How Open are You?

Before I start, I have a confession to make – I am a Linux fan-boy!

There, I’ve said it. Happy now?

I know what you’re thinking. This guy is a geek. Hence, he must like Linux. This doesn’t concern the casual user.

Wrong!

The days of Linux as a black and white screen where you had to type in-numerous commands to get  to read your mail are long gone. Seen the new Windows 7? The new Ubuntu Lucid Lync (10.04) can beat the daylights of the Windows interface (my personal opinion). You say – What? Who? **nuntu? What is that?

Ohh! I forgot! You guys are new to this whole Linux thing. Let me give you some background before I begin my ranting.

The concept of open source has been around for quite some time now. If I may quote from the Open Source Initiative found at www.opensource.org

“Open source is a development method for software that harnesses the power of distributed peer review and transparency of process. The promise of open source is better quality, higher reliability, more flexibility, lower cost, and an end to predatory vendor lock-in.”

Please note the ‘lower cost’ bit. Yes, open source does not always mean that it is free. You have various applications as well as flavours of Linux (flavours – I know, like ice creams) that require to be bought. But the catch here is that after you have bought them, the application or operating system can be modified under the GPL license to suit your individual needs. Quoting from www.gnu.org

““Free software” is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of “free” as in “free speech,” not as in “free beer.””

‘Free Beer’! Hmm. I think I have your attention now. So there you have it folks, a software that is by the people, for the people and of the people.

Most of you have been exposed to open source at some point of time or the other. Remember Winamp? That is an open source project. How about everyone’s favourite browser – Mozilla? (Ouch! Do I hear Google Chrome users baying for my blood? My Bad!) Or better still, the Video Lan Player (VLC) – the one you use to watch all those movies at night. That’s right, all of these are shining examples of the open source initiative.

So, with that bit of background, I’ll plunge back to Linux.

Linux, for the uninformed is ‘a free Unix-type operating system originally created by Linus Torvalds with the assistance of developers around the world’ – www.linux.org. There are various flavours to Linux. Some of the recent ones that I have tested are:

  1. Ubuntu Lucid Lynx
  2. OpenSUSE 11.2
  3. Mandriva 2010
  4. CrunchBang Linux
  5. PCLinux
  6. eLive

I know, I know! I do seem to have a lot of free time (For all my fellow TAPMIANS, please note the word ‘seem’ before you decide to come lynch me!).

Some of the common features across all these ‘distros’, as the folks at www.distrowatch.com like to call them, include the lack of an anti-virus programme, excellent stability in terms of lack of hangs and crashes (unlike the more famous M$ W) and an extensively customizable desktop experience. Remember the hype that was created with the transparency effects that M$ promised in Vista? The hoola-hoop of stability and effects that the mighty Windows 7 offered? Well, I hate to burst your bubble people, but Linux had these features and a gazillion more (slight exaggeration) long before in 2005.

Some of the key features that have attracted me to Linux are:

Compiz: With so much hype being given to desktop effects like transparency of windows, raindrop effects, fire effects, cover flow like window switching, Linux was one of the first to incorporate these features in their regular distributions. Ever tried to set your desktop on fire? (virtually ofcourse!). Compiz was the programme that made it possible. There are a plethora of videos available on www.youtube.com showcasing these stunning effects.

Choice of different desktops: Keeping with the trend of giving users as many options of customizability, Linux offers various desktop alternatives like GNOME, KDE, LXDE, Flubox to suit each individual. Each of them offer the same functionality at the background, but the look and feel is completely different. For example, KDE is almost like a Windows interface whereas GNOME is somewhat different in its approach. A user can choose to login to any of the type of desktops, depending on his or her choice.

One Click Install / CNR: As mentioned earlier, Linux has come a long way from the command line interface of installing applications. Although the option is always available for the user, most new Linux distributions offer a one-click-download-install function that allows you to seamlessly use the applications on your desktop. Click-N-Run (CNR) is also advocated by a lot of distributions .This simply means going to a website and directly clicking on an application link and voila, Linux will install it for you. Neat huh!

Plethora of Software: With a vast repository of software for each distribution available online, you can find and install applications for almost all your common and not so common tasks. Want Photoshop, try GIMP. Want Illustrator, try Inkscape. Want an alarm clock to wake you up everyday? Try Kalarm. Bored with the clutter of music players taking up too much memory, try various options like Banshee, Rhythmbox, Amarok, etc. Linux gives you the options to choose whatever software you require and remove whatever you do not need. See what I mean – Lean mean fighting machine! Even popular applications like Picasa now have been ported to Linux and come with the same functionality as their M$ counterparts.

Open Office: One of the chinks in the armour for Linux was the office suite. However, with the latest versions of Open Office, a M$ Office equivalent, you can now comfortably work with docx and pptx formats as well as the regular doc and ppt formats. The best part – all for free!

NTFS Support: Most of us now use the NTFS format in our hard-disks. One of the frequent questions asked to me is – Can Linux read and write my Windows drives? The answer is Yes. Linux  recognizes FAT, FAT32, NTFS and a variety of other formats. So worries relating to accessing your Windows partitions can go out the Window (I like this line!).

Live CD: I have saved the best for last. Live CD is a concept that allows any user to boot into Linux using a CD or USB drive without actually installing the operating system in your hard-disk. The Live CD allows the user to evaluate the Linux experience before actually installing it permanently. So, basically, you are running an entire operating system through the CD or USB. Cool right? The beauty is that you get all the functionalities of a regular operating system on a USB of size as low as 1GB.

The above mentioned points are nothing but the tip of the iceberg. Support for iPods, cameras, SD cards, etc. are all inbuilt. No more hunting around for drivers!

All this and more, backed by a extremely helpful community that is always ready to answer questions and give suggestions to extract the best out of your hardware, to give you the best user experience. See now why I am a fan-boy?

I can continue to ramble on the benefits of using Linux, however, I shall choose to stop here and save you the eyesore of reading through more of this. On a final note, Linux works on almost 50% less RAM (memory for the ‘illiterati’), occupies less install space, and boots up in under 10 seconds (Ubuntu 10.04). Wow! What more can you ask for?

Ok….Ok! I think I should really stop (willing myself to stop typing – somebody pull me away from my keyboard!). For those interested in finding out the beauty of this Open software, please feel free to contact me. For those interested in taking Linux for a spin, the latest version of Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx or Mandriva 2010.1 Spring Edition is available for download at their respective sites.

So, here’s hoping that I have managed to give you some perspective on Open Source and its benefits. Thank you for taking time to read through this drivel and for all you M$ followers, think about this – How Open are you?

– Prateek Swarup (2009-11)

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6 thoughts on “How Open are You?

  1. A good write!! It was as good as Open Source for the Layman… Anyways, a question for you, given all the advantages of Linux, why do people not switch to Linux? Is it because of the power that the Microsoft has to drive their OS to people around the globe? Or is it because of the fact that many, common junta feel, Open Source equals having a knowledge about how to code?

    Bugs me!!

  2. I love your passion Prateek. Linux officiado here running both Ubuntu 9.10 and 10.04 LTS. I have long since uninstalled XP, with NO plans of exploring whatever else the Redmond outfit has to offer. Good read.

  3. Thanks Sam! Currently on 10.04 myself. Planning to try out the newly released Mandriva 2010.1. Keep reading!

  4. Well written Prateek. This was like a refresher course for a non-systems guy like me. Quite extensively researched.

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