Thursday, September 10, 2009

Open source applications can help mitigate SME growth pains

You seek growth and growth is painful

You are an SME (Small Medium Enterprise), also known as an SMB (Small Medium Business), growing beyond the limits of hands-on management by the sole proprietor or a small number of partners working closely together. Your business is stretching the limits of QuickBooks, PeachTree or GnuCash. Your number of employees have grown to handle larger volume of transactions, but the partners still make all the decisions. You've reached a stage where continued growth requires you and your partners to delegate some of the decision making to employees. You find that you have a number of point solutions that do their job adequately but don't share data. You are relying on Excel for operational reports but it takes time and effort to pull the data together. You have come to the conclusion that you need systems that allow your Managers to be effective and feed you the information you need without drowning you in the details of day-to-day operations.

IT or die!

Information Technology (IT) has become a critical, competitive business tool for SMEs:
  • After the globalization of markets, SMEs have been under tremendous pressure to integrate themselves with domestic as well as global suppliers and customers to sustain their competitiveness.
  • Global players take a shorter life cycle to innovate and work on a fast turnaround time. This places tremendous pressure on SMEs as downstream players to provide the necessary support. With the addition of the stringent requirement placed by international customers, vendor support forms a crucial aspect for SMEs.
  • The availability of the right information at the right time is absolutely essential to meet the fast-changing market needs.

Infrastructure, desktop or applications?

For SMEs, there are open source options available in three broad categories.

  1. On the infrastructure side, you probably are already using Linux operating system in some areas and perhaps Apache, which is the most popular web server software. Open source has become increasingly attractive for SMEs at this level, the commodity part of the computing environment that end users rely on but don't see. Other infrastructure components such as databases, email and directory services use data formats mostly standardized that it is not difficult to move data between products.
  2. On the desktop, there are viable open source options emerging, which are covered in our other blogs.
  3. But when it comes to user-facing line of business applications, the criteria for evaluation is more complex. On the other hand, the opportunity for setting up your business for growth at reasonable cost is compelling. So, in the next few blogs, we intend focusing on this area.

ERP, CRM and BI require big outlays and long lead times, right?

You hear about other businesses implementing fancy ERP, CRM and BI projects - costing millions and taking several years. At the end of that, some of these projects fail and result in lawsuits. You worry whether it is wise to bet the business on implementing a few expesive, complex and risky enterprise applications, no matter how attractive the benefits appear to be.

However, open source applications have become mature and viable contenders. This is more so in the enterprise applications space. You can aim to minimize cost, lead time and risk in the following ways:
  • Cost: You will still have to budget for installation, configuration and integration costs. However, you can avoid licensing costs entirely, if you go with the open source software. Or pay modest license fees, if you decide that you need the commercial open source option. You should also plan for modest ongoing support costs whether you plan to use a commercial open source vendor, consultants or in-house IT staff.
  • Lead time and risk: You are not investing heavily in licenses and so you are not under pressure to go for ambitious big bang implementations. You can go for a phased approach, gaining incremental benefits and minimizing risk.

Open Source concerns

SMEs that have never implemented an Open Source application at an enterprise level, tend to have the following concerns:

  1. Concerns about the project viability: The worst case scenario for software buyers comes when the creators of the product stop supporting it or go out of business. Even when you license software from a commercial vendor, you may have to take precautions such as source code escrow. However, with open source projects, you do need to do your due diligence about whether the project is active and has widespread developer support. Once you have done that, you have access to the code, and open source communities provide many avenues of support.
  2. Concerns about support: Commercial open source software suppliers commonly provide service contracts to install, customize and maintain their projects. Payments can be tied to progress of work.
  3. Concerns about quality: The 2005 study of software defect rates by Coverity found that open source projects beat proprietary projects on quality by order of magnitude.

Emerging Open Source enterprise applications

Though there are a number of categories within enterprise applications, we have chosen to focus on three broad areas - ERP, CRM and BI. Within these, again there are a large number of open source options. We will focus on a handful of these:
  1. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP): Compiere and OpenBravo
  2. Customer Relationship Management (CRM): SugarCRM
  3. Business Intelligence(BI):
    1. Front end: Pentaho and JasperSoft
    2. Data integration: Talend
    3. Data Warehouse: InfoBright

Options for Open Source support

  1. Commercial open source: Many of the leading open source solutions are backed by commercial vendors who offer installation, integration and ongoing support. Depending on how business critical the application is as well as availability of expertise within your employee base and consultants, you can consider this option.
  2. Internal experts:
    1. Community support: Successful open-source initiatives spawn active online communities that offer multiple means of support. These include documentation, FAQs, mailing lists and discussion forums. You should plan to have internal engineers who can be held responsible for systems and escalation paths should problems arise.
    2. Training: You can get your existing engineers trained to work with the software. Training is available from an increasing number of companies.
  3. Consultants: Consultants are a viable option for you if you don't have suitable staff or cannot afford full or part time staff. It's best to use consultants to help with the initial installation and configuration while at the same time training your regular employees for ongoing support. For ongoing problems, you can use the consultants on call as needed.

