OA - Ubuntu
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Making progress part 2: small successes all add up

Aug 01, 2009 by Chris Puttick

So, a quick-ish follow up so my previous post doesn't come across as too negative, and to show that progress in this area can be made with just a little effort.

We are having significant success as a relatively small company using awareness-raising tactics with potential suppliers; conversations along the lines of "hey, we liked your product - but we couldn't make it work with Linux and we have a strategy that includes ensuring desktop Linux is an option in our future" are having an effect.

But it is arguably easier in the corporate IT world. Even a small company spends more money than an individual consumer; so at the very least the salesman who loses the sale gets the message. We have had very positive reactions from large companies, such as Dell, and from the most senior level, when raising concerns regarding cross-platform support.

Some areas are basically done with, such as printers. We've recently carried out a refresh of large multi-function devices (black and white and colour copier/printers) in a couple of our offices; it was part of the base requirements that the devices have cross-platform support, and were surprised to find that the selected supplier, Canon, not only had Linux support (despite some Internet postings to the contrary) but had it in the form of a full-featured GPL-licenced open source driver. There are few if any serious printer manufacturers now who do not provide and, as importantly, state Linux support.

Other areas are similarly done with in the sense that they work just fine e.g. digital cameras (we buy quite a few...), but the manufacturers are not admitting it in the documentation or on their websites. These are the fun ones from a purchasing perspective: "does this camera support Linux?" you ask innocently, knowing it is USB mass storage or PPTP; "I'm not sure, does it matter?" responds the salesperson. "Yes, it is a requirement for the purchase, could you find out?" you reply, struggling to keep a straight face as they start to look nervous...

It seems cruel, but there is a purpose. My knowing that the digital cameras, USB hard drive or ISP services, etc., will work just fine with Linux is not the same as it being there in black and white, with instructions (which are mostly very similar to those for the Mac, so it is not a huge cost to provide them) so the potential and not particularly technical Linux user can see that Linux is a real option. This is as true in enterprise decision making as it is for home users; you or I (I'm guessing you as the reader of an Ubuntu blog...) might know what things will work for sure, what should and what needs to be carefully selected (portable music players springs to mind - did I already mention the slimy demon that is Apple? :D ); you or I will know that just about any enterprise level hardware will be just fine, that any corporate function can be reproduced with a Linux platform, that Linux is a real option on the desktop and the server, but many of my peers at an IT decision-making level don't, as they lost contact with tech stuff a while back (and then some!).

Having sales and marketing functions listing Linux support for their hardware, no matter how distro-focused, no matter how qualified, puts it there in black and white "you can use Linux, you can use Linux". Drills the message in. Makes people comfortable with Linux. Makes the application software suppliers uncomfortable so they start considering porting to Java or platform neutral C/QT mixes, etc.. Makes the web-app providers list Linux as a client platform as well as a server platform. Then the FUD will start to really dissipate and proper informed choices made.

 So if you get involved with purchasing, or when buying something, hardware, software or services, for personal use, ask the question, no matter how obvious the answer; and when the answer is no when you know it to be yes, make sure to contact the manufacturer and ask why the information regarding Linux support is not made public, communicated to the sales channel, printed on the box. And if they say no, when it really is no, don't buy it. And make sure to tell them why you didn't buy it...


I started by not using Ryanair since you need Microsoft software to see their map. Well, I know that you can see it without that software but anyway, it theory what they say is that you have to download Microsoft's software. Oh, yes, the fact that I'm 6'5" and I've been told there is no room for my legs in the aircraft is another good reason although not directly related to the post... Ok, rant over. Greetings Mr. Puttick

Posted by RafaMJ on August 19, 2009 at 05:40 PM GMT+00:00 #

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