Part 0: For the Undecided (Linux Benefits)
ver. 0.194 2003-06-04 by Stan, Peter and Marie Klimas
The latest version of this guide is available at
Copyright (c) <1999-2003> by Peter and Stan Klimas.
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Contents of this section:
0.1 Fundamentally, why Linux?
0.2 Is Linux for me?
0.3 Linux is difficult for newbies
0.4 What are the benefits of Linux?
0.5 What are the differences between Linux
0.6 What are the differences between Linux
and MS Windows?
0.7 I don't believe in free software,
0.8 "There ain't no such thing as a free
0.9 I need high security. With commercial software,
I can sue them if things go wrong.
0.10 I need standards. Big software
corporations (Microsoft) provide standards
Need MS Windows for Reading Writing MS Word Documents
0.12 MS Windows popularity insures that it is
"here to stay"
0.13 But LINUX may fork into many different systems
0.14 Linux is a cult
0.15 The total cost of ownership (TCO) of Linux
0.16 Linux is idealistic "dreaming"; it
is business that rules the world nowadays
0.17 Linux sux etc.
0.1 Fundamentally, why Linux?
If you truly enjoy working with computers, Linux is
the operating system of your dreams. It is more fun than any other computer
operating system around. However, the reason why Linux is truly revolutionary
is that it is Open Software. Our science and technology works owing to
the free availability of information and peer review. Would you fly a plane
that was based on secret "science" and an unreviewed design, a plane at
the internals of which nobody but the manufacturer could look? Then why
would you trust a computer program containing secret parts and algorithms?
Open-source Linux is ideally suited for a mission-critical application--its
security and power are based on robust solutions which anyone can view,
criticize, or improve on. It is the implementation of the scientific method
The making of horseshoes, good glass, or measuring time were once closely
guarded trade secrets. Science and technology exploded 500 years ago
thanks to the sharing of knowledge by the means of printing. In the early
days of printing, many of those who dared to share were assassinated for
revealing "trade secrets." Linux is for the computer age what Gutenberg
was for writing. Hopefully there will be no assassinations this time :-)
. Linux does clash with those who claim the "ownership" of information,
trying to push time back 500 years.
0.2 Is Linux for me?
Only you can answer this question. Linux is a mature,
powerful, secure and extremely versatile UNIX-like operating system.
The power and versatility come with a price--you may need to be computer-literate
in order to set-up and maintain Linux. Linux is relatively easy to use
once the operating system and applications are set up properly. So, your
mother will also be able to use Linux, if you set up an easy graphical
account for her and put the proper icons/menus on her GUI desktop.
Linux is secure, so your mother will not be able to damage the system no
matter how hard she tries--unless it's with a hammer :-) .
Linux is quite different from MS Windows, so do not expect that if
you can get around MS Windows, Linux will be straightforward for you.
You may need to learn. On the other hand, if you come from UNIX, Linux will
be easy for you. If you don't know much about computers or you don't enjoy
them, chances are Linux administration is not for you. If you don't know
your hardware, Linux installation may be a challenge.
0.3 Linux is difficult for newbies.
This may be true. But the real question is: do you
really want to learn it? None of the authors has a computer science
background, yet we use Linux everyday and we love it.
0.4 What are the benefits of Linux?
Linux can give you:
o A modern, very stable, multi-user, multitasking environment
on your inexpensive PC hardware, at no (or almost no) monetary cost for
the software. Linux is a rich and powerful platform--don't think of it
as a "poor people" operating system. Out-of-box Linux has as much
capability as MS Windows NT with $5000 in software add-ons, is more stable,
and requires less powerful hardware for comparable tasks.
o Standard platform. Linux is VERY standard--it is essentially a POSIX
compliant UNIX. (Yes, Linux is a best-of-the-breed UNIX. The word
"UNIX" is not used in conjunction with Linux because "UNIX" is a registered
trademark.) Linux includes all the UNIX standard tools and utilities.
o Unsurpassed computing power, portability, and flexibility.
A Linux cluster recently (April 1999) beat a Cray supercomputer in a
standard benchmark. Linux is most popular on Intel-based
PCs (price of the hardware), but it runs very well on numerous other hardware
platforms, from toy-like to mainframes. One distribution (Debian)
expresses the idea like this: "Linux, The Universal Operating System."
