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Last week, Deb Shinder posted a wee bit of a rant on Open Source.

Reaction was fast and, as can be predicted, a range of emotions were shown.

We had lots of feedback in the Comments section. And Deb also got emails, which she’s summarized here:

Many of you use a combination of commercial and open source products; even adamant Windows fans are likely to have one or more favorite open source or freeware programs. And some who use open source extensively admitted that they use it because it’s free, not because it’s better.

Jim M. said, “I tried using Mandrake (now Mandriva) for a couple of years on a computer that I literally built out of trash can parts aka Frankenputer. I am considered and alpha geek by most who really are, but when I got a better spare, I went back to XP. I simply have less trouble. I use Firefox, Thunderbird, and several other either Open Source or freeware with adequate results.”

Fernando A. said, “I believe that Open Source software perfectly suits the academic world, giving students the opportunity to deal with the nuts and bolts of technology. Sometimes it also is the only choice in thin pockets environments such as non-profit organizations, underdeveloped countries, etc. But when it comes to business, I prefer commercial software because I have a counterpart (corporate or individual) who is responsible for it in terms of warranty (and not only money-back), support, etc. I think that investing in commercial software is part of the value chain.”

Some of us who rarely or never use open source, however, are still glad it’s around. As Chuck M. put it, “The one good thing about Open Source apps is that they put pressure on the ‘Big Boys’ to keep their prices reasonable and to make more of an effort to keep their customers happy with them and the support of their product.”

Locutus Borg (who just might be a Star Trek fan) took issue with my statement that no one is forced to use Windows. He said, “While there are some options to emulate Windows or at least the APIs inside Linux already, none of them are up to the task of real gaming yet. Any gamer is totally stuck in Windows if they want to play more than solitaire, unfortunately.” And Herb W. said, “All in all, I would rather move to a platform that MS doesn’t own, but until I can and still do the everyday things I require … I’m a bit stuck.”

I don’t know; to me this sounds like saying, “Well, I’d like to drive an economy car but darn it, until they make one where all my friends and I can party sip champagne and watch TV and spread out on the leather seats in the back, facing each other, I’m stuck with this stretch limo.”

On the other hand, not all Linuxes are created equal, and some are obviously more user friendly than others. Ridge K. said, “I have been working with the Ubuntu Linux distribution, and it really is pretty remarkable. You can, pretty painlessly, take a door-stop quality, 7-year-old PC and turn it into a very functional computer.” And Ed G. said “You’re actually spreading propaganda about compiling kernels and writing drivers on Linux. I downloaded and installed Fedora Core and Ubuntu, and both work “right out of the box”. My “propaganda” is just based on my own experiences, but I have to admit that Ubuntu is a distro I’ve never tried; maybe I’ll give it a go next time I get an urge to experiment with Linux.

Dave C. offered an interesting observation: “MS … started out when things were done more on an individual level and are playing catchup to a networked world. Linux started out in a network world and is trying to make things work for an individual.” Good point, and does help to explain some of the differences.

Geoff notes that, “some of the open source fervor is just part of the ABM (anybody but Microsoft) movement. I agree that MS has done some stupid things and there are better alternatives in some situations, but they have mastered the “Good Enough”. In many ways, the Mac is a better platform, but the PC is “good enough” and much more open… At the opposite end is Linux. I think it is also ‘Better’ at some things, and is even more open, but also suffers in areas where the Mac excels. I think of the Mac and Open source as opposites, with Windows in the middle. With most things, people are most comfortable in the middle.”

Thanks to all of you who wrote on this topic.

Alex Eckelberry and Deb Shinder