Please sir. Can you spare some software?

In these newly tough economic times, many IT manages are finding their budgets frozen or even rolled back. Rest assured, however, that this won’t result in fewer demands on the resources provided by the IT department. In fact, if anything, even more requests for services and software can be expected. In order to help with this dilemma, I thought it would be appropriate to look at some of the free software available. If paying licensing fees can be (legally) avoided, more of a budget can be devoted to hardware upgrades or perhaps an additional FTE for the help-desk.

One of the most important open source projects for enterprise networks is the Samba system. Samba, available for free downloaded from www.samba.org, and is able to provide printing and file-sharing services to Windows 95/98/NT/2000 clients.

Samba runs under Unix environments, including SunOS, HPUX and Linux. The latest version is even able to act as a Primary Domain Controller (PDC), which means it can completely replace a Windows NT or 2000 file/print sharing server. All you need to do is price out the licensing fees (including the needed client licenses for the server), and you’ll be highly motivated to use Samba.

For those needing a word processor a good option is Open Office, formally known as Star Office, provided for free by Sun Microsystems. Available from www.openoffice.org, OpenOffice is perfect for students or small offices. It can read and write MS Word and Excel documents, and runs under Linux, Solaris, MacOS X and Windows.

In case graphic production is more the problem of the day, the GNU Image Manipulation Programwww.gimp.org. For the Windows version, navigate to www.gimp.org/win32/. (AKA the GIMP) may do everything needed. The GIMP is a free Photoshop clone with surprisingly powerful set of tools. The GIMP can also be programmed by way of its own scripting language, so commonly executed series of operations can be done automatically. The GIMP can be downloaded for Linux/Unix from

For web serving, there’s no better solution than the Apache web server. According to the most recent www.netcraft.com survey, Apache is responsible for serving just under 60% of the world’s web sites, compared to 19% for Microsoft’s IIS, and 6% for the Netscape server. Apache can be downloaded for either Linux/Unix or MS Windows from www.apache.org.

If programming is your or your organization’s role, it might be worth your time looking at the Concurrent Versions System, or CVS. This lets a team of programmers work on a large collection of source files, and manages changes which are made over time. Being network based, the developers can be based in the same office, or each could be off in different parts of the world.

While little known in the Windows world, CVS is how most open source development is coordinated in the Linux community. CVS can handle any type of data files, not just source code, and is often used to manage web-sites or document repositories. CVS can be downloaded from www.cvshome.org. A Windows GUI front end is available from www.wincvs.org.

Just because budgets are tight doesn’t mean software deployment need suffer. With a little bit of research, powerful software solutions can often be found which match or exceed commercial offerings. While most Free software (note the capital F) is written for Linux, a large and every expanding number of packages are also available under Windows as well.

So, send your browser over to www.freshmeat.net, the open source community’s main software resource, and do some searches. You’ll likely be pleasantly surprised by what is available. Your budget manager sure won’t complain!

Published in the Victoria Business Examiner.

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