Linux can be customized to perform almost any computing
o Advanced graphical user interface. Linux uses a standard, network-transparent
X-windowing system with a "window manager" (typically KDE or GNOME).
o Dozens of excellent, free, general-interest desktop applications.
This include a range of web browsers, email programs,
word processors, spreadsheets, bitmap and vector graphics programs, file
managers, audio players, CD writers, some games, etc.
o Thousands of free applets, tools, and smaller programs. "Small
is beautiful" goes well with Linux philosophy. The small Linux tools
and applets often work in tandem to perform more complex tasks.
o Hundreds of specialized applications built by researchers around
the world (astronomy, information technology, chemistry, physics, engineering,
linguistics, biology, ...). In many fields, Linux seems like "the only"
operating system in existence (try to find out what your friend astronomer
runs on her computer). The software in this category is typically not
very easy to use, but if you want the power, it is the best software
that humanity has in these areas. Doubtful? Have a look at: http://SAL.KachinaTech.COM/Z/2/index.shtml
o Scores of top-of-the line commercial programs including all
the big databases (e.g., Oracle, Sybase, but no Microsoft's). Many
(most?) of these are offered free for developers and for personal use.
o A truly great learning platform. If you are a parent, you should
be really glad your daughter/son does Linux--s/he will surely learn
something of lasting value. If you are a teacher, you should consider
the installation of Linux at your school. "It is indeed a strange world
when educators need to be convinced that sharing information, as opposed
to concealing information, is a good thing" (http://edge-op.org/grouch/schools.html).
You select Linux if you care to provide education, not training.
The better the university, the greater the chance their computer department
uses Linux in teaching. For example, under Linux, you can immediately
begin modifying and compiling for yourself a spreadsheet application which
is in every bit as advanced and capable as MS Excel. Linux puts you right
on the cutting edge (in technology, project management, QA, methodology
of science). Many teachers won't use Linux in schools because they are lacking
in computer education themselves (at least that's what I see).
o Excellent networking capability built into your operating system.
You think you don't need a network? Once you try home networking, you
will never be able to live without it! How about connecting the
two or more computers that you have at home and sharing your hard drives,
CDROM(s), sound card(s), modem, printer(s), etc.? How about browsing the
net on two or more machines at the same time using a single Internet connection?
How about playing a game with your son over your home network? Even your
old 386 with Win3.11 may become useful again when connected to your Linux
Pentium server and when it is able to use your network resources. All
necessary networking software comes with standard Linux, free, just setup
is required. And it is not second-rate shareware--it is exactly the same
software that runs most of the Internet (the Apache software runs more
than 50% of all Internet web servers and Sendmail touches some 70% of all
e-mail). The pleasure of home networking is something I was able to discover
only owing to Linux.
o Connectivity to Microsoft, Novel, and Apple proprietary networking.
Reading/writing to your DOS/MS Windows and other disk formats. This
includes "transparent" use of data stored on the MS Windows partition
of your hard drive(s).
o State-of-art development platform with many best-of-the-kind
programming languages and tools coming free with the operating system.
Access to all the operating system source codes, should you require it,
is also free. The "C" compiler that comes standard with Linux can compile
code for more platforms than (probably) any other compiler on earth. Perl,
Python, Guile, Tcl, Ruby, powerful "shell" scripting, and even an assembler
also come as standard with Linux.
o Freedom from viruses, "backdoors" to your computer, software manufacturer
"features," invasion of privacy, forced upgrades, proprietary file
formats, licensing and marketing schemes, product registration, high software
prices, and pirating. How is this? Linux has no viruses because it
is too secure an operating system for the viruses to spread with any degree
of efficiency. The rest follows from the open-source and non-commercial
nature of Linux: Linux evolved itself by "bazar-like" mechanisms to
encapsulate the best computing practices, code legibility and correctness,
security, flexibility, usefulness, coolness, performance.
