Linux Advantages and Disadvantages: Part 3
This third article in the Linux advantages and disadvantages series addresses differences again--but in a very different way. This isn't about software differences but what you should do to take advantage of what the Linux community has to offer.
If you are a newcomer to Linux you are unlikely to see how this all works or feel you are both invited and expected to participate. But, the truth is that input from newcomers is exactly what is needed. After using UNIX-like systems for 25 years and Linux for half of that, I am not the person to decide what software is needed to satisfy the needs of the newcomer.
I am going to use the need for an accounting application as the example. This need has been brought up in comments to previous articles in this series. With millions of people using Quicken and QuickBooks and there being no Linux port, it's a real need.
One approach is to purchase emulator software that allows you to run the Windows version on your Linux system. You may see this as your best option because you want to run exactly what you are used to. The downside is that you are adding a level of complexity to the whole situation but, again, it may be right for you.
I want to talk about the other approach--asking for what you want. If you are used to mass-marketed software, the closest you ever got to asking for what you want was to ask the clerk in a computer store which shrink-wrapped box was worth considering. This transaction is likely more representative of what was on the store shelf and the profit motive of the store than addressing your specific needs. In other words, you went looking for something to address your needs and settled for the best match.
This is not unique to software. You have the same experience if you go to a car dealer. You are offered what they have with potential modifications limited to whether you want the standard radio or an upgrade to a CD player. But, here is the big difference, with Linux you can voice your opinion and it is likely someone is listening.
In previous article comments, someone suggested the GNU Cash program. It certainly is an alternative but doing a search today I found Kmymoney2. The project is not new but it looks like it stagnated for a while. Then, there was a burst of development energy last month. You can find details of the project at http://kmymoney2.sourceforge.net.
While the first part of the links (User Resources) don't look scary, clicking in the developer section can quickly lead you into a very difference place. This is all about learning about how to deal with this community so I want to ask you to go to the edge but clicking on the SourceForge.net Project Page.
This is a busy page. Don't be intimidated. If you look down in the Tracker section you will see some things that make sense. Feature Requests, for example. Also, Mailing Lists will make sense. What you see here is what is typical for Open Source development projects. If you look at the feature requests, for example, you will see some non-technical requests where people are asking for things they would like to see added to the program.
Asking for a feature is one way you can participate. While Kmymoney2 doesn't handle all possible financial transactions today, asking for and explaining why the request makes sense is a way to help development move forward.
Is there more you can do? Of course. One is to donate money and there is a place for that. Beyond that, a big thing lacking in this project is documentation. If you know how to write and can talk about the practical side of doing financial things, you might want to volunteer to help on the documentation. It would be a good chance to get very familiar with the program as well as contribute back to the community.
My whole point here is that you don't have to accept that you can't do something on your Linux system that you can do on a different system. You can actually participate, use your expertise and decrease the number of items on the "can't do it" list. Participation in these projects can go far beyond the project itself. Just increased interest in a program such as this might be the force that convinces commercial vendors to make their product available for Linux. Clearly, another consideration of the word open is an open market where commercial products can compete alongside open development.