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View Full Version : How long will Linux remain free?


prairielily
23rd April 2006, 09:40 PM
Just wanted to ask for general interests' sake:

As someone who is new to Linux, I have noticed that there are a certain number of distros offered for sale - rather than for free, open-source download, which usually seem to be backed by some company and offer 'support', manuals and premade install cd's for the fee. While this may entice a certain percentage of the market and so will help to spread Linux, it seems to completely fly in the face of what Linux stands for.

I suppose increased support is all well and good, but I think most people would agree that even someone completely new to Linux doesn't really need phone-in support, manuals, or premade cd's (a great forum like this suffices pretty darn well, I have found). My question is, is Linux going to remain free for the foreseeable future, or are these proprietary distros going to eventually take over?

wshawn
23rd April 2006, 09:52 PM
Some distros have a business structure requiring some sort of payment. Generally speaking there are hundreds of free distros and even some of the paid ones can be gotten for free by downloading them and skipping the whole "subscription" plan.


Personally, I left mandrake because I felt the users were forced into joining their club to get simple questions answered. Red Hat recently reannounced that Fedora will always remain free.

In my opinion I could care less about PAYING for a distribution as long as it doesn't "force" me to do things their way and to put up with them making all the decisions for me. Keep the distro pure and let me make my own decisions. That is worth paying something for... but then again it would be my choice because I had an authentic sense of value in the product.

Not a value assigned by market strength and peoples willingness to pay for it....

markkuk
23rd April 2006, 09:52 PM
Linux will always remain Free (http://www.fsf.org/licensing/essays/free-sw.html). There's nothing wrong with companies selling (http://www.fsf.org/licensing/essays/selling.html) Linux distribution media or support services for Linux.

PilotJLR
23rd April 2006, 09:55 PM
Because of the licensing terms, Linux has to be free and open source, so I don't see that changing.

Even the Linux distros for sale are open source too - the company just doesn't provide pre compiled binaries in some cases. You could still get the source, and compile it (with tons of time and skill).
The product-form distributions are necessary for production environments... although Fedora is a fine disty, do you think Fortune 500 companies should use in on their server farms? Hence Red Hat...

Zigzagcom
23rd April 2006, 09:58 PM
"Free as in beer". There is nothing that prevents you from creating your own distro and selling it. But are you going to provide support for the distribution, i.e., update old packages, provide security updates, improve the code and add value to the distribution by adding applications, that work with it seamlessly.
Then there are corporate customers and us regular users. Each have different needs. With Fedora, we are the guinea pigs, the testers, and get a free and great OS to play with. The bug reports and problems find their way to the developers. This in turn provides "rock solid" code for inclusion in the more commercial versions of the respective distributions.

And there is a big difference between source code and packages. We are being spoiled rotten. No longer do we have to compile everything from scratch, although you are certainly entitled to compile and create a custom linux OS as you please. That is still the nitty gritty of linux.

It all takes work, one way or another.

gtr225
23rd April 2006, 10:08 PM
From what I understand, if some company wants to offer a distro of linux, they still have to offer a free version. But even so, I don't mind paying for an OS, as long as it's actually good and resonably priced.

prairielily
23rd April 2006, 10:21 PM
I understand the idea of it being perfectly legit to collect a fee for distributing something you've made, and that 'free' can apply to being able to modify and redistribute as well as give away your stuff away for nothing. It just seems to me that mr bill gates has corrupted the idea of 'computering' away from what it should be w. his monopoly - he has turned using what for many of us is a 'toy' into a high-priced venture, and I don't think that should be so. Instead of spreading a great product, it's all about lining his pockets. I am a university student, and for many people I know the latest windows OS let alone all the security software required is a huge expense they can't keep up with.

I think one of the great things about linux is its availability to the regular user, who may or may not want to modify and redistribute it. I get really irritated at the idea of windows monopolizing the market, I know so many people who figure if it's not made by microsoft then what's the point? (and they're getting sick of me telling them how great linux is...but I will keep on telling them anyways). But it would just be a shame if linux became a for-profit venture.

gtr225
23rd April 2006, 11:15 PM
I think it would be great just to a have a nice mix of zero-cost distros of linux for average users and non-profit organizations and also fee-based ones for large corporations and people who need support and an OS for mission-critical situations.

