REVIEW - Moving to Free Software

Title:

Moving to Free Software

Author:

Marcel Gagné

ISBN:

0321423437

Publisher:

Addison-Wesley Professional (2007)

Pages:

378pp

Reviewer:

Ian Bruntlett

Reviewed:

December 2009

Rating:

★★★★☆

I've been putting free software onto a mental health charity's client's PCs for nearly two years now and shipped about a hundred free PCs to them. I've personally built up a small library of useful programs and so I looked forward to reviewing this book and discovering new F/OSS gems.

This book comes with a DVD of F/OSS programs and, in general, it dedicates a chapter to each program. Some exceptions are 1) all the games are bundled together into one chapter and 2) OpenOffice isn't completely covered (but it does give chapters to Writer, Calc, Impress and Base).

To cut a long story short, here are the subjects and relevant programs that come with the book:

  • Internet: FireFox (web browser), Thunderbird (email client), Gaim (IM), Skype (VOIP), NVU (Web Site Design)
  • OpenOffice.org: Writer (word processor), Calc (spreadsheet), Impress(similar to MS PowerPoint), and Base (similar to MS Access)
  • Audio: CDex (CD Ripper and Audio Converter), Audacity (Podcasts), Juice (Podcasts)
  • Graphics: GIMP (like MS Paint), Inkscape (vector graphics), Scribus (DTP)
  • Utilities : 7-Zip, (compressing files), SpyBot (anti-spyware), ClamWin (antivirus)
  • Linux : Ubuntu Linux. One of the easier Linux distros available.

To finish it off, the following games are provided:- PlanetPenguin Racer, FreedroidRPG, Armagetron Advanced, Super Tux, BZFlag, Fish Fillets : Next Generation, Neverball and Neverputt, SolarWolf, and Flightgear

So that's what the book is good at. What are its weaknesses?

This book should mention:

  • which versions of Windows the programs are compatible with
  • what are the minimum hardware requirements
  • what other programs do they rely on (GIMP relies on GTK)

The author really should have some way of enabling readers/users of this book to contact the author to tell him about incompatibilities and share workarounds – possibly a web site with a forum on. Don’t expect to give this book to a non-technical friend and have all the programs work. You'll need to do some technical handholding and an internet connection is definitely needed to download apps that aren't fully on the disk (the DVD has GIMP on it but not the GTK toolkit that GIMP requires).


Book cover image courtesy of Open Library.