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Some readers of this blog will already be Linux aficionados, but for many people Linux is still technology they only have passing familiarity with.  This week The Register asks whether 2009 will be a good year for Linux.

My initial reaction was that expressed in many of the article’s comments: a yawning lack of interest at yet another year being tipped as Linux’s coming of age, something which somebody in the tech media seems to have predicted every January for the past decade — with as boring regularity as the mainstream press run December articles on how online Christmas shopping is really taking off.

But for once there is actually an interesting point behind the question.  Linux is well known for being free software — sometimes labelled software libre, to emphasize that “free” is about freedom rather than being free of charge.  However, regardless of your political views on the open source movement, such software generally is free in the price sense as well, and that’s what becomes more relevant in the credit crunch.

If business is booming and your staff are stretched then it probably doesn’t seem an opportune moment for getting to grips with a new technology; it’s worth paying for familiar software to save time for spending on other things.  But in leaner times every small saving is worth considering, and perhaps you have a little more time to investigate whether Linux (or OpenOffice, or Thunderbird or Scribus, or Apache, PHP, Perl, Ruby, MySQL, Postgres, etc) would be worth switching to.

Here at 123-reg our web hosting is already Linux based.  Not that as a user you need to be a Linux-head (you upload files and use our control panel, never going near anything as scary as a command line), but it does help us to offer such competitive pricing.

We offer dedicated servers through our sister business WebFusion with the choice of Windows or Ubuntu Linux.  Unsurprisingly we’re able to offer the Linux servers at lower prices for the same hardware, so there are definite cost savings which can be made in switching to Linux.

What do you think?  Have you made any savings by careful use of free software?  Is the credit crunch making you more seriously consider Linux?  Leave us a comment below.

PS:  I nearly titled this article “Will the credit crunch help Linux?”.  Then I remembered the way to deal with Daily Express-esque yes/no headlines (“Does Diana’s butler hold key to cancer cure?”, that sort of thing) is simply to answer them with a brusque “no” and move on.

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9 Responses

  • Gareth

    I’ve recently switched from xp to a linux distribution called “Mint Linux” – – which i have to admit is pretty damn good.

    The problem i have had with linux in the past is that it doesn’t support the wifi card that i have in my compaq laptop, but yet this distribution works “out of the box” so to speak.

    I do think that open-source systems will start to become more popular, especially when Microsoft struggles to release lesser secure software. But that’s just my thoughts..

    January 9, 2009 at 4:58 pm
  • John

    Linux is definitely a more stable environment, and statistically has a greater amount of uptime than windows servers, along with a number of other features that make it ideal for server use. Unfortunately it hasn’t quite reached a state of development and user-friendliness that is required for it to take off in mainstream PC markets. However it is making great strides toward home use, with Ubuntu being a personal favourite in terms of ease-of-use balanced with power.
    Microsoft were lucky in their timing, and cornered the market when computers were taking off and becoming affordable, but other operating systems are beginning to fight back with growing success.
    2009 will not be the year Linux becomes mainstream, but I think it will happen eventually.

    January 26, 2009 at 6:20 pm
  • Theo Tulley

    I agree strongly with Gareth: LinuxMint has a very friendly team who produce a fresh distribution a couple of months after each new Ubuntu, based on that. Each is supported for a minimum of two years. My experience is based on a succession of “Live” CDs produced from downloaded “iso” files since February 2007. It has been my working system since July 2007.
    As he says, it goes on-line “straight out of the box” and comes with an excellent suite of software – more can be readily downloaded, much already in the repository for LinuxMint, but even if not I have found no compatibility problems with open-source programs.
    In my opinion the chief remaining problem for Linux is finding hardware drivers for many gadgets which come demanding Windows only. Printers are no problem; scanners are being tackled.

    January 26, 2009 at 8:26 pm
  • Peter Carter

    I took on a dedicated Ubuntu server about 10 months ago, and at about the same time changed my home computers from XP to Ubuntu. The server has worked flawlessly – 100% up-time throughout this period. And on my home computers, I love:

    – no Linux viruses and no need for expensive and resource consuming AV packages;

    – the ease and security of downloading software from the “repositories” – no need to hunt round the internet for what you want, no worries about malware downloading with the programme;

    – the helpfulness of other Linux users in the support forums;

    – the power and versatility of Linux, once you get used to it. I even do some stuff in the terminal – it’s not really as scary as it sounds;

    And do I miss anything? Yes, to be honest – there is no Linux implementation of iTunes, so the iTunes music store is off limits. But there are a growing number of alternatives,

    January 26, 2009 at 8:57 pm
  • stu

    I have been an avid linux user for 10 years, as well as maintaining microsoft within my role as IT manager. I think that linux can be far more stable and less prone to crashes, virus spyware etc and in some cases easier to install, however, it is still the relm of the geek simply because to install and use it you must know how to use IT terms like “partition” “mbr” “filesystem format” etc and thats before you are faced with an alien environment filled with “iso 9660” “shell” and a seeming inability to install programs with .deb .rpm etc

    my hint to any would be triers, get an old cheap computer and play with it.

    January 26, 2009 at 9:38 pm
  • Joey

    Linux is the way forward. Ubuntu Linux is the best distribution. I have one installed on my desktop and I must say it excellent and I love it.

    January 26, 2009 at 11:50 pm
  • Lee

    I’m a LinuxMint fan too and I use it on my other PC.

    January 26, 2009 at 11:56 pm
  • Simon

    Thanks for the feedback everybody.

    Peter, I agree that until recently not having something like iTunes Music Store from Linux has been disappointing. But DRM-encumbered music didn’t much appeal anyway. Fortunately most record labels now seem to have come to their senses, and Linux-friendly MP3s can now be downloaded from 7Digital, Play, and Amazon.

    Stu, I have to disagree about what you need to know to install Linux in 2009. Certainly what you say used to be true, and it used to feel like a major achievement just to get Linux installed and booting (and that was without even trying to get things like printing, sound, and internet connectivity working!), but there are many distributions today which manage to hide all that in their internals — from the other comments it sounds like Mint (which is based on Ubuntu) is worth a try.

    January 28, 2009 at 10:51 am