Ken Hough's Website

Linux For Beginners

Open source software

Linux is NOT commercial software. It is provided free as OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE. Usage of Linux is governed by conditions set out in the GPL (GENERAL PUBLIC LICENSE). The GPL states that users may freely download, copy and re-distribute software in either or both it's fully compiled runnable form or as source code. Users are free to modify and re-compile the source code. The only real restriction made by the GPL is that if source code is modified, re-compiled, and re-distributed, then the modified source code must also be made available to other users. The majority of users will not be concerned with this last point, and so are free to use Linux as they wish and on as many computers as they like.

This is very different from licenses set out by the likes of Microsoft and Apple where copying and re-distribution are specifically barred and license fees must be paid for each installation of the an operating system. If you wish to have Microsoft Windows installed on two PCs, then you are required to pay two license fees. Likewise with MacOS.

This difference in licensing is perhaps one of the most difficult concepts for 'newbies' to appreciate.

How can something that is given away free be worth considering?

Most open source software is developed and supported by many users of the software for the benefit of all, whereas commercial software is developed by relatively small teams who's main objective is to make money!

Anyone can write and release open source software. This does mean that not all open source software is of good quality, but the best can easily rival similar commercial software. Open source software is typically more flexible in use and can handle more non-native file formats than can commercial software. A good example is the well known 'Libre Office' (previously known as 'Open Office'). As well as having it's own native file formats, Libre Office can read and write files formatted to suite most (all?) of the incarnations of Microsoft Office as well as many other older formats including those of DBase, Lotus, StarCalc.

Open source software runs most of servers that make up the Internet including 'apache', which is the most used web site server application. The Microsoft web server application comes a distant second to 'apache'.

It is very important to have access to good documentation and help and the world of open source software is typically very good in these respects. Simply refer problems to an Internet search via Google or similar, and you should find plenty of help and advice. For information relating to a specific Linux distro, search using the name of your distro. Likewise for information on say Libre Office.

From the user's point of view, good quality open source software can give significant advantages over restricted and sometimes expensive commercial software.

Return To Index Page                          Previous Page                          Next Page