This is a read-only archive. Find the latest Linux articles, documentation, and answers at the new!

Feature: Migration

Commentary: An idea for Free Software CD

By on April 20, 2002 (8:00:00 AM)

Share    Print    Comments   

- By Henrik Nilsen Omma -
It seems clear there are many hurdles when persuading people to switch to Free Software. Most people will not change their entire operating system just for fun; it's too unfamiliar, and they will lose the use of all their favorite programs at the same time. (Yes, there are free alternatives to most of these, and WINE should be working, well, any day now, but all this involves a steep learning curve for the average user.) The key, as I see it, is to encourage people to use the high-quality Free Software now becoming available in the OS they are already using.
In my own experience, it is pointless to recommend Linux to my friends with basic computer skills (although I'm hoping that Lycoris or Xandros can change that), but it's quite easy to get them to try a free program like AbiWord in their native OS. I have been giving them CDs with a few such programs and encouraging them to try it out. So far, this has been on an individual basis. Then thought I would set up a standard collection, so I could make one version of a CD with a broad collection of free Windows software and give it to everyone (less work). This idea soon evolved to setting up a standard CD that we can all give to our friends.

Many Linux fans (of which I am one) take a rather Linux-centric view of the desktop issue: "Hey, we have this great, free, stable OS, surely you will want to switch from yours?" To which a normal user would reply, "Well, I don't care very much about the OS itself, I just want to run application X,Y, and Z." A much easier sell would be: "You should try this free alternative to MS Office. It can be installed on your current OS, and run at the same time as MS Office if you like. And if you don't like it, it's easy to uninstall, and everything will be back to normal."

At the moment, many are hoping that WINE and CrossOver Office will bring users to Linux. But why should a business owner switch to an unknown OS with the learning curve that implies, only to run the same applications as before through a buggy and complicated-to-set-up interface? She still needs to have licenses (and pay for them) for those applications anyway. It makes much more sense to keep the OS that came with the machine (because it's "free" then, right? Or at least, "I've paid for it already, anyway.") and then install Free Software instead of MS Office, etc. Perhaps WINE-like systems can play an important part later, when individuals or businesses consider migrating to Linux because they see that they can then use Linux versions of the Free Software they are already using. Then they can WINE when "there is this one Program X I need that only runs on Windows." If that one program can be shown to work with WINE, then the user has no reason not to switch.

So, if you who agree that this is a key approach to promoting Free Software (many will disagree; fair enough), the next question is how do we help promote it in this way? I suggest that we set up a Web site or at least a forum for this purpose. The participants would then nominate and vote on Free Software alternatives for each relevant proprietary OS. The programs at the top of the list would then be compiled and ISOed, so that anyone easily can download and distribute them. A new disc could be launched each month and simply be called the "OpenCD" or "The Free Software Collection." If such a compilation were to reach critical mass, it would be possible to get hardware resellers to bundle it with machines, etc.

It seems that the three projects soon to be released in version 1.0, namely OpenOffice, Mozilla and AbiWord, are obvious candidates, but there is still lots of room on a disc. I'm sure others will have lots of good suggestions. However, I don't think that we should strive to fill up the 650MB of a CD just for the sake of it; I would strive for quality, not quantity. There are plenty of CDs with "free software" bundled with computer magazines etc., but these often contain mostly shareware or demos of proprietary stuff. Besides, a 200MB ISO image is faster to download and burn.

This should all be relatively easy, but I also think great improvements can be made on this idea with a bit more work. First, a Web site should be set up which contains a description of each of the programs on the disc, and these Web files should also be included on the the CD so that the user can read about a program before installing. This should auto load when the CD is inserted to make it easy, and it should look professional. It would also be useful to have a friendly install shell where the user can launch each installer with a click. There should also be up-front information about what impact it will have on the system, such as the required disc space and file association changes, and information about how to uninstall. The CD might also include some classic Open Source literature for the curious, and a collection of useful links.

Some have suggested that GNU/Linux should be marketed more professionally, with glossy ads in Newsweek and Time. While that would probably help market the OS, it requires large recourses and a centralized effort. The free-CD approach, on the other hand, can be done in the typical decentralized Open Source way, and should be well within our abilities and resources.