Zigzagcom
23rd April 2006, 11:25 PM
Hey, it would be great if I could get commodities like clothing, food and fuel for free...or how about a top notch education.

JN4OldSchool
23rd April 2006, 11:40 PM
You dont have any need to worry about Linux remaining free. The kernel is and always will be available to whomever wants to use it. There will always be a guy in his basement or a group of guys workinjg at night over beer writting yet another distro just for the hell of it. It seems to go against the grain, but the world at large wants to show off their skills, help out their fellow man, involve others in their interests or just spit in the face of a capitialistic world. For whatever reason people continue to offer things for free, be it music or movie files they have themselves paid for, games, Midi karaoke files, Linux distros or whatever. A good case for this is all the Windows software you can find for free. Sometimes it is put out as an introduction to fuller paid for software such as AVG's free virus program, or Zonealarm's firewall. But more often than not it is just put out there as a good faith offering to kind of say "see, look what I created! Try this! Bet you like it!" It amazes me when I think about it.

tomcat
23rd April 2006, 11:47 PM
Personally, I left mandrake because I felt the users were forced into joining their club to get simple questions answered.Hm... I am a long time Fedora and Mandriva user and never ever was I forced to join the Club (You can post at their forums without being a club member and there is also the alternative mandrivausers.org forum (imho the better of the two big forums)). I think there is a great misunderstanding there.

If you join the Club, you will have access to a distro that comes with proprietary stuff included by default (ATI, NVIDIA driver, Acrobat, and other stuff) and you will get some printed manuals, too. Actually the costs are not so high if you would know how much printing a manual actually costs. It is quite expensive, I can tell you (I worked in the dtp department, so I know the prices). Sure, you can install all the NVIDIA and Acrobat stuff yourself, but not everyone is able to do that (there are computer-illiterate people on earth) or thinks that he can do it (fear of breaking things). For those people, these boxed sets are a good offer. For those who don't mind adding stuff themselves, there are always the 100% free Mandriva isos available.

One more thing about manuals. Some might think that printed manuals are useless as everything is available in forums such as this or other websites, but most people don't even know that computer support forums exist. They would be lost without printed manuals. ;)

One thing is for sure. There will always be free Linux distros out there. No need to worry. :)

prairielily
24th April 2006, 12:57 AM
I think it would be great just to a have a nice mix of zero-cost distros of linux for average users and non-profit organizations and also fee-based ones for large corporations and people who need support and an OS for mission-critical situations.
So like a 'standard' distro that could be marketed as a windows/mac competitor in stores, and then a corporate distro w. company support, and then freely available customizable distros for all of us who just like to fiddle around without being under a Monopoly (so long as at least a few of those keep kicking around)? Sounds awesome!

Hey, it would be great if I could get commodities like clothing, food and fuel for free...or how about a top notch education.
In my university the costs go up every year, partly for all the new computers they keep buying. Meanwhile, every computer runs windows xp pro, but uses firefox as the default browser and in computer science classes they encourage us to buy a mac, or try linux.

One more thing about manuals. Some might think that printed manuals are useless as everything is available in forums such as this or other websites, but most people don't even know that computer support forums exist. They would be lost without printed manuals.
I also know a great many people that get very upset when no manual is included w. something and will go to the library and get out lots of thick books, then never have time to read them. For those folks I would agree with you that a premade manual would be great. Meanwhile I've been telling everyone to try linux and check out the forums...

sargek
24th April 2006, 10:52 AM
Linux will always remain Free (http://www.fsf.org/licensing/essays/free-sw.html). There's nothing wrong with companies selling (http://www.fsf.org/licensing/essays/selling.html) Linux distribution media or support services for Linux.

I find it interesting that many new users have no idea what the foundations of GNU/Linux are, and why it will always remain free. Thanks for pointing that out. Here is another link: http://www.gnu.org/

tejas
24th April 2006, 01:05 PM
From what I understand, if some company wants to offer a distro of linux, they still have to offer a free version.Well, not really.

The linux kernel is free, as is _most_ of the software that Linux works with.

However, there is nothing that stops a person from combining a set of free packages, and making a non-free product, as long as they have not modified the source code for the packages.

Only if you _modify_ the source code of the package, you have to release the new code.