Guidelines for success

We recommend that you follow these guidelines to maximize your chances of success:
  • Evaluate with real data: In the case of commercial software, SMEs may often find it difficult to capture the attention of Sales people. This is because Sales people have a better incentive to pursue larger opportunities with billion dollar corporations. In addition, you will have to sign non-disclosure contracts and still not be able to get a full copy of the software for evaluation. On the other hand, the biggest advantage with open source software is 'try before you buy'. You can download open source software at your convenience. Evaluating it with real data will give you a better feel for suitability as well as provide pointers to integration challenges.
  • Dedicate a testing environment: Once you have selected the software and decided to deploy a pilot for testing, keep a dedicated server with necessary copies of the database and other related software for testing. Any configuration changes, patches and upgrades should be run through this first before deploying to production.
  • Start small and deploy in a phased manner: Plan on taking baby steps initially. This will give your users as well as the engineers an opportunity to learn as they use it. Once your team has developed some familiarity and confidence, you will be in a better position to decide whether and how to deploy more critical modules.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Beyond OLPC

Nicholas Negroponte, the founder and Chairman Emeritus of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Media Lab, started the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) project in 2005. This project has so far put about one million low cost educational laptops in the hands of children, mostly in developing countries. Though the OLPC project aimed to get to a price point of $100, the actual price for bulk quantities was reported to have reached about $175.

We need more such initiatives, to push the price point further down, bringing it closer to the reach of developing countries. Here we showcase some large scale educational success stories, at lower price points, where open source is at the core.

Macedonia's Computer for Every Child initiative

Macedonia is one of the successor states of the former Yugoslavia in eastern Europe with a population of about 2 million. They decided that if they were to join the ranks of the developed world, they had to be a knowledge and information-based society. In 2004 and 2005 they ran pilot evaluation programs. In 2006 a new government was elected with a mandate to upgrade the education infrastructure of the country. The people in the country agreed to a special tax to help pay for this.

In 2007 chose to deploy Redwood City, CA based NComputing's virtualization software and hardware with Ubuntu Linux 7.04. NComputing's virtualization software and hardware allowed 8 additional user terminals to be connected to a PC (That number has gone up to 10 additional user terminals in the newer NComputing product). NComputing's pricing is said to be as low as $70 per seat for the extra terminals. Including the shared cost of the PC and the cost of the monitors, keboards and mice for each terminal, the total cost was said to be under $200 per seat.

The resulting cost and power savings are critical to school deployments, including in Macedonia, because budgets and electricity are often limited. Macedonia also chose NComputing's technology because maintenance and replacement costs are a fraction of what they are for traditional PC deployments. NComputing's solid-state virtual PC terminals have no moving parts and require little or no maintenance, so the principal maintenance costs follow only the shared PCs and monitors. In addition, in an upgrade cycle to newer PCs, only the PCs themselves, not the virtual PC terminals, need to be replaced.

When completed in 2008, the program had deployed approximately 160,000 NComputing virtual PC terminals and 20,000 NComputing enabled PCs (which each also support a student on the attached monitor). Macedonia installed the open source operating system Ubuntu Linux 7.04. In addition, each computer was installed with open source applications OpenOffice, Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird, Evolution, and Wine. All of these were localized for the Macedonian language.

(If any of our readers know what educational applications are used by Macedonia, please share it through a comment below. Thanks!)

Brazil aims to bridge the digital gap for 52 million students

In 2008 Brazil decided to do something very similar to provide shared access to 52 million students in a cost effective manner. The chose a pure software based shared desktop solution from Canadian company Userful.

Userful software pricing is said to be less than $50 per additional seat in large deployments (not including monitors, keyboards and mice). Add to this the cost of video cards and USB/2-way-audio hubs, the cost seems to be comparable to the above.