"Commentary" articles are contributed by and readers. The opinions they contain are strictly those held by their authors, and may not be the same as those held by OSDN management. We welcome "Commentary" contributions from anyone who deals with Linux and Open Source at any level, whether as a corporate officer; as a programmer or sysadmin; or as a home/office desktop user. If you would like to write one, please email with "Commentary" in the subject line.

Share    Print    Comments   


on Commentary: An idea for Free Software CD

Note: Comments are owned by the poster. We are not responsible for their content.

Great Idea!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 20, 2002 08:42 PM

What could we put on it. AbiWord is a must. There are various ksh, bash, etc shells for Windows too. Pan (GNOME news reader) and Sylpheed (GTK email client) are both stable and efforts are under way to port them to Windows. Some work has been done on The GIMP for Windows.'s suite of software would be good to include as well -- not to mention Mozilla.

-Toby Inkster


Re:Great Idea!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 20, 2002 10:12 PM
Certainly the GIMP for win32 is a must include. It is one of two apps which has impessed MS users at work - who do not have the choice to switch to Linux, never mind the desire . It has, I think, the potential to become a 'Killer' app for free software - because the average user does not have access to a decent graphics package to begin with. The GIMP could be many user's first such app - no need to switch. 'Office' apps, particularly those which must compete with Word will have a lesser impact in my opinion. I can never persuade anyone that, even for creating the most basic formatted text (ie something which Wordpad is easily capable of), anything other than a recent MS Word will do.

The second important inclusion, I think, is Ghostscript (& frontend - GSView seems popular on win32) , because it has a very useful feature that again, most people don't have access to - the ability to create PDF files.
I've installed several copies on the network at work for this very reason.


Gread Idea!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 20, 2002 09:00 PM

The best people to get to Linux are the ones who don't even know what software they use, they just know the things they want to do.

For the rest of the world, this makes perfect sense. And I nominate the GIMP for windows to be on the CD. I've been using it for the last 3 years, and it is every bit as good as the Linux version (it needs an easy way to switch GTK+ themes though). The latest release of GIMP for Windows runs on XP as well, so people buying new PCs + M$ tax will be able to run it.

OpenOffice is getting there too. I've got the financial secretary for my Church running Linux on her home computer now w/OpenOffice (I love MDK 8.2) and OpenOffice is on my Church Secretary's machine at the Church now too. They'll be sending files back and forth (in a GREAT file format) and editing them w/o even knowing that they're using something different!

Let's get this done!


Re:Gread Idea!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 21, 2002 01:44 PM
Gimp on Windows crashes a lot.


Re:Gread Idea!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 21, 2002 11:58 PM
Version 1.2.3 of The Gimp for Windows was released in March -- first update in quite a while. (+1 year?)

Is that the version that crashes alot for you, or was it a previous one?


My pick

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 20, 2002 11:01 PM
Audacity is a great cross-platform audio editor. But, don't forget to abide by section 3 of the GPL. The easiest way is to include the source code of the release the CD, or as a companion downloadable .iso.


Re:My pick

Posted by: pohatek on April 21, 2002 06:17 AM
Jepp, the source is important. I think it can go on the main CD in the beginning, and then a separate CD as the number of apps grows. The initial collection might be as few as 10-20 apps, because the criteria should be very strict.

We might also consider including a source viewer. Not that most people will bother making changes, and those who would knows where to find a more updated version anyway. But part of the OpenSource idea is: "Look here is the source, there are no secrets. The program doesn't send your details back to XYZ-corp, and you could hire in a programmer to make adaptations for your specific needs" Having the source right on the CD drives home that point, even if most will never use it.

- Henrik


Why change OS?

Posted by: Vincent_EM on April 21, 2002 12:32 AM
If the learning curve is the major deterent to changing an OS, and really all a person wants to do is run X,Y and Z applications, then once X,Y, and Z free software apps run (or are ported) to windows, what would make them switch OS?

Again it seems like we have to same problem, "why change to an OS I don't know when I can already run the applications I want." The only difference is that rather than them paying their left arm for Microsoft Office, they are now using OpenOffice for free, but still on Windows.

