Linux in the small office environment

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The other day I saw in the CNN website a small article on Gorbachev’s plead to Bill Gates regarding a lawsuit Microsoft had pending against a Russian teacher who was using illegal copies of Windows in a rural school in Siberia. According to the local laws, the teacher was liable for a jail sentence in a
Siberia camp for software piracy. Mr. Gorbachev was requesting Mr. Gates to please assist the poor fellow by retiring the accusation.
 A few days later my dad made a similar request. They have a very small shop where they have two computers, and were curious about his lack of original disks in case he ever got audited. Mind you, they have pre-installed Windows OEM, but the lack of a real drive sometimes is enough to cause paranoia.  Upon the question, my immediate answer was “why not install Ubuntu Linux?” And I mean Ubuntu because that is my distribution of choice. The question, if simple, is evident and yet perplexing. Most people will prefer to spend their time finding ways to pirate software than the same time installing and learning how to use Linux and other open source technologies.   Why? I am the first to agree installing and using Linux is not 100% fool proof. But the latest distribution packages have made it incredibly easy. The Gnome and KDE desktops look very nice lately, and incredibly stable. If your main use if office and administrative work, Open Office is a sure competitor with MS Office. I couldn’t think of anything in my actual consulting work for brand name companies that I couldn’t accomplish with Open Office as opposed to MS Office.  

And for web use, Linux comes on top, without all the virus hassles. Web based programs like Rails databases, o LAMP applications run so much better on Linux than other OS.  And all of this for free. No need to hide your CD copies. Show them to the world. That is called Linux pride! The only place where Linux still lags behind is desktop publishing and graphic design, as The Gimp is still not Photoshop. But if you can afford a big screen, Gimp can take you very far without too much of a learning curve.  

And the question remains: why use a pirate or dubious software when you can have peace of mind and probably the most sophisticated OS for free? I think that most Linux users are still seen as geeks (and most of the Linux community makes no quarrels to promote that image.) Linux people insist on the joys of command line, bash, gawk, top, tail, .irc profiles and the like, while most users just want to know how to manage their documents folder.  Can we improve the user experience, much a la Mac style, to promote the Linux small office user base?

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