Me, Linux, and Open Source - A personal reflection

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 This article is a bit of my personal feelings toward recent development that is happening in Indonesia. How Microsoft is so agresive and 'spectacular' in penetrating major aspects of Indonesian people's life, such as in businesses, government, and education. This article hopefully can also be a reference for those who are still hesitate in using Linux and Open Source Software.

We are seeing interesting development in the first part of 2005 in Indonesia, regarding the battle between Microsoft and Open Source Movement, especially Linux. Those are such as:

  1. The government of Indonesia has put the law of Intellectual Property No. 19/2002 effective in July 2003. However, the major impact of it has just been seen in the beginning of 2005, when police and BSA conducted some major raids on Internet cafes and companies. BSA even place a big ads in several well known Indonesian newspaper offering rewards up to 50.000.000 rupiahs (more than 5,000 US dollars) for those who can report illegal use of it's partners software, especially Microsoft's.

  2. The government of Indonesia visited Microsoft headquarters in June and asked Bill Gates to be an official chancellor of IT for the government.

  3. Using the force of the law of Intellectual Property, Microsoft and it's partners actively move in educational sector, with a very generous price discount on many of it's products in the form of School Agreement.

Now, what is so interesting about the above mentioned matters?

  1. Eventhough many of us were surprised by the raids on internet cafes and companies, but recently the scale of the raid has been greatly diminished. Why? Because Microsoft know, if they are too tough in doing the raids, there will be a panic among users who using pirated Microsoft software. And for those who don't have enough budget to buy legal software, they might be forced to switch to Open Source alternatives. With this 'pull-push' strategy of Microsoft, they can prevent a major switch to FOSS from happening.

  2. The government of Indonesia surely wants to show goodwill by trying to lower the rate of piracy software to attract more foreign investors. There was rumor that Microsoft agreed to 'legalized' the use of pirated Microsoft in all government PCs for jut 1 dollar. But later, they denied it. Of course, if they agreed to give it away, they would have been forced to give it away too for other countries.

  3. School Agreement. Literarly means that school agrees to buy licensed Microsoft products with a very low price and other benefits such as teacher training in using Microsoft Office for a certain amount of time. This is really sweet and generous of Microsoft, but not without a catch. Microsoft are giving away many of it's products almost 'free' to schools because they know that the educational sector is where their biggest users based lay. There are millions of students each year trained to use Microsoft Office, for example. And as we know, the younger something is implanted in a child mind, the harder it will to try to replace it in the future. This is really a brilliant strategy from Microsoft.

Linux as a server is OK, now how about as a desktop?


Linux as a server is proven to have good records. Linux servers are know to be reliable, stable, highly perform, and of course, more economical. But how about the use of Linux in desktop?


Previously, the use of Linux in desktop was still very limited and burdened with limited good hardware drivers, the appearance of not so good of it's Xwindow, the office application that is not so intuitive, etc.


But, since the launch of Linux Desktop Initiative on January 20, 2004 by Open Souce Development Lab, now the development of Linux desktop is very encouraging. What is OSDL? They are a global consortium whose aim to accelerate the adoption of Linux (www.osdl.org).


I experience this myself. Starting when I first try Redhat 7.3 in 2001. Many hardwares were not detected by it such as graphics card, internal modem, printer, scanner. Really, learning Linux in that time was mostly using text mode only.


However, slowly but sure, many Linux distos have began to show better support for many hardware configuration. And the next following years, I tried Mandrake 8.0., 8.2, 9.0, 9.2, 10.1, and 10.2. Also Suse 8.0 personal, 9.2 FTP Edition, and now Ubuntu 5.04.


In the beginning, I used Linux on my desktop PC only, but when in the end of 2003 I managed to buy a notebook, I said to myself, If I don't use Linux everyday, how I can know it better and love it more? Finally, I made a dual boot on the notebook, with partition of 50% MS Windows and 50% Linux. But after a couple of weeks, the partition became: 17.5% MS Windows, and 82.5% Linux :) Now, MS Windows is rarely booted in my notebook.

Linux Xwindow is not good? On the contrary, it's fabulous.

A few years ago, this could be true, but in the last couple of months Linux Xwindow has becoming better and better. Especially since the release of KDE 3.4 and Gnome 2.10. What, there are many Xwindow system? KDE and Gnome? Yes! This is the unique of Linux comparing to MS Windows, we are FREE to choose our own desktop environment. There are KDE, Gnome, Windowmaker, XFCE, enlightment, etc. Of which with their own characteristic.

Below is a screen shot of KDE 3.4 Kubuntu in my IBM T42 notebook. Not bad, isn't it?


Back to our concern, is Linux and Open Source experiencing defeats and decreasing? I don't think so.

The following is the statistic of arinet.org's visitors based on Operating System and Browsers used.



It's not a general representative of what is actually happening in the Internet, but at least from arinet.org's perspective it's enough.

As you can see in Picture 2a. From October to December 2004, 74,7% of visitors use MS Windows, while 18,2% use Linux. But, from January to July 2005, visitors using Linux rise to 28,6%. An increase of 10,4%. Not bad.

What is even more surprising is the type of Internet Browers used. From Oct to Dec 2004, 70,7% of visitors use Internet Explorer. Firefox comprise of 19,2%. But from January to July 2005, Firefox users jump to 35,3%, while IE users drop to 57,3%. This is very nice.

It seems that the Open Source movement's urge "If you can't or don't want to leave MS Windows now, at least try to use other FOSS alternatives on the applications" is quite working.

Long road ahead.

However, there is still a long road to go for Linux and Open Source. Microsoft is a very big company and has unbelievable big financial resources. As we know, Bill Gates is the richest person on this planet for the last 7 consecutive years.

This is also an interesting remark by Steve Ballmer (Microsoft CEO) in 2001, "Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches,"

And, like a cancer, slowly but sure, Linux keeps growing in the grass-root level, among the lowest level, among idealists, who have never tired of spreading the spirit of Open Source and Linux in particular.


Viva Open Source!

Knowledge belongs to Everyone.


Resources:

http://www.osdl.org/

http://lwn.net/Articles/66915/

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2001/06/02/ballmer_linux_is_a_cancer/

http://lonelymachines.org/2005/01/linux-myth-483-its-no-good-for-games.html

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_05/b3918001_mz001.htm?
campaign_id=nws_insdr_jan21&link_position=link1

v.1.0 by ari_stress a.k.a tiger74 a.k.a Fajar Priyanto. Jakarta, 10 July 2005. fajarpri at arinet dot org. He is a Microsoft Certified Professional, who fell in love with Linux. Works at an educational institution in Jakarta.

This article can be downloaded at http://linux2.arinet.org.

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