The Open CD

By Ed Hurst | Posted at 4:26 PM
How does one write a review of a project like this, without reviewing the software that's included? Since all the software on the CD has been reviewed repeatedly in other places, there's not much to gain by doing it one more time. In this case, it is the concept itself that needs a little more attention from the world.

I suppose I could waste a great deal of space with comments such as: "AbiWord has always been better in Windows than with Linux or BSD. That's because on *nix systems, it has tons of dependencies, some that seem to ordinary users wholly unjustified. In Widows, it can be packaged much more simply." Such comments really serve little purpose if you are looking for a review of AbiWord. What's important is to note that there's an AbiWord for just about any OS you use as a desktop, and that the native file format is the same for all of them.

In the past I've stated that the one best reason any non-geek has for using Free/Open Source Software is that it works better for your needs. If the motive is something more doctrinaire, then we're talking religion, or at least philosophy, but not business and everyday life. That's the point of the Open CD: you can have the goodness of Open Source's best without abandoning your Windows OS.

While I myself would never go back to that, my wife has access to just such a computer. In order to make this trial as close as possible to a true Windows user experience, I left it to her. She installed some of the programs and tried them. The installer itself is a work of art, far out-shining some of the bland stuff you may be used to seeing with Win-ware. The installation process for everything she tried was hassle-free, quite professional. If you hope to sell the idea of Open Source to your friends, the Open CD would be a pretty good first taste.

I allowed myself to watch without much comment as my wife went through the installation process and tried out some of the programs. She didn't need much help, except a bit of explaining what each application was supposed to do. There were several she never touched, as you might expect, and I left that to her. The applications are nicely grouped in a fairly logical manner. Let me offer some highlights.

Naturally she uses OpenOffice. Doesn't everyone? The upgrade was less dramatic on her machine than on mine in terms of noticeable difference, but nonetheless worthwhile. I believe we can all agree that with version 1.1, OpenOffice has really come into its own.

Two other items were real keepers for her: Crack Attack! and 7-Zip. I doubt she'll let a day pass without at least 3 rounds with the game Crack Attack! for a long time to come. And while she seldom needs a compression utility, 7-Zip is comfortable enough she's forgotten the others she tried.

The only disappointment was the screensaver collection. Perhaps the machine she was using was just too wimpy, but the act of simply trying to set them up in her Control Panel gave new meaning to the expression "resource starvation." She lost control of the mouse due to the incredible lag in response that set in when she tried to select one, even for display in the thumbnail window. Still determined, she set one up, and it did actually run. However, it wouldn't allow the DPMS to kick in, so the machine never went into sleep mode. It took at least 10 minutes of patient work to escape them.

So we have the obvious joy of great stuff, and the cautionary tale of things that may not work as you expect. I won't pretend to know enough to diagnose whether it was the fault of the machine, the program, the operator, all of the above, or something totally other. It doesn't really matter. If every application we ever tried worked perfectly, we'd never try very many.

After all, it's still about freedom. Here is at least one more set of choices for the Win-user. With the Open CD, you get the freedom of great FOSS applications without jumping off into a new OS. All this goodness for the price of mere acquisition. You can download the ISOs yourself, or order up a copy. Why haven't you tried it already, Win-users? (Free,