Feeling free and online

I have now managed to get most of what I need to run my business online, and free. BRENDAN LEWIS

Brendan Lewis

By Brendan Lewis

Over the last couple of weeks I have written about moving all my systems online, so that I could take advantage of a low cost lightweight (Linux-based) netbook. This project had the added benefit of forcing me to be a better collaborator.

In previous blogs, I’ve covered off all the major items, so I thought I’d finish off with the minor ones. These solutions I didn’t manage to get online, although I’m not stressed about it.

Instant messaging and telephony

On the old windows notebook, I had been using Skype for messaging and VoiP phone calls. Surprise, surprise, Skype also works on Linux. So no problem downloading it and logging into my new account. Skype of course is free software, and the instant messaging is free. The way I use the telephony though causes a minor charge of around $15 a month.

Audio editing

Because I release podcasts of Churchill Club events to attendees, I need an audio editing program to tidy things up and convert the recording to mp3 format. Enter Audacity, which is a free program that runs on Windows and Linux. I was using it before, so it was easy and familiar to use on the new system.

Image editing

There is no standard format for profile images of people. But a variety of different shaped images of speakers looks stupid on the Churchill Club website. Consequently I have to use an image editing program to trim them all down to 100 pixels wide.

Traditionally I used an old copy of Photoshop, but with the netbook I decided to use Gimp. Gimp is a free but full featured image editing solution that runs in both Windows and Linux environments, so it will work on the Linux-based netbook as well as on Windows.


Viruses aren’t as much as a problem for Linux-based computers, but the threat is still there. I came across Avast, which is a free product I am currently trialling.

Video player

I still have friends who flick me a funny video rather than a link to YouTube. So I wanted a decent video player. I downloaded a free product called VLC, which will play virtually anything – including the formats I don’t really understand but sometimes don’t work in Windows Media Player, such as DivX and Xvid.

These packages along with the solutions I have written about in previous weeks means that I now have virtually all my software for free (I’m paying for the accounting system and Skype-for-Skype out calls) on a $500 laptop. A good chunk of my information is now also online so I can access it from any office as well, making me much more effective while I am mobile.

And finally…

Two problems I didn’t solve though. The first was getting labels to print out. There wasn’t any Linux native software to drive my Dymo label printer and my workaround (using Open Office Writer for Printing) just isn’t pretty. I haven’t figured out a good solution yet.

The other problem I am faced with is that in my heart I don’t think Linux is ready for non-technical users yet. I am constantly running into problems and having to deal with foreign concepts.

An example of this is the automatic update software no longer works as it’s detected a conflict. I have no idea how to resolve this, and have had to scour user forums to look for clues. So far I have invested around eight hours trying to resolve the issue without success. Time I didn’t have to waste. Linux looks good for tomorrow though, just not today.


Brendan Lewis is a serial technology entrepreneur having founded : Ideas Lighting, Carradale Media, Edion, Verve IT, The Churchill Club, Flinders Pacific and L2i Technology Advisory. He has set up businesses for others in Romania, Indonesia and Vietnam. Qualified in IT and Accounting, he has also spent time running an Advertising agency and as a Cavalry Officer with the Australian Army Reserve.

To read more Brendan Lewis blogs, click here.



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