reckonings, Linux fans will soon outnumber Macintosh addicts. Linus Torvalds should be rightly proud.

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