o The operating platform that is guaranteed "here-to-stay." Since
Linux is not owned, it cannot possibly be put out of business. The Linux
General Public License (GPL) insures that development/maintanance will
be provided as long as there are Linux users. There is a great number
of highly-educated Linux users and tens of thousands of actively developed
o A platform which will technically develop at a rapid pace. This
is insured by the modern, open-software development model which Linux
implements: "build-on-the-back-of-the-previous-developer" and
"peer-review-your-code" (as opposed to the anachronistic closed-software
model: "always-start-from-scratch" and "nobody-will-see-my-code"). Even
if the current "Linux hype" died out, Linux will develop as it did before
the media hype started. Open source development does have its peculiarities:
the development appears rather slow (vertically) but it proceeds on a
very wide front, dangerous security bugs are fixed almost upon discovery,
there are typically several alternatives for a program of similar functionality.
Linux depth cannot be overestimated.
If you wanted to learn first-hand about the General Public License,
check these famous GNU documents:
In a nutshell, the GNU General Public Licence (GPL)
allows anybody to:
- use the software at no charge, without any limitations,
- copy, and distribute or sell unmodified copies of the software
in the source or binary form,
- modify, and distribute or sell a modified version of the software
as long as the source code is included and licenced under the GPL,
- sell support for the software.
What this license *does not* allow to do is to modify the software and
then distrubute a binary-only version of the software (without the source
code). Speaking plainly, the GPL licence just forbids stealing somebody
else's software for incorporation into a closed, commercial-only product.
However, you may incorporate GPL software in a propriatory computer program
if you obtain a permission from the author. Excluded from the use of GPL
are persons who have been found to violate GPL.
The license under which Linux is distributed is probably the most important
part of it. It is designed to perpetuate the freedom of information.
Other important open-source projects include science and law (hardly a joke).
The Linux method is really nothing new--it is simply the application of
the scientific method to software: you get information free, you add your
ideas and make your living, and finally, you leave it free. However,
some big corporations and their lawyers seem to be trying hard to change
this, to push us back in time, to the dark ages, when information was
kept "proprietary." Hence, you see in newspapers some famous Linux-connected
persons involved in all kinds of struggles.
To get a flavour for the value of Linux, here
are some prices for commercial software as listed at www.amazon.com.
All prices are in $USA, as listed on 2001-02-03, with discounts. Roughly
equivalent Linux software is included on almost any Linux CD (but with
no restrictions on the number of clients). In addition, the hardware
for Linux is MUCH cheaper, since Linux can run all services on a single
The word "free" has two quite different meanings in the English language,
and it sometimes leads to misconceptions about the free nature of Linux.
These two meanings follow the Latin adjective "liber" and the adverb
"gratis," and they are often illustrated with the phrases "free speech"
and "free (of charge) beer." Most Linux software is free in both
senses, but it is only the first sense which is essential to Linux.
Microsoft Windows 2000 Server (5-client)--$848.99;
Microsoft Exchange 2000 Server (5-client)--$1,279.99; Microsoft Outlook
2000 (1-client)--$94.99; Systems Management Server 2.0 (10-Cals)--$994.99;
Proxy Server 2.0--$886.99; Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Standard Edition (5-client)--$1,229.99;
Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Standard Edition (1-user License)--$4,443.99;
Microsoft BackOffice Small Business Server 4.5 NT (Add-On 5-CAL)--$264.99;
Windows NT Server Prod Upgrade From BackOffice SBS Small Bus Server (25-client)--$558.99;
Microsoft Windows 2000 Advanced Server Upgrade (25-client)--$3,121.99;
Microsoft FrontPage 2000--$129.99; Microsoft Internet Security and Acceleration
Server --$664.99; Site Server Commerce 3.0 (25-client)--$4,092.99;
Visual C++ 6.0 Professional Edition with Plus Pack--$525.99; Microsoft
Visual Basic Enterprise 6.0 with Plus Pack--$1,128.99; Microsoft
Visual Sourcesafe 6.0 CD--$469.99; Microsoft Office 2000 Standard (1-client)--$384.99;
Adobe Photoshop 6.0--$551.99; Microsoft Plus Game Pack--$19.99.