In Fedora, about 90% of the packages are really unmodified, so RH really doesn't _need_ to release the source code of the modifications, but they do in good will.

On the other hand, packages like the kernel are modified, so they need to release the sources to that.

prairielily
25th April 2006, 02:04 AM
I find it interesting that many new users have no idea what the foundations of GNU/Linux are, and why it will always remain free. Thanks for pointing that out. Here is another link: http://www.gnu.org/
I find it interesting that you find that so interesting - of course new users don't know very much about all this, that's basically why we visit the forum - to LEARN. Most people don't know a lot about something they've never used when they first start using it - we may ask silly questions once in a while, but that's sort of the point I thought - at least we want to know more.

I would just like to point out that my original reason for starting this thread was the question, Will linux remain free as in zero cost available for download for those fed up with monopolizing marketing giants who are just out for monetary gain (I think mr gates has lost sight of his original vision), to those of us who are willing to put in the time and effort? So far as freedom in software creation, there are obviously very deep roots there, and linux has a legacy that shows no signs of changing - which is fabulous, I have a lot of respect for that.

I was simply wondering if there would come a time when if I wanted to use Linux, it would only be available in a box on a shelf alongside windows and osx. The responses here have clarified that and a lot of other things, and the links provided were very informative. Thanks to everybody for your input.

Coolerthanyou
25th April 2006, 02:12 AM
(I think mr gates has lost sight of his original vision)

no he hasn't

Omega Blue
25th April 2006, 04:26 AM
Exactly right.

According to the legends, long, long time ago, when PCs were called microcomputers and Bill Gates was still a wee lad, there was this great organisation called the Homebrew Computer Club. Bill wrote a letter to the members of the club after finding out they were freely distributing a Basic interpreter he (and Paul Allen, presumably) wrote. He basically told them that they should pay.

::lol::

markkuk
25th April 2006, 11:49 AM
Not a legend, read the letter here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Letter_to_Hobbyists

JN4OldSchool
25th April 2006, 01:09 PM
I read that letter. I have to ask, why is this bad? Mr. Gates has a point, like it or not! No, I am not going to rant and rave about how MS is a fine, upstanding company looking out for the best interest of the world at large. They are a big, dirty, sleazy, monopolistic giant who isnt afraid to bend the rules in their favor and run rough shod over their compitition. So why are they different than any other big company? You Mac fans out there should look at the history of Apple and how Steve Jobs ruled with an iron fist. The only way to succeed in business is to reach out and grab what you want. MS didnt become a giant through being passive or nice. Bill Gates was/is a man of vision who has the balls to buy, beg or steal what he needs to make those visions become reality. He succeeded where others failed. His only fault, if any, is his micromanagement which has consistantly created factions at MS and has splintered the company. Like many other great business leaders Mr. Gates is afraid to delegate his power. He has the need to be in total control. This has led to some very bad choices and practices lately. So go ahead and hate MS for the DRM, the Trusted computing, the security breeches, the mismanagement, the strong arm tactics...But dont hate them for being a business intent on making a buck.

tejas
25th April 2006, 03:19 PM
Well, you cannot blame MS for what they do. They are as sleazy as ANY company, but they just get more publicity

Sometimes, they DO accidently come out with some good software, like Age of Empire, and Midtown Madness.

This is one MAJOR point where I disagree with Stallman (founder of gnu).

He keeps saying that all software should be free, and has been quoted saying `it is more of a crime NOT to share your software, than it is to pirate`, which in essence means `go ahead and pirate software, it is your moral obligation`.

I believe that Proprietary and Free software should, and will, exist side by side.

For example, we can use Oracle on Linux, and Firefox on Windows.

On the other hand, I just find windows too hard to use. Nothing is where it should be, and there is no way to change it :(.

If windows was open sourced, the first thing to change would be the GUI, I promise you that.

Omega Blue
27th April 2006, 05:18 AM
I read that letter. I have to ask, why is this bad?

I didn't say it's bad - I am not going to debate whether information should be free at this point. I was only adding support evidence to the (probably flippant) remark that Bill hasn't lost his original vision :)


So why are they different than any other big company? You Mac fans out there should look at the history of Apple and how Steve Jobs ruled with an iron fist. The only way to succeed in business is to reach out and grab what you want. MS didnt become a giant through being passive or nice.

