30 Aug 2016

Is United Kingdom a leading country in the FOSS world?

There is no secret that I am a born Russian living in the United Kingdom. I travel to my motherland for different reasons from time to time.

I must admit that I am not that fond of the current Russian government. They more often talk about the use of free open source software than make any practical steps toward applying it. I even wrote several critical articles about this a few years ago.

Nevetherless, there are some distributions that are developed by Russian teams. Just to name a few that I reviewed: ROSA, Simply Linux, ALT Linux, Agilia Linux (now defunct).

Are they actually in use anywhere? I cannot answer this question as I have never witnessed that. But I have seen two examples of Linux use in different Russian organisations recently, and both cases are very close to the public funds. It means that Linux is something that Russian near-Government organisations actually use.

One of them is an information kiosk at a railway station running the Ubuntu operating system. Even if the system is evidently broken on this photo, you can clearly see that Ubuntu is installed on the machine.

The second case was in a medical organisation that I visited recently. Doctors' computers in that clinic were using GNOME 2 interface. I cannot tell you exactly the operating system and the version of it, because I was not able to touch the computer, but the GNOME 2 interface is far too familiar for Linux users to mix it up with something else. I can only say that the left-top corner of the screen was a menu button with a footprint on it.

In the mean time, I have yet to see a case of desktop Linux use in any public or corporate environment in the Unted Kingdom. Such a pity for one of the biggest economies in the world.

Let's now look at the same issue from a different angle.

Let's say I am a user who wants to have a new laptop with a free open source operating system on it. It means a laptop without Windows. How many chances do I have in the United Kingdom? There is no secret that PCWorld / Currys is the biggest chain of electrical shops in the UK. How many non-Windows laptops do they offer? I will tell you: NONE. Even Amazon UK lists only one Ubuntu laptop for sale: Dell Inspiron 5758. I don't count Chromebooks as Linux laptops, because they are different beasts.

The biggest electronics retailer in Russia is Ulmart (Юлмарт). It offers more than 50 laptops with Ubuntu or other Linux operating system. Another retailer Eldorado (Эльдорадо) also offers more than 40 Linux-based laptops for sale. They are from different manufacturers: Dell, Acer, Lenovo and so on. Come and buy, if you wish!

It is evident that British retailers are not interested in promoting open source software. Or is it a political order to promote only commercial operating systems?

What examples of Linux operating system use have you seen in your place? How easy is it to buy a Linux-powered computer where you live?


  1. I live in the United States and most of the computers I see at local stores are Microsoft Windows and Apple computers. I heard there are some laptop and desktop computers out there with Linux installed as the main OS, but I haven't personally seen it in my local stores yet.

    Anytime I build a new computer or buy a used Laptop, Linux gets installed. Only time I use Windows is for gaming, unless that game installs and runs perfect in Linux WINE. then Linux it is.

    1. The same I do: I usually buy used laptops and install Linux on them.
      Some eBay users pre-install Linux on their ex-windows machines.

  2. Most computers that come pre-installed with Linux have to be ordered online (System76, Purism, etc...), unless you live local to the company. It's difficult for Linux computer companies to make deals with the big chains, which is why the sell direct online.

    1. True, because Linux being free and open source, big software company's wouldn't make money, and you what that means....

      No spyware, back doors, viruses, ad banners. Most software company's that do this sort of thing would fear being caught as their code would be under scrutiny by the community.

    2. What if RedHat started selling home computers with Fedora or CentOS on them?
      Although, Fedora versions have too short lifespan for commercial sales and CentOS is not that user-friendly.
      Dell and Canonical have some success, but it is not visible in brick&mortar stores.

    3. RedHat it'self wouldn't survive since there is no tech support. How ever, RedHat Enterprise, yes, because you pay for it like Microsoft, you get full tech support and drivers and security updates that simply just work out of box.

      Also RedHat Enterprise has way more driver support for just about any computer you toss at it, where is the free version, non at all.

      The only problem is RedHat Enterprise is not a gaming machine. It's more designed for the business and server use. So the trade off is, you get what you pay for. Free OS and no tech support and open drivers that may or may not work, or full paid for version with full driver support.

      The only problem I see with using Ubuntu or an off brand of Linux is they all fall under the GNU contract, another words open source and free code.

      The only way sellers and distributors can make money is to sell the laptop or computer at a huge rate of money, or start writing their own code and selling it as closed source.

      But that would be a problem too selling closed source is no one will trust it on their open source Linux boxes.

      The answer is to your question is, if retailers can't make a profit selling Linux installed on a new laptop or desktop, they won't bother. Their going to go where the money is.

    4. I'm afraid you're right. I worked with one of UK's retail chains, and their staff admits that hardware sales are less profitable than "services", that also includes software sales.

    5. Sad, but true. Even when I worked at EggHead Software in Los Angels, California in early 1992 as a computer repair tech, I went through a similar deal too. Sell as much software to make up for lost profits.

  3. Hi!
    I'm Romanian and I live in Romania.
    Here, in almost any major trade franchises, we can find at least one brand of desktop/laptop without Windows.
    In any county district town (capital of a county), there are at least two large stores (usually franchises) that sell electric/electronic devices.
    I live in Alexandria, Teleorman County and I recently visited a store called "Flanco". We have at least two choices in Operating Systems, that is either FreeDOS or Linux.
    As for brands, I found Lenovo (which I like very much), Dell, Acer and ASUS. From time to time, we can find also Compaq, but they are kinda expensive ones so probably to lower the price, they use a free OS.
    Unfortunately, about Linux spread, it's difficult to advance any figure, but as I see it, it's pretty popular among all age ranges. I assume that the most frequent/significant range of ages is somewhere between 15 and 45 years and the most common scenario is home computer, since the government's policy is plainly and strightforward against Linux. The reason is pretty obvious: corruption is everywhere and Microsoft leaves huge chunks of discounts to enslave administrations and governments...
    On the other hand, Romania has a good second hand market and all computers have some sort of Linux installed, usually some flavor of Ubuntu.
    As I could see, it seems that the most frequent distro in computer trade is Ubuntu (what flavor escapes me), I guess mostly because is kinda "point'n'click" installable.
    Since the only hassle is the partitioning phase and all OS-es come here at some point, this issue is out of question.
    Thanks for this generous idea!

    1. Romania is more advanced in FOSS than the UK is then!
      Great news for you, Serban!