Getting the Job Done

TUX's Editor in Chief previews what you can expect in the May issue.

by Kevin Shockey

While preparing the upcoming issue of TUX and researching some information for this article, it struck me that the small business market could be incredibly important for desktop Linux. As Doc Searls has been telling us for years now, the information technology market is moving towards a do-it-yourself approach. In that respect, no market is more do-it-yourself than the estimated 5,591,003 small businesses located in the United States.

Small business owners often work as salesperson, accountant, janitor and whatever other job position might be required, including information technology administrator. Due to the limited personnel typically employed in a small business, the owners must do whatever needs to be done, even if that means installing and maintaining all of the initial software on their desktop computers. Linux, with its scratch-your-own-itch mentality, should fit well in this environment. But so far, it's not.

I believe there are two main reasons why Linux is not catching hold more in this seemingly perfect target market. If you'll permit me a little whining, the first reason I simply call indoctrination. In Puerto Rico, where I live, there are three primary drivers of new business creation. First are the universities that produce graduates who use free student licenses for Microsoft Office and Microsoft Windows during their education. The second driver is the Small Business Development Center, which offers advice and seminars on business creation. It also offer discounted licenses for Microsoft products. The third driver is a business incubator that recently received a $250,000 donation by Microsoft, of which over 90% was in the form of--wait for it--free licenses for MS products. Although this may be the situation only here in Puerto Rico, I believe it is a common reason why new and small businesses don't use Linux. The business owners are used to other products, products that are familiar to them, their family and their friends. Because these products are familiar, small business owners continue to use them as their businesses grow. Often, it's more a matter of comfort than need.

The second reason why more small businesses don't use Linux is a lack of applications. Specifically, there is a lack of Linux support for popular business applications, such as Quickbooks, AutoCAD and Photoshop. To be sure, Linux and open-source alternatives to these application are available. But, if a business requires prolonged use of these applications, the training and business process change costs involved are too large to make the switch to Linux feasible. These companies will never switch to Linux if these specific business applications are not ported to Linux.

Thus, the only way to get more small businesses to use Linux is to get them to start their businesses with Linux. We need more business incubators that introduce Linux and open source to new businesses. We also need the Small Business Administration and its affiliates to begin teaching entrepreneurs about the value that free and open-source software can offer. Most young companies need to pinch pennies to make ends meet. Spending their precious resources on licenses that expose their businesses to spyware, malware and viruses doesn't seem like a wise use of that money.

Did you know that small businesses employ more than half of the estimated 110 million workers in the United States? That's got to represent a lot of desktop computers. Because large companies have such a high volume of desktops, they tend to steal all of the attention when analysts examine corporate IT purchasing and usage patterns. It is clear to me, however, that although marketing and providing services to the small business community is more complicated, it is a rich target market for desktop Linux.

Education is part of the process of helping these institutions understand the value of Linux for small businesses. With this goal in mind, we're publishing the first Small Office/Home Office issue of TUX. Available on May 1, the issue focuses on introducing a variety of applications that are useful to a small office/home office (SOHO) businesses. The feature article introduces AppGen MyBooks as a potential replacement for Quicken QuickBooks. Almost all self-employed or small business owners must manage their finances closely, and MyBooks offers a mature and reliable application for financial tracking and accounting.

For those businesses producing their own newsletters, TUX introduces Scribus and FSpot. Scribus is a desktop publishing software application that offers sophisticated control of text, graphics and photographs. To collect and manage the photographs needed for those newsletters, we examine FSpot. FSpot is a photograph management tool written in Mono, the Novell open-source implementation of the Microsoft .NET Framework. It offers many slick tools and features, including automated photo capture from your digital camera, minor photo editing, keyword tagging and photo export to CD/DVD or Flickr.

In addition, the SOHO issue introduces a variety of applications that might be useful for some small businesses, but perhaps not all. FreeMind is a utility that helps with generating, visualizing, classifying and structuring ideas; it also can help with problem solving and decision making. For those wanting an alternative voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) service, we introduce OpenWengo and compare it with Skype. We also compare two project-planning tools that help create work breakdown structures, manage schedules and track employee utilization. Finally, we take a first look at Firestarter, a communications application that enables Internet connection and firewall protection for Linux.

Web Editor - Mon, 2006-04-24 15:09.
Categories:

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

I think you are right

I think that your comment come straight to the point. The Linux desktop is ready for business right now. Workstations usually arent abused as a home desktop. Meaning that people will be more worried about getting their boring spreadsheets up to date than ripping DVD and doing stream servers so they can watch their favorite 'Desperate housewife' episode on the road.

