Must be wondering what I’m up to these days, right? After all, I haven’t been posting a lot recently, unlike the past 2-3 months which saw an overflow of posts. I was just busy transitioning all my documents to the latest OpenDocument formats.
Over the years, I’ve accumulated hundreds of documents in Microsoft’s formats, and StarOffice formats which the older OpenOffice.org 1.0 (OOo) used. Since I’ve been using OOo for a long times, I’d got loads of .sxw’s and others. I finally decided that it’s highly improbable that I’m gonna come across OOo 1.x anywhere, so I decided to switch to the latest. Now OOo 2.x ships with a document converter for this, which made my task pretty easy, but then I had to move in and delete the old files, and check for multiple copies on my system, delete the redundant ones – you get my point don’t you?
And why this, all of a sudden? Well, I’ve been pretty fluid till now as far as my operating system is concerned, playing with new ones all the time. That was until last year, when I switched to Freespire 1.0, and fell in love with it, and it’s ideology. Just a month down the line, Freespire 2.0 is going to be released, and I’m getting back a bit of order on my HDD.
Freespire is a free version of Linspire, one of the ‘easiest’ Linux distros around. What sets it apart from others is that it ships with proprietary codecs and drivers, making it far more compatible and hassle-free than other Linux distros. But for me, it’s not only about that – after all, it takes hardly any effort to get those anyway in other distros too. The reason why I like Freespire is its ideology – this is first Linux distro which targeted itself at the mainstream market, and was good at it (unlike other pathetic ones I’ve used, like Xandros).
At the end of the day, I feel that Linux supporters acting all snooty and trying to create a fence between mainstream users and Linux don’t do any good for our cause. Ogg Vorbis (even though it may be good) is NOT going to replace MP3 as the de facto music media standard anytime in the near future, period; so let’s accept that and move on. It makes no sense to confuzzle a non-geek by throwing up talk of codecs and all – all he would care for is that his CD plays when it’s popped into the tray. That’s why I like Freespire – it may embrace proprietary, but it’ll only make Linux more popular.
Why not use Ubuntu then, as people like Prashanth keep on saying. After all, even it can download codecs. For them I say, it’s not about how easy it is download codecs – I’ve worked long enough to know how to do it from the terminal. It’s about the target market, and ideology. Ubuntu is being built by South African billionaire Mark Shuttleworth, for helping spread computing in developing countries in Africa – THAT is its first objective. Naturally, on the top of the list right now is to get the basics right – editing documents, web browsing etc.
Freespire, on the other hand, doesn’t target that segment. It grows up from Linspire, a Linux distro that was made with the mainstream and commercial segment in mind. Freespire has grown beyond the basics from the very beginning – instead it concentrates segments which want their graphics cards to work, DVDs to play, media collections to be ready to listen to, wireless cards to be detected – all out of the box. Freespire’s main focus has been on getting software install for Linux to be easy, via its Click N’ Run (CNR) feature. Yes, software can easily be installed via Ubuntu’s Synaptic too, but CNR offers download, documentation, and user reviews, all at the same place.
I believe in Freespire’s philosophy a lot. When Dell decided to ship laptops with Linux on popular demand, they contacted Michael Robertson, the founder of Linspire, whether he was ready to have his OS to be chosen for this purpose. And you know what? With thousands of orders right at hand, he refused! He said that the current demand for Linux is from enthusiasts, and thus Dell should use something like Fedora, Ubuntu or openSUSE. Further, he said that Linspire and its likes are targeted at the mainstream market, and Linux is NOT ready for that, it needs at least two more years. He felt that by falsely saying Linux is too easy, and shipping Freespire, he’d only be hurting Linux’s image in the long run. Now THAT is what takes real guts to do – foregoing a commercial order, all for the future of Linux!
Furthermore, he felt that one major impediment to Linux’s popularity was software install – which, until recently, took loads of work. To ensure that this doesn’t remain a drawback, Linspire’s decided to open up its CNR service to other major distros like Fedora, Ubuntu, Debian and openSUSE too, apart from its own Linspire and Freespire.
THAT is the reason why I like Freespire, and its been a record that I didn’t change my distro for a interminably long time (almost one year). Because Linux is not about loading a distro, working with it for 30 minutes, taking a few screenshots, writing a ‘review’ and then going back to Windows for me. It’s not only about the OS – it’s the ideology behind it that counts too.
That’s why I haven’t installed Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn (well ahem…the actual reason is that I haven’t received my Ubuntu CD via ShipIt, but…).
That’s why, I’m waiting for the June release of Freespire 2.0