The Brazilian team initially created a localized software package with Brazilian Portuguese based on Debian Linux. However, their current software release called Linux Educacional 3.0 bundles the following open source applications - Kubuntu 8.04 Linux (includes KDE 3.5.10), Firefox, OpenOffice, graphics and multi-media utilities and several educational applications from the KDE Education Project, Kdeedu. These are:

  • Educational programming environment using turtle graphics in the Logo language (Kturtle)
  • Periodic table of elements (kalzium)
  • Virtual planetarium (Kstars)
  • Training in Geography (kgeography)
  • Learn the Alphabet (klettres)
  • Study of the Spanish verb forms (KVerbos)
  • Japanese language reference/learning tool (Kiten)
  • Hangman word guessing game (khangman)
  • Game of rearranging the letters of a word or phrase (Kanagram)
  • Program to help revise Latin (klatin)
  • Design of mathematical functions (kmplot)
  • Exercise with fractions (kbruch)
  • Exercises percentages (kpercentage)
  • Interactive Geometry (KLG)
  • Drawing program for children (Tux paint)
  • Editor Tests and examinations (KEduca)
  • Game Simon Says (Blinken)
  • Flash card program used for vocabulary learning (KWordQuiz)
  • Vocabulary trainer (kvoctrain)
  • Typing Tutor (ktouch)

United Nations pilot program in underdeveloped countries

In June 2009, it was reported that a United Nations initiative has signed up Ncomputing to deliver 1,000 Linux based desktops to pilot programmes at schools in underdeveloped countries. According to that report, a pilot project has already been completed in Burkina Faso, with more projects scheduled for Rwanda, Senegal and Tanzania in 2009.

"The NComputing virtual desktops give us an important opportunity to significantly expand computing access and simplify deployment," said UN project organiser Dr. Paul Jhin. "This maximizes the use of donated and refurbished computers and simplifies deployment and power requirements, which are key issues in many parts of the developing world."

Sugar on a Stick turns your old computer into an OLPC

The OLPC project developed specialized hardware as well as software applications suitable for students from the Kindergarten up to Grade 6. These applications were subsequently spun off into a separate open source project called Sugar Labs. Now Sugar Labs has released these applications, that can be downloaded and used in a USB drive, for use in any Windows or Mac PC.

You’ll basically need to download 'Sugar on a Stick' then “burn” the ISO to the USB thumb drive. Once that process is complete, stick the thumb drive in the old computer’s USB port and boot the machine up (make sure your computer is set to boot from USB). Find detailed instructions here.

Sugar has 60 to 70 applications (called Activities) including vocabulary builders, graphical learning tools as well as advanced science subjects such as Physics. Sugar applications are unique in the following ways:
  • They are software packages that automatically save your work producing instances of the Activity that can be resumed at a later time.
  • Many Activities support user collaboration where multiple users may be invited to join a collective Activity session.

So what's beyond OLPC? OSSTMC (Open Source Shared Terminal for Many Children).

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Linux distro and desktop - the more the merrier, right?

Isn't it great that the open source world gives you a lot of choices? When it comes to Linux distributions, shortly known as distros, there are hundreds of them. Once you have selected a distro, you are up against a decision regarding the desktop. There is no such thing as one option that fits all. So, you need to know enough about the pros and cons of these choices so that you can pick the one that is right for you.

Before we jump into the selection of a distro and a desktop, let us briefly revisit the requirements for a successful migration. To recap from our earlier blog,

"What can I do to make sure that I will have a successful migration to Linux?"

You have to meet three requirements before installing Linux on your home PC:
  1. You have identified a demonstrable benefit you can gain by migrating to Linux
  2. You have done your prep work
  3. You have realistic expectations
By following these three steps, you will maximize your chances of success.

"Yes, I now meet all three prerequisites. Can I go ahead and install Linux?"

Sure. However, there is a mind boggling variety of Linux distros available. We will help you to pick one by shortlisting the leading distros.

Let us try and shortlist the Linux distros based on the following five criteria:
  1. Is it backed by a commercial vendor?
  2. Is desktop Linux for home a stated focus area for this vendor?
  3. Is a retail product available in the form of a CD/DVD?
  4. Are branded PC vendors shipping this distro pre-installed?
  5. Is paid support available, if needed?

We find that there are only two Linux distros that meet these five qualifications largely - Ubuntu and SUSE Linux.


  • Sponsored by Canonical.
  • You can download it free, buy it on DVD from Amazon or get a free CD shipped (takes 6 to 10 weeks).
  • Starter support for Ubuntu Desktop Edition is available for one year at $ 54.99 (as of Aug 2009).
  • Security update is available for 18 months from release.


