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Tuesday, February 17, 2015



An article originally I wrote for Indian Army..


1. Today, we are in information age and we use many electronic devices to meet our information needs. The core component of any electronic device is its operating system. Though there are many types of devices used for computing, Computers have become synonymous with PCs and Operating System(OS) has become synonymous with Windows, at least in India. Even IT professionals feel that we have come too far down the road and now it is fait accompli to maintain the status quo ?

2. The question is, can we ever switch to a liberated world of Open Source Software (OSS) or are we condemned forever to a Digital World, controlled and manipulated by a few multinational software giants. OSS in general and Linux in particular offer great opportunities to individuals and organizations alike to make the Digital world far more friendlier, far more creative and definitely lighter on the wallet.

3. The scope of this paper is not restricted to just Army, but to any individual or organization dissatisfied with Propriety Software. Migration to Linux, is nothing but pure liberation. This paper addresses need for the migration, away from all propriety software, be it for exercising the right to choose or for attaining strategic self dependence.


4. The aim of the service paper is to evaluate the case for individuals and organizations to migrate to Linux from Microsoft Windows to meet all their computing requirements. The paper is divided in three parts as under:-

  1. Part – I . Review of Operating Systems over the past three decades.
  2. Part – II Why we need to migrate to Linux.
  3. Part – III Seven Steps to Software Liberation.


A Historical Overview of Operating Systems

5. Though there are many operating systems, they can be broadly categorized into three basic families viz, Mac family including all shades of iOS , Microsoft family from MS Dos to Windows 10 and the Linux family that would include all flavours of Linux, like Red Hat, Inux Mint OS, Ubuntu and so on. When we come to the hand-held devices like phones and tablets, we have iOS, Android, and Windows as the market leaders. There is definitely a convergence taking place with availability of Ubuntu phones and android laptops.

6. Till the advent of Open Source Software, the IT fraternity was vertically divided into two schools of thought, the Mac way and the PC way. The Mac products believed in tight integration of hardware and software. Quality was of utmost importance and it was propriety all the way, be it the hardware or software or the formats used . Even the styling of icons mattered as the bitterly contested copyright case between Apple and Samsung showed. As for PC was concerned, IBM had freed the hardware part, resulting in mushrooming of IBM clones, while the marketing genius, that young Bill gates proved to be, kept a tight hold over the OS , which ironically he had bought for a pittance. QDOS (Quick and Dirty Operating System) was bought from Tim Patterson, rechristened as MSDOS and loaded on an IBM PC. With a series of outright purchases and repackaging MS Office was born and today we have MS Windows and MS Office dominating the market in India.

7. End of cold war gave a big boost to Internet which led to extensive collaboration over the net. It was not just a software, but an entirely new philosophy was born. Programmers could download source codes for free. They were free to look into other programmers' codes; they could make modifications and propagate their products as long as they too kept it free. It was called not copyright but copy-left. With that software got liberated from the clutches of multinationals. Today, you can buy a PC without any Software and load your own OS and applications.

Present Environment

8. Most people and organizations today go for a hardware software bundle and in India, most of the additional software is available for free due to non-implementation of laws on Intellectual property rights.

9. Of course there is a small percentage of users who scrupulously use licensed software and an even smaller percentage of users who are aware that there is enough resources available under open source and there is really no need buy any operating system or applications leave alone the compulsion to break any law of the land to procure one. This last category of users, to begin with were hard core geeks, but over a period of time even not so tech savvy users have also joined this fold. There are children who have grown up using open source software and don't use any other unless forced to do so by their schools. If some users can benefit from OSS, then why not the whole world benefit.


Why Migrate to Linux

10. Some of the compelling reasons for switching to Linux are as follows:-

  1. Freedom to Use .The software is completely free as in Mukt and completely free as in Muft.

  1. Stability The OS is rock solid and absolutely stable. Of course there are beta versions, on the leading edge, available to all for download; and one needs to ensure that he uses only a stable version.

  1. Choice of Applications. Entire set of productivity applications are available for Linux and there is really no need to go for an OS if only to load a specific application software.

  1. Security Security is better in OSS as the source code is available for any one. So any organization wishing to make their computing environment absolutely secure does not need to look to Redmond for assistance but can do it in their own laboratories. It is in this context that our former President and an eminent scientist Dr APJ Abdul Kalam called up on Indians to use OSS.

Some Myths About Linux

11. There are many myths about Linux which we shall analyze one by one as follows:-

(a) Linux is not user friendly. There is not a single step in installation, configuration and use of the OS that does not have a user friendly, graphical User Interface in Ubuntu, Red Hat, Open Suse or Linux Mint. Of course there are provisions to get anything done through Command line Interface , which is only an added advantage and definitely not a disadvantage. A Class VIII student can comfortably install Ubuntu from an Installation CD or an USB Drive. Of course any child who can handle a mouse or a touch pad can use an Ubuntu machine.

(b) No applications are available for Linux. There are users of the view that it is okay to have Linux as OS, but for running specific applications, one needs Windows. This may have been correct about 10 years back. Today we have open source applications in every area of computing like Office Software, web browsing, IDE for Programming, graphics , video and audio editing, database management systems.

(c) Installation of applications is difficult. Nothing could be far from truth. While Software like MS office, Adobe Photo-shop, need registration and dedicated efforts to get regular updates, anyone using open source software like Ubuntu or Libre office gets regular updates automatically. It is easier as there is no need to guard against piracy issues. The repository system for installation or upgrading of software is akin to the istore of Apple devices or Google Play of Android phones. You just need to pick the applications and click 'install'.

