GNUWinII CD : Free your Windows

One of the recurring problems faced by Free and Open Source Software enthusiasts is that being fed on a staple diet of MS-Windows platforms and suites [in their different flavors] it becomes difficult to encourage people to change to a GNU/Linux environment. In most cases the migration curve is steep and the fear and uncertainity that creeps in makes it all the more difficult to ensure proper conversion. For a long time, there was a latent need for programs that would run under the Windows environment, yet be free or open source software. These programs can then be used on a ‘trial and error’ basis by the end-users during the period of hand-holding and would lead to smoother migration.

The GNU WinII CD is created by the team of EPFL students for the promotion of Free Software in general and the GNU/Linux concept in particular. This GNU Generation as they stylise themselves hold install fest and demonstrations during the academic year and also releases GNU Win. It is a collaborative and voluntary project with the aim of making the Windows users ‘discover’ Free and Open Source Software. After using such software on their familiar OS platforms, it becomes easier to migrate to a GNU/Linux environment. The compilation demonstrates the power and robustness of Free Software programs on Windows platforms, promotes the work of developers as well as at the same times eases the pain of transition between OSs.

It is a ‘collection’ of software, and admits that it is by no means comprehensive. There are other such running projects namely the OpenCD, GNU Software for Windows and a few others on sourceforge.net however the USP of the GNU Win Project lies in the wide audience it caters to.

The software available on the CD is intuitively divided into categories like:

1. Quickstart (programs that you need to have),
2. General Purpose (programs for general usage on a desktop),
3. Engineer and Scientist (programs that are in a niche manner targetted at this user base),
4. Developers (developer tools including compilers, editors, databases),
5. Kids (fun programs for Kids eg TuxPaint),
6. Webmasters (servers, image editors, Python etc).

A better option is to choose English (for english speaking users, there are German, Italian, Spanish and French language options too) and choose from the options provided in the Program listing. Here the categories are based on end-use, namely - 3D Games, Development, Education, Engineering, Graphics, Multimedia, Utilities, Servers and Databases, Internet and communication tools, Desktop Environments and the like.

There is not much justification in writing on and on about Python, Apache, MikTeX or Vim and Xemacs. For people already on a GNU/Linux environment, these are familiar programs. But for users on Windows platforms, the robust functioning and ablities of Xemacs or Gimp would come as a pleasant surprise. Audio players and pre/post video processors like Virtual Dub open up a whole new ease of use functionality comparable to commercially available software.

A list of some of the programs (together with the groups) are:

* 3D Games : Celestia, TuxRacer(a personal favorite),FlightGear
* Computer Security : GNU PG, WinPT
* Desktop Environment : LiteStep
* Development Tools : GNAT, Blender, gtk , MinGW32 gcc, Vim, Xemacs, Scite (source code editor)
* Educational Tools : Tux Paint, Tux Type
* Sciences & Maths : Gnuplot, Maxima, Octave
* Engineering : Dia
* Multimedia : Audacity, OpenDivX, WinLame, zinfAudioPlayer (an Winamp alternative)

For students of mathematics the presence of ‘R’ in this package will come as a surprise. Together with Octave and GNUPlot, it makes for a nice package. Most facilitating is the fact that for all the Windows ports these 3 run exceedingly well even under pretty meagre resources. They were tested out on the following benches : Celeron 500, 64MB Ram and a Celeron 500, 128 MB Ram. The performance was remarkable stable and fast.

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