Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Are we trying to beat one monopoly by supporting another one?

Lately news about the support Mozilla is receiving from Google has made me think...

Firefox is a great tool, specially is you use Windows. With Linux or Mac/OS you have more good choices.

I promote firefox everywhere I go, specially in courses where I teach. Most of the computer labs I teach in have Windows XP, so one of my objetives when I teach beginners is to break the Windows+MSN Messenger+Hotmail+Windows Live+MSNSearch association that most of them love (because it is the only thing they know).The combination Windows+Firefox+Google+Goolge talk+Gmail+Blogger is a natural option but...

Am I fighting against a monopoly by supporting another one?

I've decided I'm going to change some of the exercises and introduce more tools to avoid this situation I'm worry about.

Firstable I'll use Yahoo again, like in the early days, once in a while, so students get confortable with it as well as with Google. Almost nobody uses Yahoo in Spain. I'll also use Opera, not just Firefox, until I find another browser libre (kde browser for windows?) that I like. I'll try to use pidgin or PSI as a IM client (kopete for windows?) and, by now, I'm not going to promote any webmail but Gmail or any blog tool but Blogger. I'll think about it anyway.

By doing this, I hope my student get more open to try different tools and I calm my worries about what it looks like it can happen in the near future.

If you have any suggestion, I'm open to read and consider it. Maybe switch to linux + KDE....right?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Desktops libres help to introduce other (libres) technologies.

In Gran Canaria's College (ULPGC) we are going to give a course about Ruby on Rails during the following days. The point is where are we going to do it. The computer lab has a nice structure based on one server with CENTOS4 + XEN + 4 virtual machines with Debian, and another server with W2k.

  • The first virtual machine has the LTSP system.

  • The second virtual machine has user's home directories.

  • The third one has some free desktops.

  • The fourth one has the monitoring system

There are some thin clients and some new and recycled PCs on the computer lab. The windows server will be used to check (through rdesktop) that everything it is done by students works on Internet Explorer. Validation goes through the old NIS the college has. This computer lab is called Aula Sostenible (something like Sustainable Lab).

If you analyze the ratio cost/power of these kind of structures compared to similar ones with propietary software (Windows, IBM or Solaris, for example) you find out why we are so strong. But most of this technology is some years old. We could configure something like this (or close) three or four years ago. What has happened for us to be able to sell these kind of solutions much easier now than before?

Mature free desktops help us to convince many people that software libre is 100% usable. That allow us to promote other technologies and solutions, like virtual machines, thin clients or monitoring software, for example. From a marketing point of view, KDE is a very strong way of breaking walls so many people open their doors by giving free software a chance. Many times you convince more people to buy software libre by showing your laptop instead of talking an hour about the benefits of this and that. This is something I live more and more frecuently.