Open Source Alternatives: Osalt, open source as alternative

Around the net there are a number of open source directories, among them the Enterprise Open Source directory sponsored by Optaros, the Red Hat Network by Red Hat, Ohloh and the independent Osalt.

Osalt is aimed at helping end users to find open source alternatives to well-known proprietary products like Photoshop, Dreamweaver or enterprise products like Bea Weblogic or HP OpenView.

I asked Anders Ingeman Rasmussen, Osalt Editor and owner of Airflake, few questions about him and Osalt.

How did you start getting working with Linux and open source?

I have had various computers since the age of 7 (1979) – technology has always facinated me.

In the beginning of the 90s I saw Linux (Slackware distribution) and other Unix OSes. But I starting playing around with Linux – at the time I have been programming for some years and just started to learn the C programming language. In 1992 after finishing three years of business school – I started computer science college. Here my work with unix expanded and I help introduce Linux and open source into the school. This continued after I graduated as I got a job on the collega as network and server administrator.

However, being more the creative type I left my job on the college in 1996 and joined a small IT company as a developer. I am still with the same company which have had many ups and downs. In the company the primary development platform is unix (not Linux however), but this allows us to use alot of open source tools.

I have always been fascinated by open source software, because it is amazing what people can build for free. Being interested in computer graphics both 2d vector based, 3d photo realistic renderings and just image editing – I was always looking for great open source software that could help me (since I did not have the money for the commercial products). At some point I started a list of commercial products and their open source alternatives, which I also used when friends and colleagues ask what I could recommend if they were looking for e.g. a desktop publishing program.

How did you conceive the idea of running Osalt?

In 2005 I thought that I could make my list into a website making it easy for people all over the world to find high quality open source software – based on the fact that people known the commercial products.

I sent a lot of time in 2005 and early 2006 making my list of products larger and more extensive covering more software areas – and developing the site in PHP. The site went live spring 2006. By the end of 2006 more than 100.000 people have visited the site – and the number of visits were rapidly growing.

Today has more than 200.000 unique visitors each month most of them finds through google when search for alternatives to commercial products. About a month ago launch a spanish version, which has already reached its goal of doubling the number of Spanish visitors.

However, I see a need for introducing even more languages German, French, Italian, Portugees and especially Japanees. Even though they speak English in all of these countries – I belive that in order to reach in more common user the site has to be available in the local language.

Are you the only editor? is today run primarily by myself – I do all research for both open source and commercial products. Then I have a team of freelancers writing about the products based on my guidelines – and I have a professional company responsible for the spanish translation.

Also planning has begun to add a forum to osalt that will allow users of the site to discuss the software and their experiences. Also users can help each other and make recommendations.

A forum would be of great help, even to allow people to suggest more open source alternatives, and I would definitely add Groundwork to the OpenView alternatives.

What about the business side of the story?

The only business I do with the site is ads – the ads help pay for writers, hosting and translation – so that I don’t loose money running this service.

Osalt is an invaluable tool for open source software selection for the masses, a good starting point, and you might take advantage of it to explore more business opportunities. All in all your readers are there is no limit to what a newbie can possibly ask to do.

Thank you Anders, I wish you and Osalt all the best!