Morgan Lim and Steve Edwards thought it made sense, and assembled a select set of open source applications in one easy-to-install package. After seeing demand for their CDs among friends, they founded RaptorHead to bring open source to the masses. Here are my adventures with version 1.0.
On the old and new
I tested the RaptorHead CD on a creaky old Pentium II desktop machine with a staggering 128MB of RAM, a 2GB disk, and Windows 98. I also gave it a spin on my late model hot-rod Hewlett-Packard Athlon 64 laptop, with 1GB of memory and a 15GB Windows XP partition.
I spent most of the installation time working through the individual license screens. On the HP laptop, the whole installation took about 10 minutes. On the old Pentium desktop, it took a few minutes longer.
OpenOffice.org (version 1.9.118) contained all the OOo 1.9/2.0 components. As expected, with Writer I could load and edit older OpenOffice.org .swx and Microsoft .doc format files, and the new OpenDocument .odt format. Calc was as stable as always. In Impress I imported, edited, and displayed a two-year-old presentation without any difficulty.
The Firefox (1.0.6) browser worked well, too. I was a little disappointed that its companion Thunderbird email client wasn't included on the CD, especially since the entire application set occupied only about 300MB. Lim said that RaptorHead's focus was on introducing consumers to useful software, not just packing a lot of programs on a CD. Readers will have to resort to their existing Windows email client.
Although OpenOffice.org and Firefox worked well, the GIMP (2.2.8) had its share of problems. It didn't load at all on the old Pentium desktop, crashing out of the installer with a Windows error.
The story was a little different on the laptop. The GIMP installed OK and I was able to open a variety of different image files. But when I tried to create a new image -- no matter what size -- the program triggered an error and crashed.
This was the first time I've tried Gaim -- I'm slightly behind the times and haven't used instant messaging much, but I was able to start Gaim (1.6.0) and use it to access IRC sessions.
I also took a look at TurboCASH 3.7, though I did not use it. It looks like a comprehensive package for managing a company's accounting and books. Parent company Pink Software has been in business since 1985 and released the code into the open source community in 2003.
RaptorHead follows a new trend in marketing to the Windows crowd: the custom packaging of open source programs on CD. RaptorHead is moving beyond the Web download model to market its CDs through retail outlets. The company planned to have its product in independent Silicon Valley regional stores such as Digital Guru Computer Bookstores and college campuses such as Rutgers University by mid-December. CDs should hit major retailers in the first quarter of 2006.
There are already other open source CD collections for Windows, including TheOpenCD and CompareSoft. TheOpenCD contains a wide range of applications, including OpenOffice.org, Firefox, Thunderbird, Gaim, Blender, and Audacity. CompareSoft's products look like a re-branding of various open source tools. The first set of CompareSoft products went on sale this month.
Lim says RaptorHead wants to be the leading provider of open source software in the mass consumer market. Further down the line he said they also want to offer "custom mixes" of software and support services.
For companies thinking about switching to Linux or open source software, the RaptorHead CD looks like a cost- and time-effective way to take the first step in that transition.
Rob Reilly is a consultant, writer, and commentator. His company serves clients in the areas of business communications and technology integration. He is a regular contributor to OSTG sites..