Monday, November 20, 2006

Free as in Expensive?

ZDNet is reporting that Birmingham City Council is drawing fire for dropping its plans to roll out a Linux + OpenOffice solution on 200 workers' desktops, for cost reasons.

And well they might. Let me state clearly (and be the umpteen millionth person to do so, for the gazillionth time) that "free software" is not about price. It is about freedom. And as fans of this film will know, Freedom isn't Free.

Free software prohibits you from charging extra for the source code to the program, from keeping that source code secret, and from entering into licence agreements (did you hear me, Novell?) which pass the cost of those agreements on to your customers. But it does not prohibit you from charging money for your software.

More to the point, because Linux is based on UNIX, it was designed to be reparable by other, more sophisticated means than just "reboot or reinstall". (If you have to reinstall a Windows computer because you got a virus, you can bet your bottom dollar (pound, euro, ringgit, whatever) it is going to happen again.)

This in turn requires people with nous, which costs money. Nevertheless, surely it is better to pay someone to fix something once, than to pay them to skirt round the problem every time it happens?

I don't mean to suggest that all Windows administrators are custards, because that definitely isn't the case. After all, if the Microsoft-Novell deal has the opposite effect to the one MS clearly want it to, then demand for experience in bringing together Windows and Linux solutions is clearly going to be on the rise.

But no matter how advanced a technology Linux is, don't expect it to sink your IT costs to zero, because it's not magic.

Excluding quoted portions copyrighted by third parties, all text in this post is copyright (c) 2006 Jeff Rollin. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts.

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