Perspective from an open source newbie

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In my first week at Red Hat, having come from a long history of using proprietary software in the corporate workplace, it only took a few hours to wash away more than fifteen years of plugging overly long license codes into software before I could sit down and use it. What had become second nature during those years vanished the moment I began using an open source desktop.

As I installed my new system and began getting acquainted with the open source model, not once was I asked to enter a license key, required to activate anything, or asked to "Buy Now!" or start a 30-day trial. All of the applications I chose to install just installed. Typing in long combinations of letters and digits to prove my legal right to use the software just wasn't necessary. And boy, was that a breath of fresh air.

But interestingly, it wasn't apparent to me at the time. It was as though somehow I had forgotten about one of the most up-front aspects of the software world I had come from. As I installed all of the open source applications I needed, and even some that I probably didn't (just because I could), it felt normal. Natural. It was only later when I was back on my Windows machine in my home office and saw a nag screen for a piece of software telling me that I had to "Order Now!" to continue using it. It was in that moment I realized how wonderful setting up my open source desktop had been and how wonderful the open source movement really was. I had installed an entire suite of applications that morning--media, imaging, office,internet apps--without even thinking about how much it was going to cost my employer. And going back to work the next day, it was liberating knowing I could install anything I wanted without worrying about a string of numbers to plug in at a license prompt or a wait while the software activated itself with a server in some faraway place, validating my right to use it. I felt like a kid in a candy store where all the candy was free to eat.

After fifteen years of groaning, I have found a great sense of freedom. I'd read about the open source movement and heard people talk about this freedom and the assertion that ideas are to be shared. I knew a large community of people were willing and waiting to help each other solve problems. But I had never actually experienced it. Coming from a long-term proprietary software guy, I think open source and I are going to get along just fine.

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dragonbite's picture
Open Minded

I'm going through a little bit of the opposite right now. I've been running Linux at home and just got a Windows 7 machine that I am trying to set up (and getting frustrated)!

I can't do "this", or I can't do "that" because I don't have the "right version", and the constant attempts to sell or to register some piece of crapware reminds me of how easy I've had it for the past few years!

PaganLinuxGeek's picture

It's a similar situation for myself. Having been an OpenSource software user since 2000 and on a Linux system; I find myself grumbling and whining internally at work. I guess I took it all for granted. Sitting down in front a windoze workstation I feel boxed in and restricted... Slowly I am exposing the executives to opensource and have hopes to replace their costly closed source applications with Free software alternatives.

Shawn H Corey's picture

Welcome to The Movement. Personally, I never understood why anyone would used open-source software wherever they could. And it's not just the cost. It's the freedom to get the software you need Right Now. This explains it all:

Emeka's picture

Welcome onboard to the cultute of Open-Source and indeed Red Hat Linux. Free brings movement, open source brings rapid development

QL's picture

I had the same experience some 5 years ago.
A software licence labyrinth (I thought I had licences for all software but MS couldn't confirm nor deny if all was OK for our specific situation) and threats from the BSA made me move out of proprietary software (thank you BSA!)
As a bonus I found higher quality products (better stability) and install-as-you-like freedom at lower cost.

AK's picture

You're actually describing two different experiences. I run a proprietary OS at home, but use mostly open source software (except for the software tied to the peripherals that have me locked-in to the proprietary OS). You don't have to be running a free OS to have the same software experience. Oddly enough, I think a lot of the software installers require you to click to accept the GNU GPL license.

Peter97's picture

Regarding having to accept GNU GPL license, you can install Ubuntu complete with browser, office, music players, video players, image manipulation program, social networking, games,cd ripper and burner, system tools etc, without having to accept any license at all. It is only such things as flash player and skype which require a license.

Gev's picture

This is due to a misunderstanding of the GPL on the part of many software authors, and/or the fact that installers have a text box for "paste licence here", so people just stick a copy of the GPL in that.

The GPLv3 itself says:

"You are not required to accept this License in order to receive or run a copy of the Program."

GPLv2 has similar language.


Sum Yung Gai's picture

Welcome to freedom. And I say that as a former Microsoft employee and MCSE. Yes, freedom tastes very good.