0.5 What are the differences between Linux and
Command-line-wise, almost none, although this has been
changing (for better or worse). Linux has a much larger market appeal
and following than any commercial UNIX. GUI-wise there are also
no major differences--Linux, as most other UNICES, uses an X-Windowing
The major differences:
- Linux is free, while many UNICES (this is supposed to be plural
of UNIX), cost A LOT. The same for applications--many good applications
are available on Linux free. Even the same commercial application
(if you wanted to buy one) typically costs much more for a commercial UNIX
than for Linux.
- Linux runs on many hardware platforms, the commodity Intel-x86/IBM-spec
personal computers being the most prominent. A typical UNIX is proprietary-hardware-bonded
(and this hardware tends to be much more expensive than a typical PC
- With Linux, you are in charge of your computer, whereas on most
UNICES you are typically confined to be an "l-user" (some administrators
pronounce it "loser").
- Linux feels very much like DOS/Win in the late 80s/90s, but
is much sturdier and much richer, while a typical UNIX account feels
like a mainframe from the 60s/70s.
- Some UNICES may be more mature in certain areas (for example,
security, some engineering applications, better support of cutting-edge
hardware). Linux is more for the average Joe who wants to run his own
server or engineering workstation.
0.6 What are the differences between Linux
and MS Windows?
Mouse-click-wise, almost none, once Linux is properly
installed. Linux installation can be a challenge though, whereas
MS Windows comes pre-installed with your computer.
The major differences:
- Linux is free, while MS Windows costs money. Same for applications.
- Linux file formats are free, so you can access them in a variety of
ways. On MS Windows, the common practice it to make you lock your own
data in secret formats that can only be accessed with tools leased to you
at the vendor's price. How corrupt (or incompetent?) must the politicians
who lock our public records into these formats be! "What we will
get with Microsoft is a three-year lease on a health record we need to keep
for 100 years" [http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/health/newsid_1694000/1694372.stm].
- With Linux, you are unlikely to violate any licence agreement--all
the software is happily yours. With MS Windows you likely already violate
all kinds of licenses and you could be pronounced a computer pirate if
only a smart lawyer was after you (don't worry, most likely none is after
- MS Windows tries to be the "lowest-common-denominator" operating system
(for better or worse), whereas Linux is built for more sophisticated,
feature-hungry computer users (for better or worse).
- MS Windows is based on DOS, Linux is based on UNIX. MS Windows Graphical
User Interface (GUI) is based on Microsoft-own marketing-driven specifications.
Linux GUI is based on industry-standard network-transparent X-Windows.
- Linux beats Windows hands down on network features, as a development
platform, in data processing capabilities, and as a scientific workstation.
MS Windows desktop has a more polished appearance, smoother general business
applications, and many more games for kids (these are not better games
though--Linux games tend to be more sophisticated).
- Linux is more feature-rich than you could imagine. Heard on the Internet:
"Two big products came from the University of California: UNIX and
LSD. And I don't think it's a coincidence."
0.7 I don't believe in free software,
And do you believe in the Internet? The Internet and
Linux share underlying ideas and have common roots. Do you remember
the disbelief about the Internet a few years ago, the endless, seemingly
unbeatable arguments that free Internet cannot exist? "Who pays for that,
The reality is simple. Cooperation and good will can benefit
many at the same time: your gain is not my loss. The Internet works fine
and is expanding at a rapid pace. So does Linux.
Here is the opinion of an IBM executive: "The reason we are so excited
about Linux is we believe Linux can do for applications what the Internet
did for networks" (http://linuxtoday.com/news_story.php3?ltsn=2000-08-17-001-04-PS-EL).
IBM just (May 2002) spent 1 billion dollars making Linux run on all
their hardware platforms (mainframes, workstations, PCs, laptops).
0.8 "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch"
"The economic paradigm which makes this true depends
upon scarcity of resources. Software resources are only scarce because
we all keep software proprietary and secret. But not Linux! When I give
you my software, it may create an opportunity cost for me, but I get to
keep it even after I've given it to you. It is a free lunch only rivaled
in history by the loaves and the fishes." (Brett Bazant <firstname.lastname@example.org>
0.9 I need high security. With commercial
software, I can sue them if things go wrong.
Don't count on suing. Things go wrong on many MS Windows
NT machines every day, and there are no damages awarded by courts.