  • Sponsored by Novell.
  • You can download it free or buy it on DVD from Amazon.
  • You can buy a package from Novell consisting of a DVD with printed manual and 90-Day installation support (by phone or e-mail) for $59.95 (as of Aug 2009).
  • Security update is available for 2 years from release.

Can I buy Linux pre-installed from a branded PC vendor?

Netbooks are a new category of small, light and low cost notebooks. We will cover netbooks in a later blog. For now we will focus on the home PC, either a desktop or a notebook. Dell offers a few PCs for the home and home office market pre-installed with Ubuntu Linux. HP offers a few PCs with Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop pre-installed. MSI offers a few PCs with Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop pre-installed. Asus offers a few notebooks with Xandros Linux pre-installed. Acer offers notebooks with Linpus Linux. It is a Fedora based version of Linux created by the Taiwanese firm Linpus Technologies with support for the Chinese and Japanese languages.

Can I get Linux pre-installed from another vendor?

Zareason, Berkley, CA and System76, Denver, CO sell Ubuntu Linux desktops and laptops. The Berkeley Linux User Group has a page listing a number of vendors who sell Linux PCs pre-installed. Please check references before you take this option.

Which desktop?

"OK. I have now selected the Linux distro. I am ready to download and install."

Not quite! At the time of downloading or installing, you will be required to make a desktop selection. You need to be ready for that by knowing what your options are. Though there are other options available, we will restrict our selection to the two leading desktops, namely GNOME and KDE.


  • GNOME is a very mature and stable desktop.
  • The GNOME project has well defined human interface guidelines to make the desktop and applications easy to use. Most GNOME applications follow these guidelines, resulting in a very user-friendly interface and common usability between applications.
  • GNOME doesn't provide a graphical interface for some of the settings. Users will have to use the command line interface for these.


  • KDE is also a very mature desktop. However, KDE 4 was completely rewritten and so had some issues. The recent 4.3 version seems to be more stable.
  • KDE is also better for new users switching from Windows, and relies less on the command line interface. KDE has graphical interfaces to do simple things like changing resolution, wallpapers and appearance.
  • Unfortunately, KDE does not use Firefox as the default web browser or OpenOffice as the default office suite. You will have to install Firefox and OpenOffice subsequently. (Please see our recommendations for applications.)
If you are planning to use an older machine and just require stability and an uncluttered approach then you can go with GNOME. However, if you have a newer machine, looking for a desktop closer to Windows and avoid the command line interface, then KDE is your best bet.

If you have selected Ubuntu, you have to decide whether you want GNOME or KDE at the time of downloading. If you want GNOME, you must download Ubuntu. On the other hand, if you want KDE, you must download Kubuntu, which comes with KDE. In the case of SUSE, the software ships with both GNOME and KDE desktops. At the time of installation you have to choose whether you want the KDE or the GNOME desktop.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

It's The Applications, Stupid!

As most Americans know quite well, "It's the economy, stupid" was a phrase widely used during Bill Clinton's successful 1992 presidential campaign. It promoted the idea that Bill Clinton was a better choice to improve the economy and in spite of significant foreign policy victories, such as the end of the Cold War and the successful conclusion of the Gulf War, the senior Bush had not adequately addressed the economy under recession. In order to keep the campaign focused on this message, campaign strategist James Carville, hung a sign in Bill Clinton's Little Rock campaign headquarters that said: "The economy, stupid".

Let us look at what is the top priority for Linux and open source users on a home PC. As I said in an earlier blog, it's the applications that entertain and inform users and let them learn and get their work done. To keep the focus on this user need, desktop Linux and open source developers and marketers need to keep a sign in their office that says, "It's the applications, stupid"!

A web browser, email, office and personal finance applications, in addition to music/video playing, photo editing and perhaps a PC-based soft-phone will cover the needs of most users. Of course, everyone needs a few utilities such as an antivirus software, a tool to do zipping and unzipping of files, a CD/DVD burner and software to read PDF files and view Flash animation.

Let us briefly look at what are the options available when you migrate to Linux.

Web Browser such as Internet Explorer

Firefox is a popular and mature web browser at version 3. It is developed by Mozilla Corporation and ships bundled with most Linux software distributions. An alternative, the open source version of Google's Chrome browser, called Chromium, is in beta for Linux and should be released soon.