People don't change an OS just to change an OS, its usually one of a few reasons:

-They need to use specific software that is not avaliable for their current OS.

-They need the added features of a newer OS, for hardware support etc.

-They are just that discontent with their old OS.

So, if we start making the quality linux software avaliable for windows, then we take away one of the motivations to change to our OS.

While what your saying in the article is nice, you are presupposing that everyone just hates windows but they are tied to it because of certain applications (read as Office) and that waining them off these programs will just automatically make them want to change their OS. Which for the vast majority does not appear to be the case. Moreover it seems to one of, "Im familiar with windows, it works for what I need it to do, it has the applications I need." Where giving them more applications free software or not may only change their applications usage habbits (using free applications over spending too much for a wordprocessor) it will not be a motivation to change their OS.

When it gets down to it, the average person doesnt really seem to care what OS they run as long as they can do what they want with it, either thru in-OS features or seperate applications.


Re:Why change OS?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 21, 2002 01:24 AM

Yes, but if the average user is converted to The GIMP, OpenOffice and other free software then the next time they go into a computer shop they won't be looking for "a computer that runs Photoshop and Microsoft Office" -- they'll be looking for "a computer that runs The GIMP and OpenOffice".

This is an important change of mind set and they might end up looking at Linux as a viable option.

Secondly, with more people using Free Software, more people will start using open data formats which can only be a boost for alternative operating systems.

-Toby Inkster


Re:Why change OS?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 21, 2002 01:44 AM
Don't forget that the OS still locks up. You get people hooked on great software, let them get used to it. When they complain then about IE and the like freezing the computer, and all the viruses they get in their in box, you can say, "Well, the programs you are using all run on linux, and you don't have those problems." Bingo, a switcheroo!


Re:Why change OS?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 21, 2002 03:59 AM
I'd have to agree, righ now my wife has been using Windows for a long time. Slowly as she has gotten frustrated with different programs, IE and Office, and I've gotten her to try Mozilla and Open Office. Now she realizes that she doesn't need Windows, and that she can do everything she is already doing with the same applications better with Linux. Windows is coming off this weekend, and RedHat is going on!



Re:Why change OS?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 22, 2002 06:25 AM
Be careful!

I explained to my wife the legal issues (and that the copy of Windows on our home-built PC was maybe a little iffy legally), and commented, "But since you're not prepared to try Linux, we need it on there for you to use it." She immediately responded, "I've never said I won't try Linux" so on went RedHat 7.2

I forgot to install the Nvidia drivers, X crashed twice, she's now learned how to use Grub to select Windows, and hasn't even tried Linux with the proper drivers.

I'm tempted to remove the Nvidia drivers from Windows to make it a fair comparison- see if that'll push her back the other way!

I guess what I'm saying is, make sure the PC is set up well, and that everything is set up properly (If you've got a CDRW, make sure it works, make sure you've got the best X drivers, etc)... even when people "try something out", there's a big gravitational pull back towards the familiar if things don't work out immediately.


Programs to iunclude:

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 21, 2002 01:51 AM
Hey, here is some favorites:

Perl, Python from ActiveState

wxPerl + wxPython add ons

Dev-C++ IDE



Re:Programs to iunclude:

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 21, 2002 02:17 PM
uh, heh, this is for the average person who probably hasn't even a clue that there are other OSes; do you really think they're going to be into programming?


Re:Programs to iunclude:

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 22, 2002 11:27 PM
Why not? It is those who want better tools that are
going to carry around the CD.

Those who are office user... will keep using that :-)


Slightly different approach

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 21, 2002 02:28 AM

Not a bad idea, but one problem is that someone's going to have to pay the bandwidth charges for the site, and those will quickly add up if lots of people are download 650Mb every month.

How about this. A simple web site which lists the top open/free projects, links to their web sites and links directly to the download on that website. In this way, you could use the site to make a cd quite simply, but also you could just download the packages you require.

I think the focus should be purely on the best open source software that Joe Public would use, not things like programming tools and web site editors, etc. but word processors, graphics editors, speadsheets, audio players. And the criteria should be very strict - only things of the highest quality that your ma could understand.