Read your MS Windows license agreement to find out that there is no guarantee
whatsoever that ANYTHING will work. Trying to sue would be a waste of
Linux also provides no guarantees, although it is far more secure than
any version of MS Windows. If you are really security-sensitive
, you can use high-security tools built by companies that rely on the
availability of the source code to design and test their security features
(e.g., Kryptokom in Germany provides high security firewalls).
The "security in obscurity" implemented in MS Windows has repeatedly
been demonstrated to be a naive approach.
"Risk aversion is what dictates you use Linux and other open products,
rather than NT. The risks with NT are entirely out of your control, and
there is nobody you could sue if anything goes wrong. Why people still
believe the myth that Windows in any form offers any bit of accountability
"more" than Linux remains a complete riddle to me." (David Kastrup,
Research Engineer, Bochum, Germany, "Internet Week," http://www.techweb.com/se/directlink.cgi?INW19990329S0050).
0.10 I need standards. Big software corporations
(Microsoft) provide standards.
Perhaps that's what people would expect from large corporations, but
the reality is rather different. Once, big companies loved inventing
nuts that could be undone only by their own service shops. Did these nuts
become standard? Hardly. They didn't because there was no public benefit
involved, and they couldn't because they were patented. Luckily, now we
have open and free standards for nuts. A "proprietary standard" is such
a ridiculous oxymoron that it is hard to believe that educated people
can believe in it. (Currently, marketing types use the term "de facto standard"
or "industry standard" to cover up the ugliness of the lack of standards.)
An example from the computer field. The "standard" MS Word file
format has changed numerous times over the recent years. This keeps happening
probably for a good business reason: as soon as other companies
"reverse-engineer" the current Word format, Microsoft changes it.
There are even sub-formats (an MS "fast-save" anybody?). It is also completely
closed--Microsoft does not publish any specifications. How can the user
benefit from this in a longer term? What is the Microsoft guarantee that
MS Word 6.0 file format will still be legible in 2020?
"... Microsoft's standards are both proprietary and arbitrary- the stealth
incompatibility of Office 97 file formats with older versions of Office
or the subversion of Open standards like XML with proprietary extensions
that require Internet Explorer 5, MS Active server and so on, are sober
reminders of what the company does to a market." (Xavier Basora,
"... Microsoft's monopoly doesn't guarantee that your current MS Office
will work with any previous or future MS Office. This is in spite of any
number of Microsoft apologists arguing that the benefit of Microsoft's
monopoly has been a standard for productivity applications." (Wesley
To add to the confusion, companies typically do not "standardize"
on file formats but on the applications that are supposed to produce them.
It is like standardizing on a manufacturer of nuts instead of on nuts.
How is this supposed to work if the file manufacturer keeps changing the
specification to drive their sales?
"We need standardized, open file formats so that users can exchange
documents between platforms. The actual word processing software used
to generate these documents shouldn't even be an issue." (Ted Clark,
There are a few text/document oriented file
formats that are quite definitely more standard than MS Word file format:
ASCII, XML (with non-propriatory stylesheets), HTML, SGML, LaTeX, TEX, PostScript,
pdf, dvi ... and all of them have excellent support under Linux. The
MS Word file format can also be read/written very well under Linux by OpenOffice
(and a number of other applications) to cover your current needs. Advanced,
"universal," open-source document formats (XML-based) is being worked on by
an independent organization. The story is similar like with other proprietary
computing "standards" (*.giff vs. *.png anyone?).
Linux, by its very nature, is based on true, published and free standards
because "open source" makes the full specifications available to everybody
(competitors or not). I believe that the urge for open standards is
the very driving force behind Linux. Some people feel that they cannot
afford to trust their algorithms and data to a commercial entity, let
alone one that repeatedly demonstrated it is untrustworthy.
Have a look at a draft of this Argentinean law for a taste of the future.
It sounds like the Argentineans may be the first to decide that their
public records cannot be held hostage by a commercial entity: (source:
http://slashdot.org/articles/01/04/28/010216.shtml): "... Public
National Organizations mentioned in article 1 of this law, will not be
allowed to use programs that store data in non-public format ...". Several
other counteries are contempleting or enacting legistlations requiring storage
of data in public file formats.
