Real estate industry already embracing ‘open source’

3 Linux products to watch for

What does Linux or any other open source application have to do with real estate? Probably more than you think.

Open source products power our websites, blogs, Intranets and more. In fact, WordPress, which is widely embraced by the real estate industry, is one of the most popular open source publishing platforms in the world.

Open source software is computer software that is available to use and typically distributed without a license fee. Linux is an open source operating system. There are many different flavors of Linux that are utilized in a variety of scenarios.

As the Web and software development continues to gravitate towards open standards, Linux and other platforms continue to grow in popularity. I don’t expect Realtors to start building media centers or developing LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP) configurations. However, there’s nothing wrong with getting a little geeky in a tech column.

3 Linux products to watch for

1. Ubuntu phones

Ubuntu is one of the most popular Linux operating systems, and it’s finally coming to smartphones. Canonical, the company that supports Ubuntu, is targeting both the enterprise and consumer markets.

Apple and Google dominate the mobile space. Is there room for another platform? As I mentioned in my last article (5 mobile trends to watch for in 2013), mobile is still in its infancy and the smartphone market has a tremendous upside. There is big growth, and consumers will always demand something new.

The Ubuntu phone features an elegant design and a "swipe and gesture"-based user interface. The OS will support both native and Web or HTML5 apps. The native apps are developed in QML (Quick Modeling Language).

Unlike Apple, which differentiates its desktop and mobile operating systems (Mac OS X and iOS), Ubuntu will be a responsive operating system — one system that works across smartphones, tablets, computers and televisions. In fact, you’ll be able to plug your Ubuntu phone into a keyboard and monitor, and use it as a personal computer.

"High-end smartphones have a brain as powerful as ultralight laptops," Canonical points out on Ubuntu.com. "Ubuntu uniquely enables a new category of convergence device — phones that dock to become full PCs and thin clients — enabling enterprise IT departments to replace phones, thin clients and laptops with a single secure corporate device."

2. Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi is a small computer that runs the Linux operating system, typically Debian. The device has caused quite a movement on the Web and has captured the imagination of many. Why is it so popular? The Raspberry Pi and the peripherals can be purchased and assembled for under $100. It is a fully functional computer and workstation. The Raspberry Pi can also be utilized to build a media center, robots, LED clocks and more.

After ordering mine, I immediately began thinking of ways that I could incorporate the device into my brokerage’s existing systems. If your organization has an in-house technology department, the Raspberry Pi is a must-have. As Katherine Noyes writes for PC World, the "tiny trend" movement is "a real revolution in computing" with "potentially huge implications for society and the world. I predict this trend is going to continue into 2013 and beyond, as free, open source, and resource-efficient Linux enables ever smaller and cheaper computing options."

3. Dell XPS 13

Dell recently released the XPS 13, a high-end laptop preloaded with Ubuntu, targeted at developers. This is a serious machine featuring robust hardware. The XPS 13 laptop comes preloaded with Ubuntu 12.04LTS, basic developer tools and utilities, and access to two beta projects — a "cloud launcher" and profile tool.

Although the laptop was created for developers, it is available to consumers. According to Dell, the laptop has exceeded expectations. This also demonstrates Dell’s commitment to open source and the community.

Open source products provide a feasible alternative and are growing in popularity every day. Will the Ubuntu phone ever surpass the popularity of the iPhone or Android? Probably not, but it’s nice to know that there are alternatives.

Do you use any open source applications? Leave a comment below, I’d love to know!

Tom Flanagan is the director of information technology at Residential Properties Ltd. in Providence, R.I. You can contact him at tflanagan@residentialproperties.com or @tflan on Twitter.

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