Each month, Iain Shaw will choose a topic taken initially from the Brigantia members forum and provide a considered response for PC Retail readers?

Opinion: Agony Uncle

A thank you to Uncle Clive as he hands over his Uncle duties…
Before I get onto the business end of this, my first Uncle column, I thought it appropriate to thank my predecessor Clive Bishop for all his hard work on this column since he started it. Clive is a true veteran of the indie channel, having both been a retailer in the early days of the industry and then for many years the CEO of NASCR.

Everyone who knows Clive has an opinion about him and one of his greatest strengths has always been his willingness to speak his own mind and often to say things that others more timid would not dare. I also know that another of Clive’s great strengths is loyalty. Anyway, as he said in his last column he is not retiring for good and he will be contributing to PC Retail from time to time. I, for one, intend to keep in regular contact with Clive and to share a meal and a pint with him when I am visiting Brigantia Computer Expert members in the South West.

Interesting feedback on last month’s Uncle column…
Last month’s SMB example of deploying Ubuntu into a fictional solicitor’s practice that was running unlicensed Microsoft software has caused much comment from readers of this column. It would appear that although many are in agreement that Ubuntu and Ubuntu Server properly installed, configured and set-up would be an excellent solution. There could be some serious issues in converting the staff over to Sun OpenOffice and perhaps chargeable time costs might be underestimated.

However the general reaction from those who have now downloaded and tried Ubuntu Desktop has been favourable and many indies are now reported to be eulogising about it and providing it with lower end systems as a Microsoft alternative.

Here, with the author’s permission, is the best email we received on the subject of the fictional solicitors practice.

Dear Uncle: Selling dodgy XP to a solicitor, eh? Sounds like a bad plan. Not as bad as going in and chucking Ubuntu into a solicitor’s office though!

Don’t misunderstand me, we love Linux. We’ve been selling it since 1997, but the thought of putting Linux onto the desktop like that gives me the shudders.Firstly it’s different and they will all melt. Secondly, even if you do get them to log-in there will be a snagging list a mile long. A new dx2400 with Office 2K7 SBE runs about £400? You’re easily going to burn that on time unless you are very cheap. But it can be done.Start them on FF and Thunderbird and OO.o -– these all run the same on Linux as on Windows. Set up a terminal server – LTSp is awesome. Show them that they can access their data from old terminals or by using Xterm.Dual boot their laptops – let Ubuntu help when Vista piles in (and it will). Slowly they will lose their fear and they may find that they are using Linux more.We have architects who have two PCs per desk – a modern, clean XP for drawing and an old LTSP Ubuntu for their Admin – synergy is your friend (sourceforge).Finally, Sage barely runs on Windows and won’t run on Wine. You need something like Onion Accounts (officenetsystems.co.uk) or maybe SQLLedger. Good luck.

Simon Faulkner
Dedicated Programmes Limited
Staffordshire, Moorlands

Following on from what Norman Ellis of Albatros Computers at York told Clive last month about how he downloads the Ubuntu and then repackages it to sell, I was amazed to read on the Channel Register this week that Best Buy in the United States is now selling Ubuntu for $20 a pop.

It would seem from the article that customers are happy to pay for what they can download for free as it comes with printed documentation and 60 days of unlimited support from Canonical. A statement on the Canonical website states that the aim is to provide Ubuntu to users who want the software and support conveniently presented in a boxed set.

Having Best Buy stock Ubuntu this way is an opportunity to reach potential end-users who are unaware of Ubuntu or who are bandwidth restricted and do not want to download it themselves. So I think Ellis deserves a pat on the back for innovation as he is doing much the same thing, albeit on a much smaller scale.

Perhaps if enough indies get on the Ubuntu bandwagon there will be no need for Canonical to do the same things here, although it would certainly be interesting to see PC World or eBuyer coping with Ubuntu-related service issues.

Feedback and next month’s topic for exploration…

Please email me any feedback on this month’s column which you think might interest your fellow readers.

Next month I will be writing about some ideas for surviving the credit crunch and the likely recession to follow. So anyone with any interesting ideas that would help indies, please get emailing.

I am most interested in innovative service offerings that lead to ongoing recurrent revenue streams along the lines of such offerings as Bunker Backup, Entanet, MessageHub, T2, etc.

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