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What It Means to Be the Best

What It Means to Be the Best

What it means to be the best is a relative thing. In the sports world it's the score at the end of the game, the winning record that indicates who beat whom. In the world of Linux, it's more subjective to the goals of the end user.

This month we explore, from the point of view of the LinuxWorld Magazine editors, what constitutes the best solutions for given computing tasks. I don't presume to speak for every Linux user who works in health care or video animators or any one group - I speak just for me. I think sharing our points of view will help you start to investigate what makes your best of the best list.

Desktop software is a subject near and dear to my heart. I work in that field and have spent my career supporting users of desktop software. It's impossible to look at such a diverse group of users as desktop Linux users and then identify what is best. However, in my mind the product that evinces this better than any other package is Firefox from the Mozilla Project (www.mozilla.org/products/firefox/).

Firefox accomplishes something no other browser has: it blends a useful feature set combined with high performance. The Firefox browser's tabbed-based browsing is one of the most handy features I use. It allows you to not only bookmark individual pages, but groups of pages. I can aggregate the sites I most commonly go to in one click by bookmarking groups of pages. Also, Firefox includes the ability to add functionality to the browser through the use of extensions. There are tons of extensions that meet the needs of different groups that can leverage and accentuate the core functionality. For example, Firefox includes the ability to load pop-up windows, the most obnoxious form of advertising on the Web; however, through the use of the Firefox extension framework you can install Adblock (http://update.mozilla.org/extensions/moreinfo.php?id=10) to block banner ads that are embedded in Web pages that sap your bandwidth and slow the loading of your desired content.

When it comes to bootable CDs, I can't say enough about their usefulness. There are many flavors that focus on software demos, from solving administrative problems to portable desktop solutions. However, my favorite one is Knoppix (www.knoppix.org), which in my opinion has the greatest number of uses for the largest number of users. I consider myself more of an evangelist than a journalist, and when I'm preaching about the value of Linux, nothing helps me drive my point home more than when I hand someone a Knoppix disk and say, "Here's a great operating system, office suite, Web browser, disk partitioner, and recovery disk." People often don't believe me; some call me the next day and say, "Wow!" I can't think of one instance where I got a negative reaction. That's quite a testimonial, and because of that I give Knoppix my "best of" award.

Mambo (www.mamboserver.org) is a premier content management system (CMS) that leverages arguably four of the best open source packages around: Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP. The Mambo server is a content management system that makes the administration of a Web site a breeze. I use it on my personal Web site - www.luckydog.org - and I couldn't be happier. The fact is that making a Web site shouldn't be cumbersome; it's almost a necessity for businesses large and small. The thing that sets Mambo apart is that it's simple to produce content and administer, and it's extendable. The system relies on storing content as items in a MySQL database. This content is then easily managed within the Mambo framework. The look and the feel of a Web site can change with the click of a form via Mambo's theme-able site-management control panel. Also, as with Firefox, there has sprouted a community of developers leveraging the core technology once again to add user-selectable functions to their Web sites.

For every example I have given here there are at least three or four contenders that someone else would consider the best. Given the criteria at the beginning of this editorial, they would be right.Regardless, all these solutions are in the company of thousands of high-quality, affordable software packages provided to you by thousands of dedicated developers who want nothing more than to make your computing a joy rather than a chore.

More Stories By Mark R. Hinkle

Mark Hinkle is the Vice President of Community at Cloud.com. the maker of the open source cloud computing management software, CloudStack He also is along-time open source expert and advocate. He is a co-founder of both the Open Source Management Consortium and the Desktop Linux Consortium. He has served as Editor-in-Chief for both LinuxWorld Magazine and Enterprise Open Source Magazine. Hinkle is also the author of the book, "Windows to Linux Business Desktop Migration" (Thomson, 2006). His blog on open source, technology, and new media can be found at http://www.socializedsoftware.com.

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