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It’s just the way it is with tech; once you write about a topic, something changes or is called to your attention. As I mentioned in my post, the good news about Ubuntu Linux is the way in which you can simply and easily download and install applications; the bad news is, there are many Windows-only software packages that are must-haves for lawyers. What I did not mention was a product called Wine, which allows Windows applications to run on Linux. As Wine itself is an acronym for “Wine Is Not an Emulator,” it uses a compatibility layer, providing alternative implementations of the library files (DLLs) that Windows programs call, as well as processes to substitute for the Windows versions. Translated from Geek-Speak, this means that Wine provides Linux versions of the Windows underpinnings for its apps, thus allowing the programs to run more directly without being slowed down by an emulator “middleman.” I did not mention it in my previous post because I always considered Wine to be a work-around (although a good one) that was not to be implemented by anyone not well versed in Linux (which is most of us!) It does provide access to a vast library of Windows apps, but it is not something installed with Ubuntu that adds to the “out of the box” experience.

Shortly after my post on whether Linux is ready for the lawyer’s desktop, however, I read a post in an Ubuntu blog about a Linux package called Wine Doors. This product combines the benefits of Wine (Windows apps in Linux) with the convenience of Ubuntu. Put simply, it installs Windows apps in its library just as easily as it does Linux apps. This is certainly a plus for Linux, but I do not think it gets it on the lawyer’s desktop just yet. In order for that to take place, two things would have to happen first:

  1. Wine and Wine Doors would have to come with the Ubuntu distribution and install “out of the box.” Although you can install them using the Ubuntu “Add/Remove” Software installer, I would prefer to see it as a standard feature until enough applications port to Linux from Windows.
  2. The lawyer’s must-have apps like Timeslips, QuickBooks, and Time Matters would have to be available in Linux download libraries easily found by Ubuntu and Wine Doors.

This may well be in our future, but it remains to be seen. Ubuntu updates every six months, so it may not be that far off. As I said before, while 2007 may not be the “Year of Linux,” that year is not that far off.

It seems that every year there are claims by some industry pundits that this is the “Year of Linux.” Obviously, they have been wrong to date. However, a couple things have happened recently that have led me to believe that, even if not in 2007, then by the end of the decade, Linux will have its year.

The first event was the rise of the Linux distribution Ubuntu. This is a truly amazing product, and I have been trying it out on an old machine at home for the last couple of weeks. What is great about it, as compared to Linux distributions in the past, is that it contains a complete system of OS and applications that would be enough for most users, and installs with a few clicks of the mouse; no geeks needed. You get OpenOffice, an open source answer to Microsoft Office that reads and writes the format (although not that of Office 2007 yet), FireFox web browser, an e-mail client and Outlook clone, media player, CD/DVD player/burner, lots of games, and the like. You are ready to go “right out of the box,” so to speak.

The second event was Dell’s decision to sell Ubuntu systems (desktops and laptops) to the home user. This is a major move by a major PC vendor (one often used by lawyers and the ABA) away from exclusively Windows platforms, and is the first crack in the ice. If other vendors get on board, more peripheral makers will write Linux drivers for their devices, and we will all be closer to a “Linux Year.” The questions still is, though, is Linux an option in the law office?

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