Yes to freeware, no to using it

While most respondents in the Computerworld 1000 Survey were favourable towards the idea of open-source code in the corporate environment, only six are actually using it. Of the 30 respondents, 19 had good things to say about either freeware or open-source code. Only seven were negative and four more were unsure or ambivalent.

While most respondents in the Computerworld 1000 Survey were favourable towards the idea of open-source code in the corporate environment, only six are actually using it. Of the 30 respondents, 19 had good things to say about either freeware or open-source code. Only seven were negative and four more were unsure or ambivalent.

Mike Bound, computer operations manager with the Automobile Association, believes open-source code shouldn't be ignored simply because it's free. "We had a good look at Pegasus as our mail server. We eventually decided to go with a different system, but Pegasus has a large number of features. We kept trying to find out what the catch was but it was entirely free."

Bound uses a number of small free applications that he has downloaded from the Web, but he's not keen on the idea of loading an entire open-source operating system. "I'd be very cautious about things like operating systems."

Users would be more interested if only they knew more about it. Finding out about open-source is high on the respondents' list of things that would encourage them to use open-source code.

Compatibility and reliability are also important, but the number one item listed is support — most wouldn't use freeware unless they were assured of ongoing support and commitment to the product by its creators.

"Who would you turn to if something went wrong?" asks Bound. He uses the trial period offered with some freeware and shareware to assess a product before adopting it fully. If any clashes or conflicts develop, he has no qualms about removing the application. Try doing that with an operating system, he says.

Of all the platforms listed, Windows 95 was most common (20 respondents), with NT 4.0 next at 16 respondents. Twenty-five of the 30 respondents are running mixed-computing environments, with systems like AS/400 (four respondents), NetWare (8) and any one of the various Unix flavours (10) alongside Microsoft products. Linux (3) and Red Hat (1) were the only open-source platforms listed.

Most computing environments are evolutionary rather than revolutionary. "It was already in place" is the number one answer when we asked why respondents use the operating systems they have.

"That's a good question -— and I don't have a good answer, says one respondent. "We use it because it's here. No one seemed to decide this was how it was going to be."

The second most popular response was "industry standard". Five respondents felt that compatibility with partners' systems was the most important reason for using the system they have.

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