Book review: Open Source Solutions for Small Business Problems <i>by John Locke</i>

Book review: Open Source Solutions for Small Business Problems by John Locke


Businesses are often bound to proprietary and closed source software solutions. So, when they try to adopt free software, they often face difficulty. John Locke wrote this book to give advice on when and how to make the transition from properietary/closed source software to free/open source software. The author deals with the most common and useful software a small business is likely to require.

The book's coverThe book's cover

Suppose you're responsible for the computing section of a small business and are currently running proprietary and closed source software. Unless you're a free software user already, you may have never heard about free software (yes, apparently this still happens!). For you to make the switch, you would either have been told to do it by management, or it may have been proven to be useful to you.

In both cases, you may need a guide to aid in achieving a smooth transition. "Open Source Solutions" is one such guide, published by Charles River Media. The author is the main consultant for Freelock LLC, a very active consulting company.

The book seems very well targeted and structured, and as it turns out is even more interesting and well written.

The book seems very well targeted and structured, and as it turns out is even more interesting and well written

The contents

In less than 600 pages the book explains a lot of things. The first one—and very important for people who don't already know—is a short introduction to free software. The author gives pragmatic advice, along with pros and cons for each choice he considers and it's evident he knows the subject matter very well. He doesn't want to start a flame war—it's clear he's not against anybody. He covers several free software programs for each business requirement, but doesn't hold back when he considers a proprietary solution will suit you better.

Starting from describing a small business computing infrastructure, through analyzing how free software helps and extends your business, the author ends telling you how to keep your network secure.

The appendixes are a valuable feature: they list some Open Source licenses, the very basics of networking and the Open Source Definition, according to the OSI (Open Source Initiative), along with a list of software included in the CD and the installation instructions. A glossary completes the book.

Who's this book for?

A good audience for this book are those responsible for the computing sections of small firms, whether they already know what free software is or not. Since there are non-technical chapters, there should be something in it for everybody. The only necessary requirement is the will (or the need) to switch to free software and free licenses.

Relevance to free software

Strictly speaking, the book is about open source as opposed to free software. But most often the differences between open source and free software are too few to require the distinction. On the most part the software described in the book is free software (i.e., released under the GNU GPL), and the appendix C also carries the GNU General Public License.

Quite surprisingly, the CD-ROM containing the programs seems not to include the source files for the included programs. Well, I suppose this is made acceptable by the fact that the book and therefore the CD-ROM, was primarily intended for Windows users who haven't migrated to free software yet and don't yet use compilers.

Pros

It's a book about open source and how to use it in everyday work: it shows once more that open solutions (operating systems, servers and applications) are not just toys for geeks and are often the best choice for the work place.

The author and the editors have done a very good job: the majority of the book should be easy for everyone to follow and I only noticed a couple of typos.

The included CD-ROM is an important plus. It can be used to setup a running Windows machine without connecting it to the internet, or for giving a "live show" to a company's management.

Cons

None really. Only stubborn proprietary and closed source software users could avoid finding something useful in this book.

Title Open Source Solutions for Small Business Problems
Author John Locke
Publisher Charles River Media
ISBN 1584503203
Year 2004
Pages 556
CD included Yes
FS Oriented 10
Over all score 8

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Biography

Gianluca is Free Software Magazine's Compositor.