Business computers don't really need to know about Ipod, or pictures from the kids. Some time they dont even have speakers. They just have a usually custom made business-management aplication running all day. The CD-RW usually burn documents and data and not pictures, mp3 or videos.

Is interesting comparing Win vs Mac, Win evolves about the office suite, the productivity packages the communication layer, the remote connectivity and all that office-like work.

Mac on the flip side, evolves around ilife, itunes, imovies and basically content that you want to interact.

So where does linux stand here --- well I will say that is more on the Widnows, KDE specially has a more PIM - Prodctivity apps, and centralized configuration while GNOME shines more on the graphic apps (gimp inkscape) even thought the big exception migh tbe evolution, they really invest in things like F-Spot, Gthumb, Audacity, Gstreamer.

Both have a vast array of miscelaneus software categories such as education software, internet software, front ends, games etc.

KDE is more oriented to talk to other KDE's on KDE oriented LANs while Gnome is more build for the single desktop. So I guess the trends are to have Gnome on the desktop and KDE on the workstation at least this is my thought from the differnet maturities within the desktop.

I will like to compare also this desktops with other OS like BeOS which was targeted at multimedia and such.

Jza (not verified) - Sun, 2006-05-21 13:38.

Migrating from Micro$oft Window$ to Linux

Could you write something on the migration plan from Windows to Linux? Is there any website which writes in details about this topic?

Thanks.

OneZahar (not verified) - Sat, 2006-05-06 21:26.

Sites to migrate

there are many but most have to do with what you are looking for. For example Linux Reality might spend some time teaching you about showing you about linux on a structural way. From the naming of the distro, versioning, the GPL, to acttual tangible things such as the Filesystem, the permission modes, command line basics.

I still think there is a lack of Desktop conent, which is 'what cool things you can do' with your applicatons. And there is where TUX magazine is focus on. Rather than being an instructuional book, this mag focus on reviews of great software and provide the 'Getting Started' on most of them.

This is something that I applude and that is really needed, specially by users that don't have the time to get into the forums, mailing list and just want things to work out of the box.

Jza (not verified) - Sun, 2006-05-21 13:22.

Migration

I agree with OneZahar. How about something on migrating from windows to linux. Unless of course Mango thinks that people who ask this basic question are two stupid to answer.

Mikey (not verified) - Thu, 2006-05-11 06:04.

there's already something about it

I went on back issues and check out the titles and is true, there is nothing regarding to the migration from windows to Linux. However maybe this magazine tries to avoid M$ all together and I think is a great thing to do and I support it if thats the case.

However there could be some things that are similars between windows vs. linux. Konqueror is very similar to Windows Explorer, root/users vs administrator/guests. Filesystem might be one of the biggest first hand thing to clear up for users jumping into linux.

The windows users are really pretty ignorant to a degree, meaning that they dont really follow rules and they are not very lineant with the OS. They will store most info on the Desktop and not 2 windows PC filesystem are the same. They will have folders on the root tree, and they will have different data spread through the harddrive.

However I think that many here are windows users and they should come up with specific thing on things that will need to migrate. As a new users maybe you will want to know 'where to go' once you see the linux desktop. Usually on non-computer users, the first thing should be Games. GAMES empower users to a degree where they feel confortable with the software. By games I dont mean Doom or Quake, but simple games like mahjohng, gnu/chess, bubbles or something similar.

Next thing might start scalating to other software like Gimp which is also very friendly which makes you get a hold on not specific things to 'do'

Jza (not verified) - Tue, 2006-05-23 19:28.

OpenOffice.org Base

Kevin,
I'm only sending this because you were the author of the first[?] article on using OO's database facility.
I enjoyed this very much and was looking forward to Part 2 in the April issue of TUX.
It didn't appear and doesn't seem to be in the May issue either.
Can we anticipate your Part 2 in the near future, please?
Regards
Mike Finch

Mike Finch (not verified) - Fri, 2006-05-05 00:00.

TUX has a great potential

Hi, well as you can see by my email, i am from the OpenOffice.org community and I want to tell you that yes those articles were great and I also are looking forward for part two.

Once said, you can always finds some sneak peak and actual end user support at our website htp://dba.openoffice.org

Remember that BASE is still in it's infancy and the documentation is slowly rolling out so please be patient. Another great repository of knowledge is http://oooforum.org where you can always ask inmediate doubts that you might have but also it might be pretty geeky sometimes.

I will like to thank the exposure TUX magazine give to our community, product and vision.

Jza (not verified) - Sun, 2006-05-21 13:16.