Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Tue 6th Feb, 2007

The Linux Ads 1

The Linux Australia email list has been alive with questions about video ads that promote Linux as a usable alternative to other closed-source, proprietary, costly operating systems and software. I had a series of three ads in mind.

All three show two people using an ordinary PC side-by-side. We see brief snippets of the software they use in their everyday work and play. Each time, the one on the left is using Windows; the one on the right is using Linux. In the bottom corner, we see a constantly-updating price of the software they use, where the package name and cost appear and disappear and the running total is left on the screen. The voice-over describes what the people are doing, what operating systems they're using, and finishes up with a conclusion that varies per ad.

The first ad shows the two people using the same free, open-source packages: firefox, thunderbird, OpenOffice, gaim, inkscape, gimp, and so on. The price tag on the left shows the cost of the version of Windows, and each time a package is used it's shown as free. At the end, the voice-over points out that they've been able to use exactly the same software, but the second person hasn't had to pay for their operating system - it's free. And they can give copies to their friends, but this is a minor point in this ad.

The second ad shows the two people using different software. On the right the Linux person is using the same software as before; on the left, their proprietary equivalents: IE, outlook, Microsoft Office, MSN, Photoshop, Illustrator. The price tag quickly goes up into the thousands of dollars. The voice-over points out that not only can the person on the right use the files generated by the person on the left, but they haven't had to pay for the software. And they can still give it away.

The third ad shows the two people using the same list of software as in the second ad. But this time, the price tag for the person on the left comes up as PIRATED each time. Just as the demo ends, two police officers appear beside the person on the left and take them away. The voice over points out that copying proprietary software is illegal and you can face criminal penalties, but that Linux and all its software is still free and legal to share with your friends and family as well.

I'm sure there are a few variants on this theme: you can play many games such as Quake 4 natively, use Wine or Cedega to run Windows software you can't do without, be protected by industry-proven firewalls and security technology, have the latest GUI wobbly window whiz-bangery, and so on. But I really like the idea of comparing the actual cost side-by-side, and showing that you can still do all the stuff you want to in Linux, without paying a cent, and you're allowed to share it with your family and friends. That's one of the key things that I think we overlook in the open software world - it's so obvious that we never think how much of a revolutionary change it is to people bound into proprietary software licensing.

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