Re:Slightly different approach

Posted by: pohatek on April 21, 2002 06:05 AM
The idea here is to keep it VERY simple. There are alreay sites that link to free software, but the level of users we are talking about here couldn't be bothered downloading and installing something from a file (It might even be a zip-file!).

Yes, there will be a problem with bandwith. Any suggestions? Can we use mirror sites? Universities?

I completely agree with your choice of material, the criteria should be strict, with emphasis on quality and user friendliness.

- Henrik


debian already solved this problem

Posted by: pixelfairy on April 22, 2002 06:35 AM
they made a script to download packages and make CDs. i think thier method is too complex and can be simplified, with better support for using different sources to make the ISOs. also, there are places with enough bandwidth. or sourceforge may be convinced to host such a thing. or some of the windows and mac freeware sites could mirror it.


Gear the CD towards a Windows (or Mac) user...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 21, 2002 02:59 AM
I've found that if I give a CD without a menu that runs when they pop in the CD, most Windows users don't install the software at all. Clicking on a directory, and then clicking on a setup.exe or even renaming setup.exe to "click on me to install this program.exe" means nothing.

Adding a readme.txt file also does not work, since it never ends up getting read.

Before you think that this is just super novice, computer phobic "the mouse scares me" newbies, I have to point out that I've had this reaction from midlevel programmers with Unix experience. These folks aren't morons. They expect Windows programs to install in a specific way -- "anything else is just wrong".


Re:Gear the CD towards a Windows (or Mac) user...

Posted by: sadist168 on May 08, 2002 01:17 PM
Uh, didn't you even READ the article? The whole point was explaining an idea for a CD with free LINUX software, not Mac, and *especially* not Windows. I mean, not to be such a dick-hole, but Windows users don't need any new CD's with all their favorite software; they've already got more than enough. Besides, adding a menu upon detection of the CD really is for computer novices who have no business using a computer in the first place. I'm not saying all Windows users are this way, but all the narrow-minded "Windows is the only true OS" fuckwits such as yourself really should get a life.

PS: I know I'm going to get flamed for the above remarks, so I take this time to apologize for nothing.



Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 21, 2002 08:01 AM
Shouldn't something like <A HREF=""> cygwin </a> be included on this type of distribution? There are also windows versions of emacs, xemacs, vi (vim) and other classic "unix" applications. I know I have a couple of CDs I've burned with windows ports of unix applications that I install everytime I get a new windows box at work or home. I think exposing Windows users to some of the applications commonly found on unix can potentially help them "make the jump" because when they do, things will seem much more familiar to them.

Plus don't forget some of the classic unix games like <A HREF=""> nethack </a>!



Posted by: Serguei Panskikh on April 21, 2002 11:09 PM
Don't forget LyX


A very good idea

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 21, 2002 10:06 AM
This could likely be the best way of getting people turned to Software Libre. The one thing I've noticed is that the WinXX world is still dominated by Shareware. Now, there's nothing wrong with Shareware but there's a LOT of good stuff out for the *NIX world that could be made to run on WinXX. It really is all about just getting the job done.

Also, when thinking of what this CD might have on it I've noticed people mentioning development tools. These are not good candidates for this kind of CD/Project. The target audiance for this will not be interested in dev tools.


How about LyX

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 21, 2002 10:30 AM
LyX is a fantastic document processor that's a front end for LaTeX. The uniform output it generates is without peer.

It takes a different approach to document processing than WYSIWYG applications in that LyX takes charge of the typesetting allowing the user to concentrate on the content.

Get a Word user to give it a whirl and if they get over the initial bump they'll fall in love with it.


Great Idea I would like to see this happen

Posted by: skkaw on April 21, 2002 10:49 AM

I think this is a great idea, like the other people who commented about this article, I have a few ideas i'd like to share.

Well, I just like the idea. 1 cd chuck fullof great "free" software filtered and chosen going around. I would suggest multiple versions if this is not already thought off, one for windows, linux and mac (or all in one).

I also agree with the article that there are many cds out there that contain free softare, but none so much that is filtered well thought of and universal so much that you can give it to pratically anyone with a computer (be it a PC or Mac (x86 arch) ) with any operating system.