Email and Calendar application such as Microsoft Outlook

Personal Information Manager (PIM) software typically consists of email, calendar, address book, and task management functions. Evolution PIM, developed by Novell, covers all these functions. PCWorld did a brief review of Evolution in April 2008. An alternative for email alone is available in Mozilla Thunderbird email client by the Firefox browser vendor. CNET did a review of Thunderbird in June 2009. Even though they reviewed the Windows version of this software, this may give you a good overview of this application. The calendar extension, Mozilla Lightning, is currently in version 0.9 and the 1.0 should be coming out soon.

Office suite such as Microsoft Office

OpenOffice from Sun Microsystems is a mature product in version 3. It has a full suite of office applications including a document, spreadsheet, presentation, database, graphics and a math formula editor. IBM's Lotus Symphony is a similar office suite that has only the document, spreadsheet and presentation applications. Information Week did a comparison of open source office suites in April 2009. This may help you choose one.

Personal Finance application such as Intuit Quicken

GnuCash has the ability to manage your money and accounts for a variety of financial needs ranging from personal checking account, to mutual funds, retirement accounts and home loan. It also has features for small business accounting. With support for popular banking formats, it may be able to communicate with your bank. It is able to import data from Microsoft Money and Intuit Quicken which will be helpful when you migrate. CNET did a review of GnuCash in June 2009. Even though they reviewed the Windows version of this software, this may give you a good overview of this application.

Tax Preparation application such as Intuit TurboTax (for US users)

This appears to be the weakest spot for Linux home PC. There is not really a Linux alternative, for US residents, to the popular Intuit TurboTax or H&R Block TaxCut. The only option seems to be to run Internet Explorer 6 using CodeWeavers Crossover Linux. Then you may be able to use the web version of TurboTax or TaxCut to prepare and file your income tax returns.

Entertainment and Communication applications

Amarok is a Linux music player such as Windows Media Player. Amarok will also synchronize your music to your iPod. MPlayer is a video player such as Windows Media Player. F-Spot, developed by Novell, is a photo editor such as Microsoft Photo Editor or Office Picture Manager. Ekiga is a voice and video Conferencing application, also known as a SoftPhone, such as Microsoft NetMeeting or MSN Messenger. Ekiga ships bundled with Ubuntu Linux. Even though Skype for Linux is not open source, you can download it free.


Brasero and K3b are CD/DVD Writers such as Nero or Roxio. 7-Zip is a Zip/Unzip application such as WinZip or PKZip. Even though Adobe Acrobat Reader is not open source, it is available for Linux and it is free. Similarly, Adobe Flash is available for Linux and free as well. For antivirus software, you can consider Clam AntiVirus along with its graphical front-end, ClamTk, in place of Norton Antivirus.

Sometimes it is TINA (There Is No Alternative)!

Sometimes you may find yourself in a situation where there is not a viable alternative for a Windows application. Some people have found the following as 'must have' Windows applications:
  • Photoshop
  • Dreamweaver
  • AutoCAD
  • Quicken
  • Quickbooks
  • iTunes
  • Many games
If you find yourself in this situation, as we mentioned earlier, you need a connecting software that allows a Windows application to run on Linux. You can try the open source Wine. If that does not work, you may need to buy CodeWeavers Crossover Linux.

Browser-based applications

If you don't want to mess with installing too many applications, you have more and more applications that now run in a web browser. These are also known as on-demand applications. For email, you can use Google Gmail, Yahoo Mail or Microsoft Hotmail. All of them provide calendar, address book and other PIM features as well. Google Docs, ThinkFree and Zoho provide document, spreadsheet, presentation applications in a browser. You can read a review of these office applications by Computerworld in July 2008. Similarly online versions of Intuit Quicken and TurboTax are available as well. However, you do need to install applications for entertainment, communication and utilities on your home PC.

Try out the open source applications on Windows first

In order to make your migration to Linux smoother, pick those applications that you more often use, download the open source versions for Windows and try them out first. At a minimum, you should try out the open source web browser and an office application as well as other applications that you use a lot.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Powell Doctrine And Open Source Migration

The term "Powell Doctrine", named after General Colin Powell, then the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who later became the Secretary of State of US, was extensively used in the press and TV with reference to the 1990-1991 Gulf War.

According to the Powell Doctrine, the US should only go to war...
...if there is a clear attainable national security objective and if there is an exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement and if ready to use overwhelming force to complete the mission quickly.

I can hear you protest, "But migrating to open source is not like going to war."

Yeah, I agree, it is different, somewhat! But I find that the Powell Doctrine is a good way of communicating this idea.

