[OPE-L] OpenSource: a "new source of communism"

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Fri Dec 28 2007 - 08:09:00 EST

I doubt if open source software is totally "free". There are costs associated with its installation, modification and maintenance. People often talk about "free goods" (products) but usually there are costs, and the question is whose costs they are, and who pays for them. The dispute is often not really about freeware versus payware, but about realistic costing. Intellectual property rights can permit the owners of those rights to lever up prices far beyond real costs and a normal profit.

Poor old me, I am still using Microsoft XP - but there is a good alternative:

A gutsy new Linux system
By Paul Taylor 
FT, October 18 2007 17:34 

(...) I have been testing the latest version of one of the most popular Linux desktop "distributions" - Ubuntu (www.ubuntu.com), which became available for free download yesterday. Like Leopard, Ubuntu 7.10 had a codename during development: "Gutsy Gibbon." And, like other versions of Linux, Ubuntu is a community-developed and supported project that launched in 2004 and updated every six months. It is sponsored by Canonical (www.canonical.com), which has a simple, yet lofty, goal: "To be the most widely used Linux system and the centre of a global open-source software ecosystem."
(...) I have tried several Linux desktop distributions over the years but have usually been disappointed be­cause they have been hard to in­stall or lacked the polished features and interfaces of proprietary operating systems. I set out to discover whether the latest version of Ubuntu might be different. The first task for any prospective Ubuntu user is to obtain the software (see below).
Once you have a CD with the latest version of Ubuntu, you can either run it from the CD without making any changes to your PC - a good choice if you simply want to take a look at the OS - or install the full package on your hard drive. To replicate a typical installation, I first obtained a copy of the previous version of Ubuntu (version 7.04) on CD, installed this on a basic laptop running Windows XP, then upgraded to the latest version by downloading and installing a beta (pre-release) version of Ubuntu 7.10. The whole process was remark­ably smooth, helped partly by a step-by-step installation wizard that pops up when the installation CD is fired up (...)  You will need 256Mb of memory and 4Gb of free hard drive space. The installation wizard guides the user through basic questions and allocates some of the free hard drive space to Ubuntu; users can adjust most settings or accept the defaults. I ac­cepted the default that divided my laptop hard drive in two, allocating half to the existing Windows XP operating system, half to Ubuntu. You could choose to re­place Windows entirely.  Set-up, including downloading the new Ubuntu version, took about 90 minutes (less than 10 minutes once the installation CD was loaded) and, to my surprise, Ubuntu had no problems identifying and configuring itself to work with various hardware components that make up my laptop, with one exception: it did not initially like the 3D Nvidia graphics card installed in the machine. But once I enabled what Ubuntu described as a "restricted driver", it worked just fine.
Along with the operating system and hardware drivers, the Ubuntu disc also installs a basic set of open-source applications, including the OpenOffice office productivity suite, Firefox web browser and Evolution e-mail software. (...) Ubuntu 7.04, which Dell now offers on some desktop systems, was solid and fast and I did not experience the compatibility problems that some others have re­ported - particularly with peripherals such as printers and audio devices. But the latest Ubuntu version includes many improvements designed to make the operating system easier to use, more reliable and more flexible. These include advanced "plug-and-play" printing, enhanced browsing and the option of a smooth new user interface des­igned to make users feel more comfortable with Ubuntu.
(...) Although it is still early days, the latest version of Ubuntu looks like being a viable alternative to proprietary operating systems including Windows and OS X for a broader group of PC users. Ubunto's "Gutsy Gibbon" release may not be for everyone. But as I discovered, you do not need a PhD or an IT department to install it. Ubuntu 7.10 is worth considering if you are looking to minimise costs or join the open source movement. (...) There are several ways to get hold of the Ubuntu software. The cheapest is to download a copy over a broadband connection, but the file is 700Mb so it can take a long time without an ultra-fast broadband connection. Ubuntu is also distributed over the internet as a CD image file, called an Iso file. To install Ubuntu, you first need to burn its Iso file on to a CD. You need a CD/DVD burner, an 80-minute (700Mb) disc and CD burning software. If you don't have the burner software, the Ubuntu website, www.ubuntu.com, provides a link to download Infra Recorder, a free and open-source image-burning program with instructions on how to create an Ubuntu CD. I found downloading the Iso file and burning the CD the most time-consuming and tricky part of the process. Alternatively, through the Ubuntu website you can request a free CD that will reach you by post within six to 10 weeks; or for faster delivery you can buy a copy at nominal cost from Amazon.com or one of the local distributors listed on the website.

Paul Taylor tackles your high-tech problems and queries at www.ft.com/gadgetguru

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