(d) Version compatibility Issues Ubuntu has the best organized system for storing of libraries. Canonical, the company supporting Ubuntu has dedicated servers to keep track of all the software and the compiler libraries used by these software applications. Ubuntu brings out a version every two years with Long term support. Then there are six monthly update versions of the OS. The security updates is on a daily basis.

  1. Inter OS Interoperability is difficult. A Linux server can easily handle any Windows client, though the converse may not be true.

  1. Lack Of Commercial Support In the past, businesses used the lack of commercial support as the main reason for staying with Windows. Red Hat, Novell and Canonical, the "big three" commercial Linux providers, have put this fear to rest. Each of these companies offers 24x7x365 support for your mission-critical applications and business services.

  1. Lack of .Net Support Businesses that have standardized on Microsoft technology, specifically their .NET web technology, can rely on Linux for support of those same .NET applications. Novell owns and supports the Mono project that maintains .NET compatibility. One of the Mono project’s goals is to provide businesses the ability to make a choice and to resist vendor lock-in. Additionally, the Mono project offers Visual Studio plug-ins so that .NET developers can easily transfer Windows-based .NET applications without changing their familiar development tools. Why would Novell and others put forth the effort to create a .NET environment for Linux? For real .NET application stability, Linux is a better choice than Windows.

Organizations That Have Migrated Or In The Process Of Migrating To Linux

12. If Linux is so good why are people not using it ? The answer is that most computer users are not fully aware of the possibilities. Let us see some informed organizations that migrated from Windows to Linux :-

(a) The White house
(b) US Navy in the US Submarine Fleet
(c) NASA , USA
(d) Amazon Inc , USA
(e) City Govt of Munich (Germany)
(f) Kerala State Govt
(g) Tamilnadu State Govt
(h) IBM Inc
(j) Indian Navy

13. You can see the wide diversity in the type of organizations using Linux. The next question is, have any of these organizations reverted back to Windows ? There is no evidence of any such moves. Okay, has any organization that started a business with Linux and migrated to any other operating system. A cursory Google search draws a blank. Then why are more individuals not in Linux world ? At least as for as India is considered, the answer may be :-

(a) In India, very few users buy software, at least not for personal ownership. The day, people who use MS office are forced to pay for the software they use at home, Open office downloads will multiply. (This paper is written using Libre Office Version:

(b) So many applications are available, mostly pirated, and users have attained a certain degree of proficiency in these applications. There is a reluctance to learn any new applications available in the open source arena. How else can you explain anyone be using Internet Explorer ?

(c) Despite the progress made in the IT field, Internet penetration is very low. In India we have only 15 to 20 PCs per 100 and out of that only - only 1.1 use Internet broadband. Most users still load software through CDs and DVDs, pirated of course. Open source means global collaboration and Internet broadband is a pre- requisite. Any expenditure made by a Govt or any private organization or an individual in broadband connection is money well spent. It is an investment to break the shackle of propriety software and propriety education and will prove a great money saver in years to come.


How To Migrate

14. Here is a suggested model for an individual to switch over to Linux over a period of six months to one year. When individuals embrace Linux, it would be a smooth migration for an organization as IT products work on the principle of 'Winner takes all'.

(a) Step 1 identify the applications you actually use under windows, leaving out the ones that have been preloaded free of cost by the vendor, but never used.

(b) Step 2 Identify the Linux equivalent of these applications.

(c) Step 3 Download windows versions of these applications. Some of them would be very familiar for example, Mozilla Firefox Browser.

A Table Showing These Applications

Propriety application in Windows
Open Source Applicatin in LInux
Internet Explorer
Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Chromium, Ubuntu Browser.
Office Suite
MS Office (Word, excel and powerpoint)
Open Office or Libre Office (Writer, calc and Impress)
Email Client
MS Outlook
Evolution or Thunderbird
Adobe Photoshop
Video Player
Windows Media Player
Amarok, Rhythmbox,Yarock
Video editing
Movie maker
Open Shot Video Editor PiTV
Audio Editing
Adobe Audition
Oracle, Sybase
Mysql, Postgresql

(d) Step 4 Keep booting into the widows machine, but get used to open source applications like Mozilla Firefox browser, Libre office, GIMP, Kompozer, VLC Media Player, and so on. In case of any problem a simple search on the net for open source application for windows will give a huge choice of apps. As a rule anything available for Linux will be available for Windows , but not vice versa.

(e) Step 5 Use a bootable Linux CD, Ubuntu preferably, and try the OS, without actually installing. No change is made in the Operating System. This is one feature which is new to Windows users, who are used to formatting and re installation at the drop of a hat. There are also Packages available which can be installed under windows just as another software.

(f) Step 6 Once you get used to the Open Source Applications in windows environment, using the same in the native Linux environment can only be smoother.

(g) Step 7 Boot into Linux and work in Open Source Applications. Let Windows be available in the system , particularly to work on an odd document or graphic received from a colleague or from another organization, which requires a specific Windows application. One day, one finds that neither is there a need to boot into windows nor is it a peasant experience to do so , at times when you are forced to do so,.That is the time delete your windows partition and that would be Software Nirwana.


15. The Information age has seen so much development in three decades that has not happened in industrial age for three centuries and agricultural age for over three millenniums. Open Source Software has evolved to become a viable alternative to propriety software. The main reason why users have not switched over to Linux is that they are not aware of the developments that have taken place in the Open Source arena in the past decade. We need to spread that awareness, for the benefit of all users, individuals or organizations.