Let me point out that you don't have to become a giant to be successful, and that you don't need to play dirty to be a giant. Can't remember Toyota or Honda playing dirty at some point...


But dont hate them for being a business intent on making a buck.

Hm, you don't need to cut off somebody else's oxygen supply to make a buck.

radu5er
27th April 2006, 10:30 AM
Hm, you don't need to cut off somebody else's oxygen supply to make a buck.

Quite correct.

I just wish I had the foresight to have invested $40,000 (according to the letter) in 1976 and see it turn into $50,000,000,000 thirty years later.

JN4OldSchool
27th April 2006, 01:02 PM
Hm, you don't need to cut off somebody else's oxygen supply to make a buck.

Hey, I did give you permission to hate MS for its strong arm tactics though! :D

Scytale
28th April 2006, 01:57 AM
The thing which stands out about linux too me is the open nature of it, if something doesn't work you can write your own fix for it, you can go on the internet and use someone elses fix etc, you can even look at the source and know exactly how you're OS is supposed to behave. That is why I'll always support an open source product over a closed source product, I don't care so much that it costs, but I do care that I have the freedom to do as I wish with the product.

I love that linux is open, I love how I can customise things how I want them, I love the amount of control I have over my system. Whenever I use a windows system it seems to me that Microsoft has the final say over what I can and can't do with my system and that to me is not ok.

Bandit
28th April 2006, 04:53 AM
I have been using linux for years. Many distros have always been free and some really good ones like Redhat and SuSE have always charged a nominal fee. Its been in the past year or two now that more and more distros are branching off with Free Open Source versions Such as Fedora and OpenSUSE. Even Ubuntu is a ginnie pig of Impy Linux.
The future looks bright for GNU/Linux.

Cheers,
Bandit

ihavenoname
10th May 2006, 03:51 AM
One thing Ive always wondered was is it really possible for a free OS to make it? Or Free Software in general. I can only imagine the amount of time and effort that it takes to make an OS is immense and the costs for servers and Websites, the cost for the mantinance of all this. I see how it can work with Fedora as it is essentially a Delta test (whatever you want to call it) for Red Hat ( a really good test mind you) but distributions such as Ubuntu who hope to make it off of money for support, that in theory sounds like a good idea but is it really possible to maintain all this free software? Many FOSS software developers and Distros seem to be making it by with donations.(how do they eat, pay rent etc.) Don't get me wrong I want it to work but I cant seem to see Linux actually replace Windows. Not without more publicity (commercials?) and I have come to the conclusion that there also needs to be a common packaging method that allows Software Companies to make closed source packages that work with most linux distros even non rpm/debian distros. The way I see it Linux will remain free because besides selling Linux as a server/busniess class OS. The market of Linux Desktops for the Home is not a profitable one from what I know, again this is all my opinion and I would actually love it if someone can prove me wrong by telling me how it would be possible for linux to become a mainstream OS because IMHO it would solve all the current problems with Linux (game support, drivers, and support for other closed source apps.)


On the Mandriva issue(slightly off topic):

I tried mandriva and I really liked how easy it was but I had a problem with the fact that most of the packages were quite old I got Mandriva in April and it was using kernel 2.6.11/13 (can't remeber but it was quite old) gnome 2.10? and kde 3.4. this was the Mandriva One LiveCd and the packages on the Mandriva repos that came with it. I dunno I would have liked to use Mandriva for family computers where not everyone was intrested in doing everything via CLI. Did I get something wrong is there an Updated repo I didnt add or was that just a result of me not being in Mandriva Club? (I know this is kind of out of topic but I thought it would be oppertune to ask this here where several Mandriva users are available, and it also illustraites how the distros like Mandriva that have free versions and non-free versions also dont provide quick updates for their users. I was extreamly annoyed because according to distro watch mandriva was supposed to be bleeding edge.

gtr225
10th May 2006, 04:03 AM
That is an interesting point. But me personally, if Redhat started offering Fedora Support for a price I'd pay it.