It's the most practical way to introduce free software to anyone.

Just burn a cd, give it to a friend, let them try it. If they don't like it, ok that's alright. But if they do... I mean, were talking about the people who would never have known about , or any type of free software alternative. It's practically spoon feeding.

And it's still their choice to use it or not, sounds fun to me, please lets make this work.

thanks for your time



where to start

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 21, 2002 11:11 AM
giving a cd to joe user is not going to do it. but i'll tell you where to start. schools. i am a 7th grade teacher and i have been trying to get linux into our district for years. here's the problem.

for example, two years ago, (yes, i've been using linux on the DESKTOP over two years now), i was running linux on my older computer at school, had it hooked up to my tv, etc. the district tech guy comes into my class to talk about somethings, (back when i was tech coordinator, ha, what a joke) and he sees my computer, and notices its hooked up to internet, but is running linux. he wants to know how it is connected to the internet, since "novell doesn't support linux". i tried to explain the tcp/ip thing, but he still didn't uderstand, because he was told "linux isn't supported". and he is supposed to be a district sysadmin.

i teach a web design class, i always stress linux. now, imagine if we ran linux on our computers, and i could just give the students a cd. say, here, install this, email with questions, and go from there. i won't teach web design on dreamweaver, golive, and especially front page for this reason.

there are two places where linux needs to go to make serious inroads. don't think we're going to do it by selling xandros or lycoris to joe user.

the change will start a) in corporate desktops. apps like open office will allow companies to migrate rather seamlessly, and leave BSA gestapo nightmares behind. b) in schools. we already know that colleges are all teaching linux, (i.e. the reason behind m$ "shared source" initiatives) but how about using it 5th grade classrooms. like they use it for more than internet stuff.

try to tell this to schools. for example, we have lots of legacy hardwre, i.e. P166-200 class. they work fine with win9x, BUT... m$ will stop selling win9x licenses and we'll have to migrate to xp, which means system incompatibilites and massive hardwre upgrades. CHA-CHING!!! so, take it the schools. go to your school board meetings, laptop in hand, demonstrate what linux can do, and SELLTHEM ON THE BOTTOM LINE. hey they're politicians. if they can save money, voters like that.

so, the change will happen in schools and corporate desktops. think about it, your boss or teacher says here's the cd, install it at home. that is what gives billy g nightmares.

rob mandel


Re:where to start

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 22, 2002 09:26 AM
Finally someone making sense. The only way linux will make it on the Desktop is for critical mass to be reached. This can only happen when the 'pain' is great enough. Businesses and any government department are where real opportunities lie. When enough of these org's switch there becomes a reason why web sites are not designed as an IE app. That kills me by the way to see the web company a proprietary MS only app.

Anyway when enough businesses change, there will be an insentive for more people to run other OS's at home.


A reasonable idea; try mingw32

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 21, 2002 11:36 AM
This is a reasonable idea that has surfaced at other discussion web sites, like, before. The different spin is offering a group of >=1.0 versions on a CD.

My favorite development system for Win32 is the mingw32 group of gcc and associated languages (



Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 21, 2002 07:56 PM
GPL-Software should also gain ground on the Windows plattform.
It's better to fight the MS-Office lock-in in its homeland.
Isnt qt available for Win as well?



Posted by: alanpog on April 22, 2002 02:28 AM
I had been thinking about doing something like this for the past weeks. I've even registered a domain name that IMO is a perfect fit : <A HREF=""></a> .

I have about 300GB/month of unused bandwidth allowance in a RH7.2 box that I could set aside for this project. This keeps us going until we reach about a thousand downloads/month. At this point we can search for mirrors.
Please email me at ap247 AT if you like this. If I get positive feedback I'll setup a discussion board on the site so we all can start planning.
Let's do it!


Nobody seems to have mentioned this yet...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 22, 2002 04:51 AM
But, there was at one point some moderate discussion of making a Debian Gnu/w32 port.

A little bit of Cygnus and the combination of apt and a boatload of free software, easily installed - I think it would rock.

