Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The value of FOSS

Damn, I was just looking Ubuntu's help page and I realized something. In Windows we're accustomed to each Windows Server System product as a separate product delivering some kind of functionality - database server, systems management server, Email / collaboration, firewall...each coming at a hefty price with strict licensing on how and where you can use the software.


  1. Network authentication

  2. Web servers

  3. Web Applications

  4. Mail, Groupware, and Chat Servers

  5. DNS

  6. Database

  7. File Server

  8. Remote Administration Access

  9. Installation Servers

  10. Security Servers

  11. Folding@Home

  12. Monitoring

  13. Accounting

  14. Image boards

So checkout the functionality that comes with a typical Lunux distro:

Network authentication

Web servers

Web Applications

  • Blogging with WordPress - Blogging (web publishing).

  • Drupal - A robust content management system.

  • Joomla - Content Management System (CMS) that will help you build websites and other powerful online applications

  • Hive - How to set up a Digital Life Management System. Hive was formally known as Ubuntu Center.

  • Moodle with MySQL - Installing Moodle to run on MySQL

  • PhpBB2 - How to set up a PhpBB forum.

  • PunBB forum - PunBB is a fast and lightweight PHP-powered discussion board.

  • MoinMoin - a powerful and highly configurable wiki.

Mail, Groupware, and Chat Servers

  • Email - The starting point for mail servers - covers the different software used, how they relate together, and more. Read this first if you're unsure of anything.

  • Mailing List Server - Set up your own mailing list server with Mailman, as used on the Ubuntu mailing lists!

  • Groupware with Kolab - Setting up this complete mail and calendar server system.\

  • Groupware with Hula - Setting up this modern mail and calendar server

  • Lotus Domino - Setting up Lotus Domino groupware server.

  • IrcServer - Set up an irc server.

  • SettingUpJabberServer - Set up a Jabber server.


  • BIND - Setting up a DNS server with BIND

  • Dynamic DNS - Set up DNS for your home computer.


File Server

Remote Administration Access

Installation Servers

Security Servers



  • Nagios2 - Installing and configuring Nagios2 for system and network monitoring.

  • Zenoss - Installing Zenoss network monitor on Ubuntu Server

  • Internet Traffic Monitoring - Monitor bandwidth usage on an Internet link.

  • Logwatch - Installing Logwatch to monitor your system logs and have them emailed to you


  • Quasar - How to install Quasar Accounts, a fully featured client-server business accounting application.

Image boards

A mind-boggling set of functionality in one 'product' And yeah I know the licensing only makes up a fraction of the TCO of software, but still, the fact that the functionality you can get from one distro that frankly is way better than a lot the stuff that would cost you $100K + from MS (ISA? Sharepoint? MCMS?, please...) has a lot of implications for the future of commercial software.

Ok, this isn't rocket science - why am I now realizing/writing about this. Well I'm not. But I was chatting with my SoC mentor Rok Zlender, who's from Slovenia, and he mentioned that all his CS program at uni uses is Windows. Which is exactly the case at UWI. For some reason, some of the countries that could probably benefit from the nature of FOSS are the ones where MS is firmly entrenched.

Now I'm not being cyniclal - I think MS is doing a good thing with its low-price desktop suites for developing countries and programmes like Microsoft Unlimited Potential and its initiatives in Africa, but it would be really good to see people developing hard skills in software development and administration using FOSS. FOSS offers the opportunity for developing countries to create a set of highly knowledgeable IT workers at a very low cost.

The main problem is, I think, that all the consulting firms in countries like ours only know how to make a profit selling licenses for software and implementing MS infrastructure. They are making their money with commercial software so there's no incentive for them to turn to anything else, regardless of whether it would benefit the country or not.

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