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Visions of a Microsoft-Free World

Visions of a Microsoft-Free World

Is free software taking over the world one town at a time? Residents of Felton, Calif., recently pledged to go proprietary-free for at least a week. Plans for similar events are reportedly under way in town in Oregon and New Mexico, as well as 100 towns in Italy.

By Katherine Noyes
08/11/08 4:00 AM PT

At LinuxInsider, we've been busy these past few weeks trying to bring you all the most important news from the world of our favorite operating system, as we always do.

But it turns out we missed something. It wasn't until we began compiling our Linux Starter Kit -- which we're fervently hoping will help show more of the world the light that is Linux -- that we discovered it: Lindependence 2008.

That's right, Lindependence! Hard on the heels of Independence Day, on July 28, "a significant percentage" of the town of Felton, Calif., declared independence from Microsoft and pledged to go Redmond-free "for one week ... maybe an entire month," its organizers say. "If things go right, we can start talking about forever."

Lindependence Day

Can you imagine that? We have no idea why it hasn't received more media attention, but we'd like to do our part right here to publicize it, albeit a little bit after the fact. This is something we all need to know about!

Lindependence Day was apparently preceded by three weeks of town meetings and "installfests," designed to familiarize interested Felton residents with how to go about using different media in order to use Linux. LiveCDs and bootable thumb drives -- "dual booting for the more daring of residents" -- were among the technologies covered.

Representatives from distros and FOSS (free and open source software) programs were available to answer questions and instruct people on use of the software, with support from Mandriva, Fedora, Debian, Ubuntu, AntiX, Wolvix, OpenOffice.org and Codeweavers.

100 Italian Towns

No word yet on how many of Felton's 6,000 or so residents participated, but "I expect that most of the people who participate in this project will continue to stay 'proprietary free' after the week is over, because they will discover what we already know: Linux, FOSS and the freedom to choose in our digital pursuits far outweigh the digital hegemony provided by the digital mandarins in Redmond and Cupertino," wrote Larry Cafiero of HeliOS Solutions West, one of the project's organizers, on the Ubuntu Forums.

Videos of the event are online at Digital Tipping Point, which got picked up at LXer, among other blogs.

Perhaps even more telling is that the trend seems to be spreading, with reports suggesting that similar initiatives are coming in Boulder Creek, Calif.; Portland, Ore.; Taos, N.M.; and even Italy, where 21 towns will participate, according to a Lindependence blog.

Whiff of Blood

We don't want to be overenthusiastic here, but it seems to us there's a whiff in the air of Redmond blood ...

"The Lindependence events are a good thing since they help overcome one of Microsoft's biggest advantages: inertia," Gerhard Mack, a Montreal-based consultant and Slashdot blogger, agreed.

"If not for the event, people would just continue using Microsoft products because that's what they have always been using, and they would be afraid to try something new on their own," Mack told LinuxInsider.

Linux-Based UMPCs

Speaking of cracks in the Windows shield, a report on the Linux Loop last week found that the number of Linux-based ultramobile PCs (UMPCs) is now 32 or more, up from just 20 or so in March.

"Interesting -- I really didn't realize the list was that long," responded Linux Loop blogger Johan Moller. "Good for us!"

Then, of course, there was the news last week that IBM is partnering with Canonical, Red Hat and Novell to deliver Microsoft-free desktop PCs featuring Lotus Notes and Lotus Symphony by 2009.

There's that buzzword again -- Microsoft-free!

Vista to Thank

"The slow adoption of Vista among businesses and budget-conscious CIOs, coupled with the proven success of a new type of Microsoft-free PC in every region, provides an extraordinary window of opportunity for Linux," said Kevin Cavanaugh. "We'll work to unlock the desktop to save our customers money and give freedom of choice by offering this industry-leading solution."

The news was immediately picked up on Slashdot, where more than 400 comments had ensued by Friday -- many of them expressing concern about the inclusion of Notes.

"Great ... but can I get one without Lotus Notes too?" quipped Dice.

"To paraphrase Yoda, 'Notes leads to anger. Anger leads to Notes consultants. Notes consultants lead to suffering'," agreed Anonymous Coward.

"2008 will be known as the year of Lotus Notes on the desktop!" added morgan_greywolf.

Power to Adapt

On the other hand: "This is a perfect example on why IBM stays ahead: they adapt," countered Darkness404. "They went from proprietary to open, from DOS to Linux. From punch cards to computers. Despite how 'old' IBM seems, they always seem to adapt, something that some tech companies refuse to do."

Indeed, "One of the weak points of Linux desktops over the years has been access to viable -- let alone powerful -- productivity applications," Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT, told LinuxInsider.

"IBM's Lotus suite has been around for years, is used by billions worldwide, and is well understood and well established," King added. "For Red Hat, Novell and Canonical, being able to leverage Lotus on desktop PCs is a real opportunity."

Microsoft is well established in businesses for some very good reasons, but "if a company is thinking of moving to a new platform, this mixture of IBM and these partners gives it some options for having a solid business productivity experience with Linux that would not necessitate the purchase of either Vista or new hardware to support it," he concluded.

In other words, Microsoft-free isn't a totally outrageous idea, even in the business world. One day, it just might happen!


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