Vote for ArcInfo and/or ArcView for Linux

David Mandel dmandel at
Tue Dec 8 19:22:17 EST 1998

I got tons of email regarding my recent posting promoting ports of
ESRI software to Linux.  Indeed, I have gotten so much that I'm not
able to respond to it all.  I do want to thank people for the advice
and encouragement.  It is very helpful.

After reading all the responses and responding to many or most of them
personally, I feel a few of them require a general response.  I got 
questions and comments like:

> That is about the stupidest damn thing I have ever heard....
> If someone is unhappy with Arc on NT then their NT isn't setup right.
> Linux is a perfectly acceptable operating system for inexperienced hacks
> to run FTP servers out of their house, it has no place in the
> world.

> ok, i know the pricing policy for UX+NT, but i was interested 
> in LINUX license prices for AI/AV... !?

> I was wondering, WHY should we vote to port ESRI software to Linux? I
use NT
> and haven't had any problems? Give us a top 5 list of reasons 
> why, or something to support your request.....
> Subject:                Vote for ArcInfo and/or ArcView for Linux
> Send reply to:          grass at

My response follows:

(1)  Reasons to port ESRI software to Linux

     (a)  Managers want something cheaper and more flexible than 
          proprietary Unix workstations.  They prefer standard PC
          hardware.  However, many users still prefer Unix.
          Linux is a suitable compromise.
     (b)  A port to Linux would prove ESRI's commitment to Unix.
          ESRI says they are committed to Unix; but no one believes
          them, and this makes it difficult to convince management
          to purchase new Unix workstations.  A Linux port would
          make it easier to buy Suns, SGIs, etc.
     (c)  System administrators want something which is easy to
          integrate with the existing Unix workstations and servers.
          At the very least, every workstation (Unix or Windows)
          should be able to mount disks from any other workstation.
          Ideally, workstations with expensive specialized hardware 
          and/or software should support remote usage via telnet or 
          something like telnet.  Windows lacks telnet services, 
          and proprietary Unix can not mount Windows disks.
          Linux has all telnet (client&server) services and can mount
          or serve nfs and smb filesystems.  This makes it uniquely
          useful in integrating Windows with proprietary Unix systems.
     (d)  Programmers want to create new software rather instead
          of rewriting existing software.  Programmers who have
          written AMLs which shell out to use Unix commands 
          would find the faster to port to Arc on Linux than Arc
          on Windows.  Moreover, many programmers want to continue 
          using classical tools like Fortran, C, make, m4, rcs, and 
          emacs to create software; and they want to continue writing 
          software which uses perl, tcl/tk, and other unix shell
          commands.  Most of these tools exist for NT, but they are
          a pain to get working under NT.
     (e)  Many GIS power users are used to using tools like emacs,
          cut, paste, egrep, xv, gimp, ghostview, and grass.  Some 
          of them also like multi-panel window managers like cde.
          Most of these tools exist for NT, but they are a pain to 
          get working under NT.
     (f)  Many users complain about NT's slowness and lack of 
          robustness.  While NT is very slow and bloated compared
          to Linux, I have personally found it rather robust.
          Still, I get lots of complaints, especially from remote sensing
          people, about problems with NT crashing.  Maybe their systems
          are miss configured; but if this is true then NT systems
          must be difficult to configure correctly, because I hear
          these complaints a lot.

    Many people are happy using ArcView and ArcInfo on NT, and that is
    However, others are not happy with ArcView and ArcInfo on NT, and can
    no longer afford proprietary Unix workstations (at least not
    exclusively).  These people need the ArcView and ArcInfo on Linux

(2) What would ESRI gain from a Linux port?

    (a)  A Linux port will not lead to more sales since ESRI owns the
         entire GIS software market already.  However, a Linux port
         would protect ESRI from future competition by invigorating
         ESRI's Unix products.  From ESRI's point of view this is 
         important as any future competitor will be building Windows
         software.  By promoting Windows exclusively ESRI is forcing
         it's current customers onto it's competitors' platforms.

    (b)  Altho a Linux port would not generate more sales for ESRI
         in the USA, it might generate more sales internationally.
         As I understand, ESRI has competitors in Europe and Linux
         has already become a major player as a corporate OS in 
         Europe.  This may be true in other parts of the world as

(3) How should ESRI price a Linux product?

    (a)  They should price their Linux products the same as their
         Windows software.  Indeed, I recommend that they follow
         the Portland Group's pricing philosophy in regards to
         Linux vs. NT pricing.  The Portland Group prices software 
         by the workstation.  Since PC workstations often dual boot 
         Linux and NT, the Portland Group puts Linux and NT versions 
         of their software on the same CD.  Users are allowed to 
         install either or both versions since the workstation can
         only be running one OS at a time.  The doggles ESRI uses
         to protect ArcInfo on Windows, would also be required for
         ArcInfo on Linux.  These would prevent cheating in the dual
         OS/ dual boot situation just as well as they do in the
         Windows only situation.

(4)  Is Linux a serious OS or simply a hobby OS?

     I remember mainframers who wouldn't take minicomputers seriously.
     I remember minicomputer users who thought PCs were limited to
     home use.  Wake up and smell the roses.  One may not like Linux,
     but when companies like Intel, Compaq, IBM, Oracle, Informix, 
     Corel, Novell, ... are committing to it; it must be serious.

                                          Thank you,
                                          David Mandel
                                          dmandel at
                                          (503) 952-6570

P.S.  The opinions expressed in this posting are mine and mine alone.

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