Firewing1
10th May 2006, 04:07 AM
How long will Linux remain free? Forever. It's in the GPL lisence. As for paying for the support that comes with it, that might make it and might now. But there will always be 100% free open-source distros like Fedora. Besides, if there ever wasn't one, I'm sure someone (I'd do it) would re-compile the source RPMS off one distro and make another free one. Remind you of CentOS? It's the RHEL RPMs rebuild into a fedora-like distro.
Firewing1

ihavenoname
10th May 2006, 04:31 AM
How long will Linux remain free? Forever. It's in the GPL lisence. As for paying for the support that comes with it, that might make it and might now. But there will always be 100% free open-source distros like Fedora. Besides, if there ever wasn't one, I'm sure someone (I'd do it) would re-compile the source RPMS off one distro and make another free one. Remind you of CentOS? It's the RHEL RPMs rebuild into a fedora-like distro.
Firewing1
Right I absolutly agree. I dont think it would be possible that Fedora would be come a non-free distro that would violate everything Fedora stands for, it would not be helpping Red Hat with what they set out to do with Fedora. So in that right Fedora is successful for what it does. The distros like Ubuntu are the ones that have me confused...as popular as it is now how long can Mark Shuttleworth keep it up, and how about after when he is gone? Its sad because I enjoy the variaty(sp?) of distros(it would be nice to has a workable packaging system that could work with all of them, mind you that does not mean get rid of rpm i just think there should be another packaging system for software companies to use) and it seems many of them will fade out soon due to funding issues. :( Luckly thou it does not seem to me that Fedora is going anywhere soon :D .

Omega Blue
11th May 2006, 10:26 AM
I think it's harder and harder to sell software for money. Software can always be copied. Just that, long, long time ago, in the prehistoric days of mainframes, there weren't that many people who could use such a copy. Besides, back in those days, the OS came with the computer.

Times are a-changin'. Now that there are millions and millions of computers that all can use the same programs, with the Internet making sending information across the globe a snap, you can't make people to pay you $ for software.

Also, about a decade ago, all PCs were more or less the same. Now they cover a large spectrum. A single, unified OS may made sense at the time, but not anymore. Thus, OS needs to be able to be customised to a large extent. For example, I may need an OS to run a firewall on a diskless station off a USB (which will be removed after boot). This OS isn't going to be the same as the OS that I use to play DVDs and that one isn't the same one that runs a file server at my company.

fpoole
13th May 2006, 02:15 AM
Don't get me wrong I want it to work but I cant seem to see Linux actually replace Windows. Not without more publicity (commercials?)

Straight Outta Compton made multi-platinum with zero airplay. Terence McKenna reached out to countless thousands with no more publicity than the alternative media and underground social networks would afford him. Commercials are no solution, they are a problem. They proliferate memes which have encouraged the dangerous consumption tendencies and self-centered ignorant mindsets which have come to dominate the industrialized world.

/rant

Hell, even an advertising mogul (David Oglivy) has come to malign the 'sound of selling', and that was 23 years ago, when that sound was much less noticeable and much less forceful.

ihavenoname
22nd May 2006, 08:11 AM
Straight Outta Compton made multi-platinum with zero airplay. Terence McKenna reached out to countless thousands with no more publicity than the alternative media and underground social networks would afford him. Commercials are no solution, they are a problem. They proliferate memes which have encouraged the dangerous consumption tendencies and self-centered ignorant mindsets which have come to dominate the industrialized world.

/rant

Hell, even an advertising mogul (David Oglivy) has come to malign the 'sound of selling', and that was 23 years ago, when that sound was much less noticeable and much less forceful.
fpoole what do u suggest?

and Omega Blue I hope your right. My biggest concern is this, if in fact the propriteary software industry does collapse, what happens to all those workers? In that case is FOSS helpping more ppl or is it hurting? (given that it will essentially "aid" in the decline of that aforementiond industries) Maybe I'm looking at this the wrong way, there has to be a way for this to work. Let's brainstorm ways that FOSS helps out the world and is better then closed source software. and ways in which FOSS can be made to work. (in this definition of "work" I mean make at least a decent income for people and still be FOSS.

tomcat
22nd May 2006, 11:08 AM
My biggest concern is this, if in fact the propriteary software industry does collapse, what happens to all those workers? Who says that proprietary software will cease to exit? Some people will always trust proprietary stuff more than than Open Source software. I don't see a big problem there. Both will coexist in the future, just the balance will be a bit different compared to todays. And software companies can earn money with support. Red Hat is only one such model where you earn money while providing Open Source solutions.

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