There is a strong perception in the Linux community that there is a serious
problem with the computing "standards" championed by large software vendors.
This includes their standards for our "static" data , as well as the knowledge
embedded in our computer codes. Can we afford to have somebody decide for
us when, how, and at what cost we can access our work? This problem
is ignored and even aggravated by people who are paid to take care of it.
Linux is a grass-root answer.
0.11 I Need MS Windows for Reading Writing MS Word
In a large corporate environement, you may have little choice--they locked
themselves by cheerful productions of non-portable forms, templates, visual
basic-driven web pages and other "tools".
In a smaller environment, you can use OpenOffice.org suit (OO) that runs
on Linux, Windows, Mac, Solaris, with full file-level compatiblity. It can
be downloaded and installed for free (no restrictions whatsoever) so nobody
should really complain about the file format (some control freaks still will).
Just to make sure, it can import and export MS Word and Excel documents of
reasonable complexity very well. However, its native file format is fundamentally
much better (and non-propriatory). Feature-by-feature, it can do almost anything
MS Office can, plus some extras. Depending on whom you ask, the ease of use
veries between "50% more difficult" to "20% easier" (measured on experienced
MS Office users). Very complex documents are best transferes as pdf, and OO
can make them on the fly.
So, probably you do not need MS Office any more. Download your OO for MS
Windows and Linux at: http://www.openoffice.org/
0.12 MS Windows popularity insures that it
is "here to stay".
This is likely true. Nintendo is probably also "here
to stay." However, I like computing; therefore, I choose a computer
with a powerful operating system, not a lowest-common-denominator piece
designed for "everybody."
Linux is quite positively here-to-stay because of its open-source nature
(Linux cannot possibly be put out-of-business). It is a standard
selected for countless projects that are not going to go away, and some
of them are quite "mission-critical." Try the International Space Station,
for which Linux is the operating system (http://www2.linuxjournal.com/lj-issues/issue59/3024.html).
Plus, never underestimate the strength of the Linux community. Linux
is "here to stay" at least for the computer avant-garde. Many Linuxers
do not even want Linux to become very popular because they fear it could
"dumb down" the elite Linux platform.
0.13 But LINUX may fork into many different systems
This is a typical argument of the type spread by those
specializing in the marketing tactics known as "fear, uncertainty
and doubt" (FUD) [about the competing product].
"Forking" in this context means "branching a computer program," so as
to create parallel "subversions" of the program, and consequently fragment
There is very little (if any) evidence of harmful forking of any software
included with a typical Linux distribution. Where forking did occur,
it has always turned beneficial. Quite possibly, this is because although
there are no artificial barriers to fork software under Linux, there
are also no artificial barriers to merge the best pieces back.
The theoretical background on how forking software can be good for its
development might have been actually given quite some time ago by the
German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831), with his
concept of dialectic development. E.g., in "Phenomenology of Spirit",
Hegel concludes: "... the schism incipient in a party, which seems a
misfortune, expresses its fortune rather."
0.14 Linux is a cult
The Linux community has repeatedly been labeled "religious
zealots" by journalists whose well-established computer magazines received
massive feedback after they had published highly unfair articles on
Linux. So yes, the Linux community is numerous, literate, and
willing to express its opinions. And many computer journalists/magazines
know that Linux means less money for them (users pay less for their computing
and the associated advertisement, while expecting more). Does this explain
Face it, you salespeople pretending to be journalists. There is hardly
any integrity left in the computing press. How many words on Linux
did your PC Magazine (or whatever) publish by 1999-01-01? Wasn't Linux
at least an interesting technology by that time? It surely was, yet you
conspired to keep your readership in the dark, selling your journalistic
integrity for money. And now, after Linux has surfaced in the mainstream
(non-computer) media, you keep writing misleading articles about it
saying "yah, but it will/cannot/may ...." whatever (trying the "fear,
uncertainty and doubt" tactics to kill it). And adding "Microsoft is
already ...", continuing to write about the vaporware and the future paradise
in the face of the increasingly stealthy, unstable, pricey, architecturally
unsound computer platform, whose greatest achievement has been exhorting
unheard-of-before money by denying inter-operatibility, and killing any
existing or proposed standard (by "embracing" and then proprietary-extending
it). Whom do you serve? Surely not your readers.
