July 13, 2006

Linux CDs for free from TheLinuxStore.ca

Author: Tina Gasperson

Ryan Cloke's vision is to do business in a "better way." He's the owner of TheLinuxStore.ca, a Web site that sells low-cost Linux CDs, laptops, and custom workstations. This morning, to fulfill his vision, he began distributing free CDs of popular distributions like Fedora, Mandriva, Debian, and Knoppix. The response has been overwhelming.

Cloke, 26, is a graduate of Seneca College in Toronto, where he received a diploma in programming and systems analysis. It was there that he discovered Red Hat Linux, and he says he's been "hooked ever since." Cloke started Flipside Technology Services from his home. The company offers Web hosting and design and troubleshooting help for new computer users. "The Flipside part of the business has really fallen to the wayside," Cloke says.

That's because since late 2004, Cloke's passion has been distributing Linux disks, especially to users for whom an ISO is too large to download. At The Linux Store, customers can pick up their favorite distributions for about $5 per disk, plus a small shipping charge. Sales have been good, but Cloke hasn't been satisfied. "[I] felt the way I was doing business was not the best way," he says. "I have often felt that I wanted to do more for the community then just sell disks."

For Cloke, "more" meant giving the disks away for free. "I thought Ubuntu did a great job with its ShipIt program," he says. "I wanted to bring the same successes to many other great Linux distributions."

So at midnight on July 13, free.linuxstore.ca opened for business. Demand for the free disks has been brisk, to say the least. Less than 24 hours into the venture, Cloke had more than 2,500 requests for free disks, with SUSE the most frequently asked-for CD set.

"This is a huge amount," Cloke says. "A lot more than I anticipated." He says he's going to need financial help to meet the demand. "I currently only have enough funding to fill 400 requests." The project is funded partly by profits from The Linux Store, but Cloke is also relying on donations and sponsorships from the general public and community businesses.

Even with the challenges he faces in meeting all the requests for free CDs, Cloke is optimistic. "The new mission is more in-line with how I would like to help the community," he says, "and the free CD project is one of the first projects I believe will have a positive impact on the distribution of Linux. Needless to say, I need lot more funding to fill all the requests. But I believe the Linux community will help this project as much as they can."

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