Free computing Featured

6:16am EDT April 2, 2003
It's hard to compete with free.

That's what Microsoft officials finally had to admit when discussing the free Linux operating system. Despite the unbeatable price, Linux isn't going to make Bill Gates a poor man anytime soon, but it can play an important role in your computer network.

"I don't think Linux is going to overtake Windows on the desktop," says Gabriel Torok, president of Euclid-based Preemptive Solutions, a computer software development firm. "It is primarily used on the server side. It provides a very robust and stable operating system, and it's free. The thing you have to remember is from a server perspective, stability is very important."

Linux doesn't have all the features that Windows offers, and is more difficult to use without a lot of expertise – which Torok describes as a "geek factor." But that hasn't prevented companies like Sherwin-Williams from using it on a large scale.

The company is in the process of replacing its point-of-sale systems in all 2,500 of its stores with a Linux-based system.

"This is an area where Linux really makes sense," says Torok. "For 2,500 stores, if you figure out the costs for buying all the licenses and software, it would cost a lot of money. Using Linux, they can basically get all the machines for just the cost of the hardware.

"What you can do is have it configured the way you want it to be working in the field, then clone it. The other benefit is that there is no solitaire, and the employees won't be installing games on it."

The drawback to Linux is that it doesn't have the support for the latest hardware, so any upgrades can be painful and time consuming to get things working correctly.

"The headache of trying to maintain Linux on a secretary's computer, for example, is not worth it," says Torok. "The place where Linux is really shining is on the server side.

"I think Linux has its place, you just have to be smart about where you use it. If you just need a dedicated box that needs to be replicated over and over, Linux is perfect."

Preemptive Solutions