Gary Eikenberry Consulting
22-1010 Polytek Street, Ottawa, ON Canada K1J 9J1
E-mail: Click to email
; Web: http://www.geconsult.ca
Let's talk about Open Source software first. Yes, open source is free and that, alone might be one reason to consider it. But there are other aspects which go beyond the price tag which are important to understand when considering open source software.
First, the price is not an indication of the value. Many open source applications and operating systems are as good as or even superior to their commercial equivalents. We've been using Lubuntu Linux (operating system), Ubuntu Linux (operating system), OpenOffice/LibreOffice, jEdit, Filezilla, Mozilla/Firefox, Inkscape and a wide variety of other solid and stable open source applications for a number of years.
Second, the open source model means that when issues are reported with an open source operating system or application there is a well established support community and a core of skilled and committed programmers who are (a) ready to respond to your needs and (b) not firewalled behind a nearly impenetrable corporate structure and development schedule.
And let's dispel the myth that open source is only for techies. Millions of non-technical users depend on open source software every day and open source applications like Mozilla/Firefox often drive the development and improvement of their commercial equivalents. Add to that the fact that Linux-based operating systems are far more malware-resistant than Windows, which is a major consideration these days. Popular desktop distributions of Linux like Lubuntu and Ubuntu Linux are growing in popularity.
And what about the environmental implications of the open source model? With no products to sell, most open source software has no vested interest in the planned obsolescence that plagues the users of commercial software. While the open source model does include major revisions and releases, it generally tends to follow a more evolutionary development process that is far less likely to require you to go out an buy a new computer to be able to run the latest and greatest version.
- Ubuntu Linux: Ubuntu Linux offers a lot of choices. It's available in several "flavours" and desktop environments tailored to specific purposes and preferences. As one of the most popular distributions available Ubuntu has a vast support community, which means that help is very rarely more than a click or two away. Find out more or download the latest version at http://www.ubuntu.com.
- Lubuntu Linux: One of those above-mentioned flavours is Lubuntu. While we previously recommended Linux Mint, some installation issues and security concerns have led us to switch to Lubuntu, a lighter take on Ubuntu wich we believe is similar to Mint in its approach to efficiency and productivity. Lubuntu has access to the extensive Ubuntu software repositories. Find out more or download the latest version at http://www.lubuntu.net.
- LXLE: There are a number of light weight Linux distributions suitable for extending the life of computers that might no longer have the power demanded by the latest version of Windows. LXLE is our current favourite. LXLE is based on Lubuntu which is an Ubuntu OS using the LXDE desktop environment. It is designed to be a drop-in and go OS, primarily for aging computers. Find out more or download the latest version at http://lxle.net.
You can run any of the above Linux distributions straight from a DVD without having any impact on your Windows installation. If you decide you like what you see and want to install it, you can either install it side by side with Windows (assuming you have sufficient disk space for two complete operating systems) and choose which you want to run when you boot up or you can completely replace Windows. Why not pick or (or more) and download the ISO file and burn it to a DVD. Boot from the DVD and give Linux a try.
- SME Server: On the server side, lately we've become a big fan of SME Server. SME Server is a leading Open Source server distribution for small and medium enterprises. It is a simple, powerful, secure Linux server for networking and communicating. It provides a friendly, free alternative to expensive proprietary software, standing apart from the competition by shipping with most common functionality preconfigured, and features a number of popular additional enhancements.
- FreeNAS: Although not strictly a server, FreeNAS is an open source (FreeBSD) based operating system for turning virtually any computer, including our little Gigabyte box shown to the right, (note the Canadian toonie coin in the lower left corner for size comparison) into a NAS or network attached storage system for file sharing, backups, etc. Check it out at www.FreeNAS.org
- And (at the risk of muddying the waters) a host of others....
Even if you're addicted to Windows or otherwise reluctant to take the take the plunge and undertake a full scale conversion to open source here are some things you might investigate and maybe even try:
- New Life for Old Computers: http://www.geconsult.ca/newlife.php
- Smart Reuse with Open Source: Linux Goes Green: http://www.osnews.com/story/23451/Smart_Reuse_with_Open_Source_Linux_Goes_Green
- LibreOffice: The open source alternative to MS Office. http://www.documentfoundation.org. For anyone familiar with OpenOffice, the predecessor of LibreOffice, the Document Foundation is an independent self-governing meritocratic Foundation, created by leading members of the OpenOffice.org Community. It continues to build on the foundation of ten years' dedicated work by the OpenOffice.org Community.
- Chromium: For the truly adventurous there's Chromium. It has all the functionality of Google Chrome and more. Chromium is free with no function limitation and you can use it to surf the internet without Google tracking. But be advised that this a constantly evolving application and you may encounter bugs. http://www.chromium.org.
- SourceForge.net: One stop "shopping" for open source software http://sourceforge.net/. Filter your search by operating system, application category, popularity, etc.
But if you do go out a buy a new computer, what are you going to do with the old one?
"E-waste" is a growing environmental issue. Below are several links addressing this issue and suggestions (some Ottawa-based since that's where we're located) for less environmentally objectionable ways of disposing of no longer wanted computer equipment. And before you dispose of that computer, however you opt to do so, you out to consider what happens to the data it contains and suggestions on how to safely erase your data.