There are many people involved in Debian who shouted this down for various reasons, a lot of which are good ones. However, if you're really interested in doing this, then maybe building an apt front-end for windows, porting it, and having a repository would help. Forget making a CD. ;)

Of course, making Debian GNU/w32 is kind of difficult (especially without a lot of help), and a CD is a great idea, at least until things get too big. ;)

Perhaps a site that provides a list of things for the CD, and a some sort of election process for adding software to the list, and then mirrors of those packages would suffice. That way, individuals could customize their CDs easily for their target audience, we're not leeching the original software maintainer's bandwidth, and no one individual gets hit with the bandwidth bill for a bunch of .iso downloads.

Oh, and I just wanted to say, kudos to the people above who offered rebuttals to the idea that people won't switch if free software is ported. I've always thought this was incorrect but never thought it through. Linux is worth it on its own merit.


We have a Forum!!

Posted by: alanpog on April 22, 2002 05:31 AM
This idea is growing... We have estabished a forum to discuss it further at <A HREF=""></a>

What do you think about this idea? What packages should be included? How should it be distributed? What's a good name for this project?

Please visit the forum, and speak up!


About compilers...

Posted by: sgp321 on April 22, 2002 06:42 AM
There have been a number of posts here about whether to include IDEs, compilers, etc, replied to with "but Joe User doesn't use these things" comments.

I totally agree, that Joe User does not understand, let alone use, these things. But the difference between Shareware and Free Software distributed in this way is, in practice - as far as Joe User is concerned - zero.

With an IDE and compiler, a geek evangelist could quickly and easily show Joe User, "Look, I change this here, recompile, run, and that dialog box has a different title." That's the kind of thing Joe will think is cool, and will help him realise that if he hired a geek, he could have any changes he wanted made to the software.

There could be an "Advanced CD" with the IDE and compiler, plus Perl and stuff, though it would help the geek evangelist if everything was there in one place.

In this way, the CD can help Joe User, but also be a boon to Joe Geek... or even to Joe Geek's consultancy firm.


Free Software for Windows

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 22, 2002 09:00 AM

I actually discovered free software while using Perl for Win32 (as ActiveState's Perl was known way back then). While avoiding work, I was browsing through the included docs, and happened across the GPL - one of those life-changing moments. My subsequent migration to an entirely free software desktop (at home, anyway), was made much easier by knowing that if I got lost, I could always write a Perl script to do what I wanted to do.

The broad principle is that migration is much easier if you're not going to an entirely foreign country.

For that reason, the <A HREF="">community project I'm involved in</a> put together a quick CD of free software for Windows, (<A HREF="">the contents list is here</a>), mainly for use in our own installations. To do this properly, though, you'd proably want to set up an organisation something like Debian, with package maintainers to check the source and binaries into the distro, and so on. Once the number of apps gets into double figures, just making sure that you've got the latest versions on your CD becomes quite an onerous task.

Matthew Davidson


<A HREF="">Parramatta Computer Access Network</a>


The Open CD Project

Posted by: pohatek on April 22, 2002 06:48 PM
Following my recent article on NewsForge about the idea of putting together a CD with high quality free software for wide distribution to users of Proprietary OSes, there has been a good response from people and a great level of involvement from people from interested in participating in such a project.

I feel that the key concept here is the CD, for this reason: There are already lots of useful sites with information about Free Software, where you can read all about it and download copies. So when you tell your friend to check out this really good site with Free Software, you may get the answer 'Cool, I'll check it out, maybe Thursday' Then there's the matter of picking stuff and downloading a setup.exe-file (but isn't that dangerous, what about viruses ...) and then figuring out how to install it. On the other hand, if you give someone a ready made CD in their hand and say 'you just have to put it in the drive and everything else will be self-explanatory' (which it then must be :), there is a better chance of them giving it a try. When they install it, they'll see that there are no SW nag-screen, no advertising; it really is FREE (as in beer), and of high quality. After using it for a few weeks they will come and ask 'so what company is this by again, Sun?' At which point you can explain to them all about the OpenSource community, free as in speech, Linux, etc., because now you really have their attention. Then they will be happy to read several pages about open source development. If we make a standard collection it can be given to all schools universities and NGO's for a start.

