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.