Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Another Win for Open Source Software

In the city of Gainesville, which is the majority of Hall County Georgia, open source software is starting to make an impact. For the past two weeks, I have been taking note of the software installed on machines that come in for repairs. The results, so far, have been rather astonishing.

Out of 279 machines, 147 have had OpenOffice.org installed on them. The other 132 did not necessarily go to MS either. Now, many of the OOo machines did have MSO installed; more often than not, the installation of MSO was a preinstalled trial for which the customer in question didn't feel like spending money. The next thing I noticed is that many of the customers noted that they did not like the new MS Ribbon interface, and that OOo was more comfortable. Out of the 132 other machines that came in, only 71 were using MSO. The 61 others were split between WordPerfect, Lotus, iWork, nothing, and believe it or not Abiword/Gnumeric.

A depressing note about my observations: IE wins. Why this occurs, I have no clue. IE in any of its incarnations seems to have a stranglehold on every day computer users. Out of 279 machines, 201 were using IE6/7/8, 5 were using IE9, 1 was using IE5 (on a Macintosh actually). The remaining 72 were shared by Firefox and Chrome. No one apparently knows about and/or cares about Opera/Safari (that includes Macintosh users, who overwhelmingly seem to prefer Firefox).

Other places I saw open source software come up: web servers, chat clients, project management, flowchart software, image editors, file sharing clients. On these, open source software clearly has a massive lead. In the seven months that I have been working in this city, I have only seen two installations of Microsoft's web server. All others have gone to Apache or Nginx. As for chat clients, most people seem to prefer Pidgin. For project managmenet, most people seem to prefer OpenProject. For flowcharting, most people seem to use OpenOffice (even when MSO is installed for everything else, people also seem to use OOo for PDFs). When it comes to image editing and filesharing, I really haven't seen much other than Gimp, Paint.net, Pinta, and Adobe BlahBlahBlah. The number of Adobes isn't high. It totaled 22 installations. Filesharing... 100% open source software apparently. No one seems to give a darn about the closed source file sharing applications out there.

Are these trends the same in your city? Let me know.


Michael DePaulo said...

Are you sure you didn't see uTorrent for file-sharing? It is the new official bittorrent client, but it is closed-source.

gokulam said...

NIce observation. I have seen people prefering opensource here in India. One company of 2000 people changed from M$ to Ubuntu in a month's time to get ISO certification. They saw the huge licensing cost and switched the whole company to Linux. They are happy from last 1 year.

Saint Abroad said...

"For the past two weeks, I have been taking note of the software installed on machines that come in for repairs.
A depressing note about my observations: IE wins. Why this occurs, I have no clue."

Join the dots.

Grant Wagner said...

I don't understand why Open Office is such a darling of the FOSS movement. It really is as bloated and clunky as it's Java underpinnings.

I have used Abiword/Gnumeric since I first touched Linux 10 years ago. It easily meets all my needs, and runs quite fast on all but the most ancient machines. On my netbooks, OOo is simply unusable.

P.S., Okay, I can understand why. Other than Linux itself, no one project is a more clear direct drop in replacement for a Microsoft Product. It's still not great.

Kevin Gillette said...

It seems like if IE had a price tag and a pre-installed trial version, MS wouldn't have a stranglehold on anything. For that matter, it seems reasonable if Windows had a mandatory additional cost, and wasn't part of the bundled price delivered by OEMs, then MS would be on the way out altogether.

Based on your findings, the best thing MS could do to recover its office share in the home-user market would be to make it free for non-commercial use.

mpincpn said...

I've used earlier versions of MS Office. I created lengthy docs with Word and prepared many presentations with PPT, and did a fair amount of work w/Excel.

I can't speak re the most recent versions of MS Office, but compared to MS Office, OpenOffice is NOT bloated. Further, the UI is more easily understood; ie, things are organized in a more sensible way.

Now I admit that is my personal opinion and I think it's important that if one criticizes OO, they also should qualify their remarks as personal.

Admittedly, I have NO love for Java. I'm not a programmer, but I've had to deal with several projects that were Java-based either directly as a manager or indirectly as for documentation purposes. If the programmer is flat, outright brilliant, Java is okay. If the programmer is less than brilliant, Java is quirky and prone to lots of problems. But it is still slow.

But, again, that's based on my personal experience.

However, when I hear criticism of OO not being compatible w/MS Office, I have to wonder. I've been using OO steadily for 8 or more years. Every time I've run into a Word or PPT file that became messed up in OO, it was because the original file was a kludge. By that I mean, the person that created the MS file didn't understand how to use the MS app and kludged stuff together until the file appeared to be okay. That is when I would use MS Office. I would open the original file in MS Office and discover it was, in fact, a poor job.

And nothing against the people that make these files. Most of the time they've had that job dumped on them with no training.

OpenOffice is a very viable solution. There are limits when it comes to macros or VBA, but the number of times that I've encountered that is almost zero. And the only time I have was in the form of macros in Word. And all that was needed in those cases was to disable all the macros since they weren't really necessary for the intended application of the file.

I believe that if OO didn't use Java, it would operated faster. But it's stable and effective and free.

One more thing to add. I've been cross-platform for 8 years or more as well. So I've had experience using NeoOffice on the Mac. Neo is an excellent piece of software as well. When I have a reason to test files on the Mac and choose to edit them there, I use NeoOffice. Check it out.

Kevin Gillette said...

You can install open office (at least on Debian) without Java. The Java components are optional (OO does not seem to depend on the Java VM directly), and I tend not to install them. I haven't observed Java as being slow per se, but I agree with your 'brilliant' remark, as well as your OO-MS compatibility insight.

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