So let's focus on the CD and what should be the criteria for inclusion. This would be my list:

1. High quality and preferably somewhat mature
2. Truly Free OpenSource software (obviously), no closed Freeware, etc.
3. Mainstream application such as Office-apps, multimedia, internet
We can always put links to development tools and such, but developers will find this stuff anyway
4. The installation must be smooth unbreakable, and require a minimum of user interaction.
5. Quality Uninstall

So which apps meet these criteria?

AbiWord - Great App. We should also include precompiled ispell dictionaries (hash-files) for a whole bunch off languages, with a simple installer) This should be quite popular, because many people cannot get Spellchecking in MSW in their native Icelandic, say.

Mozilla - Also Great App. But does the spell check work (v.99), and in what languages?

OpenOffice - I use this in Linux, obviously a must
Gimp - A must also, but the first time wizard has some bumps, but it's very fixable
GhostView - For making PDFs

LyX - Nice program; I use it in Linux, BUT it doesn't have a smooth Win installer, as far as I can see. Without that, it shouldn't qualify.

... I've seen other good suggestions posted, but have no personal experience with these.

Next, what should the CD itself be like? We obviously need to make some nice installers (to start the app installers), documentation, etc. I suggest:

1. Autostart as the CD is inserted

2. Be simple and intuitive

3. Allow the user to read about the programs before trying them (so we need to compose some text). And there should be lots of screenshots taken in various versions of Windows and MacOS and in various languages.
The installer itself should be in many languages, so that only one version is needed.

4. The user should be able to access the full online documentation before installing.

5. There should be a section with links to various Free/OpenSource sites, including Linux distros.

6. It should contain some free software literature (under free license). Which books and articles to include should be debated.

7. Finally the installer should be unbreakable :)

As for a project title, I propose the TheOpenCD Project, with a project coordination at, and installer development at When it comes time to launch the CD itself, I propose to use:


- Select OpenSource Applications

('note the inclusion of the term CD which everyone can identify with and the double meaning of 'select' 'Applications' make people think of large solid programs. TheOpenDVD may soon follow, as Alan points out.)

Some have suggested we release once every 3 months, which sounds reasonable. In that case I would suggest another word usage:

- The Spring/Summer... collection

I think we all have to admit that Microsoft did something brilliant when the went from Win3.11 to Win95, in that they used a numbering scheme used on cars, clothes, etc., which is very familiar to people. 'The Spring Collection' is also easy to remember.

To make this thing happen, we need lots of contributions from the community, such as:

Cool graphics -- both for the splash screen on the installer and for the public web page.

Web design -- In the hacker site (, say) we need discussion forums, but also ways of contributing code and graphics and a way to competitively rate submissions (see In the next phase, we need a public site (, say). This must be very simple and friendly.

Ease of use testers - The apps we select will already have passed through the beta test, and will be of a high quality by defention. However, some may still have some sharp edges in their installers, etc. This testing should ideally not be done by us, but by our mothers :)

Support - The public site should contain some discussion forums and a FAQ, and it would be useful if some seasoned hackers people cold hang around the public site and answer newbie questions, and enlighten them about Free/OpenSource software at the same time:

Free legal advice -- It's important to get all the licenses right.

Translators -- both for the site and the CD. Free software is clearly very important in many poorer contras, so we should make it easy for them.


What sort of timeframe is realistic? The apps in question are pretty much ready now, but the multi-installer shell and web pages is not. I think we need to have a beta testing period on the installer and the public web page to get feedback of at least 15 days. Can we shoot for June 1st beta, and June 15th release (or even May15/June1st)?

So, what does everyone think? Can we do this?

Henrik Nilsen Omma
Oxford, UK henrik AT




Re:The Open CD Project

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 22, 2002 08:17 PM
Hmm does anyone Know a place where you can get cds mass produced for a cheap price ? as it only costs 65 euro here in ireland for the post office to deliver up to 25,000 copies of an item under a certain weight to a particular area.

SO Just pick the area which Has the largest amount of people online and send them out a free cd and booklet explaining whats on the cd How it is usefull to them and why they should use free software.The biggest cost would be raising the funds to get The 25,000 cds printed.


