Tuesday, September 22, 2009

OpenDisc: One-stop shop for Windows open source applications

September 19 was Software Freedom Day. The unfortunate reality is that this day is not advertised or publicized in any way that really gives it much validity. (Sorry, but being Slashdotted doesn’t make something valid across the board.)

It was my hope that this year something different would happen and I would see the effort really pushed into the public eye. It wasn’t. In fact, it was a big let-down.

There was one thing, however, that did come out of this year’s celebration and that was OpenDisc. OpenDisc came into being when Open CD was on the outs. The Open CD project really never gained much traction, but OpenDisc could very well go places Open CD couldn’t. Why? OpenDisc is an outstanding project. But what is Open Disc?

OpenDisc is a high quality collection of Open Source software for Windows put together with an easy-to-use front-end that makes installing and/or learning about these applications simple. Of course, OpenDisc has a secondary purpose - to educate users about the Linux operating system.

The disc is broken up into six categories: Design, Games, Internet, Multimedia, Productivity, and Utilities. Each section contains software relating to the categories and each collection of software is geared toward having everything the Windows user needs to fulfill their day-to-day software requirements.
Some of the titles included are:
  • The GIMP
  • Blender
  • Dia
  • Inkscape
  • Scribus
  • Battle for Wesnoth
  • Filezilla
  • Firefox
  • Pidgin
  • Seamonkey
  • Thunderbird
  • TightVNC
  • Audacity
  • Celestia
  • VLC
  • Gnucash
  • Notepad2
  • OpenOffice
  • 7zip
  • ClamWin
  • Truecrypt
and more…

What is most important about this CD is that it gives you, the IT Pro, an opportunity to hand a CD to someone and say, “Try these free applications.” Coming from you, someone people trust, they will be more likely to give the open source software a try. And they can do this on their Windows machine. Maybe they will come to you for more, at which point you can give them the “Wink, wink, nudge, nudge…” and offer them Linux.

The point is - OpenDisc makes this possible. No more will you have to download and collect a bunch of open source software, burn it onto CD, and then pass it out with instructions on installing each piece of software. Instead you download the ISO, hand it out to people, and tell them to give the CD a look. The user puts the CD into the drive, clicks on it, and either reads about a piece of software or clicks the Install button.

Of course the project isn’t perfect. My biggest complaint is the lack of productivity software included. OpenDisc includes only three entries for productivity:
  • GnuCash
  • Notepad2
  • OpenOffice
Yes, that might cover most everyone’s needs for the office. But what about project management? Scheduling?

There are many other possibilities that could be added. Naturally I understand there are the limitations of space. As it stands you are going to have to burn the ISO image onto a DVD because the size exceeds a CD - which could explain why certain tools are left out. Maybe there is a solution…

Already on the project there is the standard OpenDisc AND the OpenEducationDisc. The OpenEducationDisc project is aimed towards educators (you can download this ISO from the same site). What if they broke OpenDisc into projects like:
  • OpenEnterprise
  • OpenHome
  • OpenBusiness
  • OpenEducation
  • OpenGames
Would that go further in reaching the goal of introducing people to open source software? A user likes games? Fine, hand them the OpenGames DVD. Work in a small office? No problem, hand them the OpenBusiness DVD. It could work; and there are plenty of titles to fill up each project (with some overlap of course).

Will OpenDisc get more people using open source?

Final thoughts
This type of project, with this level of sincerity and drive, is long overdue. But in order for this to work, people have to use it.

Download either OpenDisc or OpenEducationDisc now and start distributing copies in any way you can. Help spread the word in the way Software Freedom Day wants to do, but can’t seem to get any traction.

Open source software is by the people, for the people, but can not get to the people without those like us spreading the word.

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