Not only can you install just about whatever you want, but you can actually *compile your own kernel* to your specific hardware, if you wish. That kind of freedom blew me away when I first encountered it.

gdenne's picture
Open Enthusiast

Thank you :) Yes, the freedom is second-to-none, I agree.

somelinuxuser's picture

When I joined my new office I did not advertise how much I love Linux and open source software. If you do so, people freak out. Instead they could see how much trouble I was having with the limited memory and a blotted operating system on the Laptop (no offense), to run a cross platform development tool. I was given choice to install what ever suits me. I did not rant about other operating systems, and even praised how the new version was good, but installed Linux. When they asked why did I choose Linux, I simply said I could get more space for files, by choosing Linux. Office's laptop has very less storage space (so was a good excuse to not hurt others ego). I could just transfer my habit (addictive) of using Linux in my home even in my office. And that's just awesome. I always make sure if I do a software update I do it at home (one issue could be multiplied times the number of egos). I never talk geeky and over excited about Linux. I always test my Linux at home Laptop to its limits (e.g installing latest kernel, drivers, installing untested software). While at office Laptop I choose to keep Linux at ease. Linux has passed tests at both ends. I have never found my screen failed, software crash, or even a little nuisance on my office Laptop. It respects me, my work and understands how I want to run it. I know even a little nuisance from Linux could be an end to it, on my office Laptop.

Before using it in my office I tested it with what ever load I could find like running blender, inkscape, openshot, movie, firefox(youtube), eclipse, chrome, liferea, thunderbird at once and memory did not exceed 60%. So I am confident it will not fail me. For my co-workers I gained speed, able to run multiple programs without any memory issue. For me, just the feel of Linux is awesome. Additionally I get my terminals, my old scripts to automate things, my software environments, ability to install softwares half of which could fill my whole computer spaces in operating systems, and run all of them at once just like running them in my powerful home laptop and still get enough spaces to put my entertainment stuffs like music and videos without filling up the computer is just good. I love Linux for being Linux and I don't find it sort of any programs for me, because I don't use any software it does not have. Even if I did, I changed my habit to do things Linux way, rather than trying to change Linux to something it is not.

dragonbite's picture
Open Minded

I let it be known, tastefully, that I run Linux at home.

Unfortunately I don't have a choice of OS and software at work in part because my primary responsibilities are Microsoft technologies (ASP.NET, MS SQL Server).

In turn, because of my known Linux experience at home I am taking over handling our public PHP web sites which are running a mix of Drupal and custom PHP on a FreeBSD web server.

Terry's picture

I had tried Linux many times but always fell back to Windows every time I got stuck with any issue. I already knew Windows well and the solutions for it's issues. Truth is I probably would have stayed with Windows out of apathy except for a Microsoft update that installed a plugin in Firefox that made Firefox no longer work and in order to remove it required registry key changes, command line entrys and browsing to the files and deleting them manually. So my choices were use IE or another non-Firefox Browser, jump through hoops to fix it or upgrade from XP. I decided to upgrade from XP and to do it right so I wouldn't be stuck under the thumb of M$ again. Started with Ubuntu and branched out from there. Best decision ever.

- Terry

gdenne's picture
Open Enthusiast

I know the exact problem you were struck down with - I had the same thing with Firefox and MS installing a plugin that could not be uninstalled about malware tactics on their part.

Neil's picture

That's why I say... Enjoy the freedom, enjoy Linux!
Enough said.

The Muffin Badger's picture

Awesome! Welcome to the revolution! Do remember to read up on what we're fighting for:

"Free as in speech, not free as in beer!"

shannon.mitchell's picture
Community Member

Red Hat has the same thing from the customer point of view. They just label it "support" or "entitlements" when its still a cost associated with each install or add-on. This is the main reason CentOS and Scientific Linux even exist.

CustomDesigned's picture
Open Minded

We had some customers with official EL5. You do have to register each machine with the update server, and pay the bill, but other wise there is nothing stopping you from installing on unregistered machines (no official updates however), and you can always switch to community update servers (CentOS), or hire another company supporting compatible binaries if you are not getting your money's worth from official support. Try *that* with Mac/Windows. In fact, competition for support of opensource OS is heating up - see the flack over no longer supplying kernel source in base+patches format.

I do think that the biggest selling point of RHEL is certification for various government and big business applications, and not getting your updates a few weeks sooner.

shannon.mitchell's picture
Community Member

I love Red Hat. I just long for the day that I can download the iso easily from redhat without signing in, point to a public redhat supplied repo in my yum configs and never have to think about registering anything. Why would I ever use CentOS at all if I could do this.

How about a support structure on a per admin bases. Companies would have to register their admins and pay based on the level of certification they are at(lower the cert the more you pay). Hows that for an incentive to purchase redhat training and certifications and have a smarter linux workforce in general. They could even provide support for the other RHEL based distros. Who knows, they could even start pulling money back from oracle shops.