Re:The Open CD Project

Posted by: sgp321 on April 23, 2002 03:11 AM
Does AbiWord support tables yet? Last time I tried it, it couldn't even do that... supporting the basic feature set should be a starting point before a WP could be considered useful

Just MHO


Re:The Open CD Project

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 24, 2002 02:37 AM
Very good comments. Here's one part I'd like to address;

"We can always put links to development tools and such, but developers will find this stuff anyway"

While this is true eventually, it is not true in the short term; the first few months. I've had people who are not familiar with Linux, but have done development on other Unix and Unix-like systems say things like "Linux should have some good IDEs."/"There are no good integrated, graphical, development environments for Linux." Showing some available, cross-platform development tools would help.

While I don't think the emphasis on the CD should be on development tools, developers should be given some references so they can easily see that how they develop applications on Windows won't radically change when/if they move over to Linux (or other free *nix like the BSDs).

A few carefully chosen links that show how to make applications portable -- and definately not an emphasis on the editor or tool kit wars (vi? emacs? QT? GTK?).


Re:The Open CD Project

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 24, 2002 02:48 AM
Your application list is good, tight, and focused. Here are a couple comments.

Gimp: Since The Gimp is not a trivial application to use, it would be good to include a tutorial (or links to one) on the CD. How well does the Win. version 1.2.3 work for the folks out there?

No Games? Add some...

Yep, there are some games that are quite good. We should include a few simple ones, like 54321 that show off SDL and happen to work automatically with Linux, MacOS, and Windows.


Re:The Open CD Project

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 24, 2002 02:54 AM
The uninstaller should also be bullet proof.


Yes, quite agreed

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 22, 2002 08:51 PM
I think this is ultimately the way Linux will be promoted. Some will disagree, but a lot of the free software may well work better under Windows than Linux right at the moment. And there's no point saying over and over that Linux is free; Windows is free for most people because they already have it. When I was a hardcore, 'anything but Microsoft' person, I thought making free software for Windows just helped Microsoft. Now I'm not so sure.

    This is the future I'd like to see; 'free' software makes up most of the basis of people's applications, and can do all the basic things very well (and some not so basic). Advanced users can buy propriatory software, but this software would be compatible and share a similar UI with the free software (which are all compatible with each other), since because the installed user base is so large, they (the free software) have introduced essential standards, and because such users needing the more advanced commercial software have already been weaned on the free software versions. Eventually, Linux will have evolved to such an extent that the switch from Windows would be extremely simple and painless. Install programs could install 'over' an existing Windows installation (upgrade it) and retain many of the user's settings and programs.



Posted by: static on April 22, 2002 10:28 PM
Don't forget apps like qtella (now have a win ver) for downloading music

heh heh

It'd be funny to mention linux to someone a year from now and when they respond "Yeah, but I want to use the GIMP and qtella to get music" we could say "Those are made for linux! They run BETTER in linux!"

Great idea, this CD


Been there, done that.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 23, 2002 03:54 PM
This is exactly what happened to me. I started avoiding different M$ programs due to their high crash rate and started looking for their replacements. Programs like OpenOffice, JEdit(yes, I'm a java developer) and Mozilla were easy to use, stable and free, so I simply downloaded and installed.

When I decided to give linux yet another try (long story) I naturally installed these programs for it and felt right at home. I use Mozilla for mail and browsing, OpenOffice for spreadsheets and documents, XMMS for music and JEdit for coding.

Even if I wouldn't give a rats ass about all the advanced features that Linux offers, there would still be no reason for me to start using Windows.

I think this CD is a brillian idea and I'm willing to help out if I can.

I suggest however that we target this CD to the "general audience" and rather than including different programming tools, shells &c, we would include kickass apps that have virtually no learning curve.


Not sure

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 25, 2002 11:13 PM
From my point of view the idea is both good and bad. Good because you can show people what free software is, but bad in the sense tha many people just think that something that is free cannot be so good as something you have to pay for.

Don't know


Commentary: An idea for Free Software CD

Posted by: Anonymous [ip:] on September 06, 2007 08:11 AM
post my address this cds.
sri lanka


This story has been archived. Comments can no longer be posted.

Tableless layout Validate XHTML 1.0 Strict Validate CSS Powered by Xaraya