Community EngagementEnvironmentGeneralUrban Sustainability

Using Linux – free software alternatives to Windows

By March 22, 20094 Comments

To my knowledge I am the only elected representative within Australia to use Linux and open source software such as KDE, Kontact, and Firefox for my day-to-day computing requirements.

I choose to use Linux and open source software since I find it more responsive and stable than a Windows based system. Linux is an open source operating system that is available in various forms known as distributions.

Linux and the majority of software that operates on it are provided free of charge and are designed as well as supported through active community participation.

While there is undoubtedly a learning curve when trying anything new, Linux distributions such as OpenSUSE and Kubuntu tend to be extremely user friendly. Linux support for hardware continues to increase and there are many free programs that can easily replace existing Windows based software.

In addition, Linux tends to not have the security and virus issues that are far to commonplace within a Windows based environment.

While Linux and open source software may not be for everyone, I believe there is tremendous opportunity for the non-profit and community sector to investigate the use of Linux within their organisations.

The free cost of Linux and associated programs combined with the fact that it can still easily and efficiently operate on older computer hardware means it has the potential to reduce IT costs.

While there may be a requirement for initial training and configuration, this can be offset by reducing the cost of purchasing new software and hardware.

Free software such as provides an easy to use Office suite and is largely compatible with Microsoft Office. Mozilla Firefox provides a more secure Internet browser than Internet Explorer and Kontact provides a full suite of information services, including a calendar, notes, email and address book features.

Linux provides a choice of graphical desktop environments and KDE with its associated applications exceeds the features and stability found within Windows XP and Vista. XFCE is another desktop environment and is well suited towards older computers that may still be present within an organisation.

If there are Windows based programs that an organisation is reliant upon, there is a program known as WINE which can allow such software to still operate within Linux.

I recently switched from OpenSUSE to Arch Linux, which is a distribution designed to be highly flexible and customisable. While Arch Linux requires more time to customise than other distributions, it does have the advantage of being extremely fast and stable.

Alternatively, distributions such as OpenSUSE and Kubuntu provide an easy to install and operational Linux environment with minimal need for customisation.

The use of Linux with its potential to reduce IT costs is certainly worth exploring.

Alex Makin

Alex Makin

Alex Makin is a councillor for the Mullum Ward in the City of Maroondah. Alex has been a councillor since 2005, representing ratepayers, businesses, community groups and residents. I aim to continue making a difference and welcome any thoughts you may have in regard to life, community and business in Maroondah. Phone: (03) 9870 8202 or 0408 311 645 Email:


  • Peter Feeney says:

    Alex, in the interest of balance you should have mentioned that it is possible for non-profit community groups to obtain Microsoft products at little or no cost from

    Then in the current economic climate when we are being encouraged to spend do you think it is a good idea to be undermining our IT Markets. Do you realise how many people depend upon sales of Microsoft and similar commercial software products for their livelihood?

  • Alex Makin says:


    As I stated, open source software may not be for everyone but it does potentially have a role within community and non-profit based organisations.

    Many people that contribute to open source software are in fact employed by IT companies, including Sun, Novel and even Nokia which now owns to toolkit used to produce KDE.

    Many Linux distributions including openSUSE, Fedora and Ubuntu are in fact supported through Novel, Red Hat and Canonical respectively. Novel in particular is a major IT employer.

    Consumers, including community groups, should be aware of the options that are available so that they can make an informed decision that best meets their needs.



  • Phil says:

    Good to see discussion on open source and free software.

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