I worded it as strongly as I could. Am I a zealot? Or am I just trying
to voice my disapproval for the self-serving actions of the computer
You think "self-serving" is ok in business? How pathetic must your business
be! I always thought that business was a social contract in which
we exchange good values, for a mutual benefit. As I read history,
societies use to hang / guillotine / electrocute those members who really
persisted in their self-serving business. Well, times have changed. A
bit for the better, a bit for the worse :)))
0.15 The total cost of ownership (TCO) of Linux is
Nobody really knows how to calculate the "total cost
of ownership" of a general piece of software. So a good lawyer
+ accountant can prove whatever point they are paid to make, and they
Let me try a simple estimate of how much the average total cost of the
ownership of MS Windows is. Let's add the fortunes accumulated by all
the MS Windows software makers. Add all the salaries of all generic
Windows programmers, consultants, support and training personnel, IT
management, etc. Now, add the losses customers must surely have
suffered while the software corporations were presenting them with "features"
so as to achieve their current monopolistic status. Divide this figure
by the number of years (whatever timeframe you selected), and the number
of MS Windows users (only in the countries in which software is normally
paid for). Here is the TCO of MS Windows. However you count it, it
will be many thousands of good US dollars per average joe per year. You
didn't pay that much money? Well, you must have, it has just been hidden
from you. Yes, developed countries waste billions every year on software.
How much did Linux cost? Hardly anything. The number of users is much
lower, too, but you will be hard pressed to come up with $10 per user
Yet, in my opinion, the total cost is not what matters the most. What
value did I receive for my money? You would have to calculate
the total value of ownership (TVO?), then subtract from it the total cost
of ownership (TCO) to obtain the "net benefit of the ownership."
I guess accountants only talk about the TCO for software "necessary for
doing business," and thus skip the issue of value and benefit. There is no
value in the normal commercial software, it is just the necessity for doing
business these days. Well, Linux satisfies my computing necessities
at zero monetary cost, and the personal pleasure and learning value is
0.16 Linux is idealistic "dreaming"; it is business
that rules the world nowadays
Think of Linux as a consortium. Businesses/individuals
get together to address a common computing need or problem. They may
chip in labour or money, hire a technical leader, or otherwise cooperate
to make Linux address their requirements. The solution is totally theirs
for keeps, and it does not have to cost a lot--they can re-use the pre-existing
Linux software pieces. They may cooperate to overcome the advantage that
a big "industry leader" may have and use against their interests.
Linux is the end-product of activities of many such loose "consortiums"
who "scratch their needs." So Linux is a business, but it is not necessarily
about selling software--it is about access to reasonably-priced software
that matches your need, solves your problem, sells your hardware or
service, and which is totally yours (the licence never expires, and
you will never be cut off from the source code).
0.17 Linux sux etc.
Then do not use Linux. You are not doing anybody a
favor by using Linux. GNU/Linux is free and powerful software, but only
for those who like or need it. There are alternative operating systems
for you to choose from and they may better match your requirements.
Although most Linuxers enjoy the growth and welcome new users, some are
not very happy about it because "the crowd and commerce can spoil the hackers'
paradise we created." Therefore, you really aren't doing anybody a favour
by using Linux.
In this context, it may be worthwhile to briefly summarize Linux strengths
and weaknesses: Linux is owned by its fans (your piece of ownership
comes free with your free subscription to the fan club), definitely
very powerful and feature-rich, highly configurable, as flexible as
you want it to be (comes with complexity), low on the cost of hardware,
comes with any networking bell-and-whistle known to man, requires a computer
literate administrator, some essential desktop applications are still behind
commercial offerings on other platforms (e.g., spreadsheet and word processing),
a number of excellent end-user applications come "standard" and free with
the operating system, the graphical user interface is very nice but still
not as polished as Apple or MS offerings, Linux is highly standard (UNIX,
POSIX), open file formats used all along, thousands of programs available
for free download (although the ease of use and quality of these varies
vastly). And most of all, Linux is enjoyable!
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