Sure, you can migrate to Linux on a home PC successfully...
...if you have a demonstrable benefit and if you do some prep work and if you go in with realistic expectations.

"Hey, that's a lot of ifs".

Well, that is my way of saying, Linux is not for everybody!

"So, Linux is for whom?"

I see and hear a lot of different views on this topic in blogs, forums and articles as well as in conferences and conversations. Mostly from techies and also from a lot of journalists. I am trying to put on my Product Management hat and look at it from the users' point of view. What are the demonstrable benefits to the users if they migrate to Linux and open source applications on a home PC?

Clear and present benefit

Let me try and talk about only the home user here. We will try to cover students, small businesses, schools, libraries and others in other blogs. Linux is for you, if:
  1. You are assembling or getting a PC assembled from a kit or a bare bones PC and you find that the cost of Microsoft Windows and Office is a big chunk of the total cost.
  2. You are on a tight budget. You are about to buy a netbook or nettop or even a budget PC or notebook and you find that the cost of Microsoft Windows and Office is a big chunk of the total cost.
  3. You want to convert your dual-monitor PC or laptop into a dual-station (also known as dual-seat or dual-terminal) PC. (More about this in a later blog.)
  4. You have an older PC that has usable hardware life but it doesn't have enough resources for Windows Vista or the forthcoming Windows 7.
  5. You are a techie and you have decided to switch to Linux.
  6. You want to avoid pirated software for legal or ethical reasons, but you can't or don't want to spend a lot of money for software licenses.
  7. You have heard a lot of good things about open source and you are motivated to migrate to Linux.
Let us assume that you belong to one of the above categories. You have what a Product Manager would call, 'a strong business case'.

"So, why are we wasting time talking about it? Why not jump in?"

But first you have to do some prep work. This will help make this transition a smooth one for you.

Scout Motto: "Be Prepared"

  1. Normally you don't directly work with the operating system that much. It is the applications that entertain you, inform you or let you get your work done. Almost all of the open source applications can run on Windows. Pick those applications that you more often use, download the open source versions for Windows and try them out first. At a minimum, you should try out the open source web browser, such as Firefox, and an office application, such as OpenOffice, and any other application that you use a lot.
  2. Test drive Linux using one of the following ways:
    1. The popular Linux distributions are available for download in the form of a Live CD. By booting from the CD, you can test drive Linux without going through an install. However, keep in mind that this will run somewhat slower than the installed version. You will not only get familiar with the new system, but you will also have the opportunity to test hardware compatibility and driver support.
    2. Another way of test driving Linux before taking the plunge is to install it as a Windows application. This allows you to avoid making big changes to your system, such as partitioning your hard drive. Also you can uninstall it safely through the Windows Control Panel, like any other Windows application.
  3. Also be prepared to do the following or have access to someone who can help you with these:
    1. Be able to find the right discussion forum and search for answers and post questions, if needed.
    2. Be able to search for and download drivers, if needed.
    3. Be able to open a terminal in Linux and run commands, if needed. You can try this out in your test drive.
"OK. I have done the prep work. Now can I go ahead and...?"

Sure, with the business case ready and the prep work done, you can go ahead and install it. Here is what you should expect.

Look before you leap

Although you can download Linux and applications free of charge, please be aware that you may have to spend some money for the following. You may not need any of these, but it is good to keep a small budget to make your transition successful.
  1. If you want the software in a CD/DVD, you may have to pay for that and the shipping charges.
  2. Documentation is free and bundled with the software download. However, if you need printed manuals, you have to pay.
  3. If you need phone or email support for installation, you will have to pay a small fee.
  4. If you must have an application that only runs on Windows, such as Adobe Photoshop, you may have to buy that (or use what you already have). In order to run this Windows application on Linux, you may have to buy a connecting software, such as CodeWeavers Crossover, at a modest price.

Take the low risk path

To minimize risk, if you currently have a Windows PC, I recommend installing Linux in dual boot mode. This will allow you to select between Linux and Windows while starting your PC. This way, if you run into an issue on Linux, you will be able to fall back on Windows, until you get that resolved.

I know that I am stating a lot of things here very briefly without providing full justification or supporting data. I hope to drill down into these in forthcoming blogs...soon!

I welcome any and all comments - compliments and criticism alike. If you have "been there, done that" or you are considering open source software on a home PC, your feedback is especially welcome.

Also, I have posted a user poll covering the benefits listed above. If you have migrated to Linux or considering it, take a moment to check the boxes that apply to you. Thanks in advance.

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