Controversial Linux maker Linspire is bundling hot Web browser-alternative Mozilla Firefox with the OpenOffice.org office productivity suite to create a new product called OOoFf! that will sell in retail stores for $29.95. You can also purchase OOoFf! online right now from the OOoFf! Web site (see the first URL below). There's just one problem: The products in OOoFf! are available elsewhere for free.

"Our goal with OOoFf! is to help get OpenOffice.org and Firefox into every possible distribution channel," Linspire CEO Michael Robertson said. "As users grow comfortable with these high-quality open-source products, it makes the migration to desktop Linux a much more practical transition."

OpenOffice.org is an open-source office productivity suite that offers much of Microsoft Office's functionality, albeit with a less attractive, mid-1990s-style UI. OpenOffice.org includes word processing, spreadsheet, slide show, presentation, flowchart, drawing, and Web page editing applications, many of which can also export data to Adobe's popular PDF format. Sun Microsystems started OpenOffice.org and uses the product as the basis for its retail StarOffice Office Suite.

Firefox, which recently reached its 1.0 release milestone, is a sudden major competitor to Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) and has, in recent days, grabbed more than 7 percent of the Web browser market. Firefox includes pop-up blocking, tabbed browsing, and text zooming functionality and can be customized with a variety of themes and extensions.

In a recent blog posting, Daniel Glazman, a former Netscape employee who now works on Mozilla projects and is a member of the CSS Working Group at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), explained the OOoFf situation. "I think that a retail box on shelves is a good idea to propose an alternative to people who don't download software because they can't (slow bandwidth) \[or\] because they don't dare (afraid of viruses)," he wrote, "but I think it's overoptimistic to think it's going to really help the spread of Firefox and OpenOffice."

Given Linspire's controversial nature (in this case, the company didn't work directly with OpenOffice.org or the Mozilla Foundation, and the OOoFf! Web site doesn't link to either organization), don't be surprised to see that open source backers are a bit upset about this development. Linspire and Robertson have a history of burning bridges, and how the company hopes to benefit from angering potential supporters and the open-source movement is unclear.

In any event, the OOoFf! package includes a CD-ROM with versions of Firefox and OpenOffice.org for Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows, an OpenOffice.org user guide, and a Flash-based demonstration. However, Firefox and OpenOffice.org are available for free download from the Web sites listed below. My recommendation? Don't pay someone else for something you can get from the source for free. If you want to contribute money to open-source projects, consider contributing directly to the organizations that actually made this software (see the URLs below). Or, if you're a developer, lend a hand to the development effort.

OOoFf!
   http://www.oooff.com

Mozilla Firefox 1.0 Download and Donations
   http://www.mozilla.org/products/firefox
   http://www.mozilla.org/foundation/donate.html

OpenOffice.org 1.1.3 Download and Donations
   http://www.openoffice.org
   http://www.openoffice.org/contributing/donate.html