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DATE 2006-01-01


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DATE 2006-01-11
FROM From: "Inker, Evan"
SUBJECT Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] 25 Reasons to Convert to Linux
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Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] 25 Reasons to Convert to Linux
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25 Reasons to Convert to Linux

Businesses, educational institutions, governmental agencies and other
organizations around the world are converting1 their computer operating
systems from Microsoft Windows to Linux at an increasing pace. They are
likewise converting their application programs from commercial software
to free software (also referred to as open source software). There are
at least 25 reasons for this situation, including:

(1) Because it is licensed under a free software license2, Linux (as
well as other free software) is available at no cost. It can be
downloaded from the Internet for free, and it can be purchased in disk
or box form at trivial cost. One copy can be used on as many computers
as desired with no restrictions. This is in sharp contrast to Microsoft
Windows, which can easily cost US$100 or more per computer.

(2) Because it is free software, Linux is also free in the sense that
anybody is permitted to modify it, including its source code, in any way
desired. If modified versions are not redistributed (i.e., given away or
sold outside of an organization), they can be kept secret. This is also
in sharp contrast to Microsoft Windows, for which modification of the
software is generally not permitted. Source code is the original version
of a program as it is written by a programmer using a programming
language and before being converted by a compiler into a form such that
its instructions can be understood directly by a computer's CPU (central
processing unit); it is generally necessary to have the source code in
order to be able to make changes to a program. This ability to freely
experiment with and modify the source code, and to do so without
disclosing the modifications to outsiders, has been a very important
consideration for a number of large organizations3.

(3) High quality support for Linux is available for free on the
Internet, including in newsgroups and other forums. Some people claim
that this support is at least as good as that provided for proprietary
(i.e., commercial) operating systems for a fee. Linux support can also
be purchased on a commercial basis if desired. Among the types of
support that can be required for operating systems are help with
customization, assistance in installing new programs, patches to cope
with new security threats and patches to fix newly discovered bugs
(i.e., defects). Fortunately, the need for the last two types is
relatively infrequent for Linux.

(4) There is little possibility that support for Linux will be
discontinued at some future date due to planned obsolescence or for any
other reason. This is because the source code will always be available
to anyone who wants it, including individuals who provide support for
free over the Internet and businesses which provide it for a fee. In
contrast, with Microsoft Windows and other proprietary software for
which the source code is usually kept secret, obtaining support becomes
difficult (from both a technical and a legal point of view) if the
developer decides to withdraw it (for example in order to try to force
users to pay for upgrades to newer versions).

(5) There is little or no fear of major obsolescence, planned or
otherwise, with Linux. This is because the UNIX architecture on which it
is based has been exhaustively tested and refined for more than 35 years
and has proven to be extremely efficient, robust and secure.
Improvements continue at a rapid pace, but new versions remain basically
compatible with the underlying UNIX architecture.

(6) There are no forced upgrades4 for Linux users. This because older
versions continue to be supported (e.g., with the development of new
security patches and device drivers) and because newer versions, if
desired, are available for free (as is all free software) and are
typically highly compatible with older versions. The developers of
proprietary software, however, have strong financial incentives to
engage in planned obsolescence, namely, in order to induce users of
earlier versions to spend money to buy or lease new versions.

(7) Should a user decide to upgrade to a newer version of Linux, there
are no licensing fees or other software costs if the user selects a free
distribution (i.e., version). Moreover, the training, program
modification/conversion, hardware acquisition and other costs associated
with upgrading to a new version are also relatively low due to the
compatibility with earlier versions.

(8) Linux has no onerous requirements for keeping track of licenses.
In a company with hundreds or thousands of computers, a number of full
time personnel can be required just to make sure that all of the
computers in use are in compliance with the complex licensing terms of
the EULAs (end user license agreements) for Microsoft Windows, Microsoft
Office and other proprietary software. And for Linux users there is no
fear of surprise audits by the BSA (Business Software Alliance)5, with
possible severe penalties for minor license violations.

(9) Linux features superior security, including a very low rate of
infection by viruses, trojans, worms, spyware and other malware. This is
because UNIX and all of its descendants (including Linux) been designed
from the ground up with security in mind, rather than having attempts at
security tacked on as an afterthought. For example, users do not
routinely use the system as the root (i.e., administrative) user,
thereby protecting key system files even in the event of a break-in by a
malicious intruder. Also, a robust firewall is included in major
distributions and it is enabled by default. Another important factor is
the free availability of the source code, which allows thousands of
people around the globe to search for security vulnerabilities in it6.

(10) Linux is highly resistant to system crashes and rarely needs
rebooting (i.e., restarting). This can be very important for large
organizations for which even a few minutes of down time can result in a
substantial cost. The reason is that Linux has been designed from the
ground up to be an extremely stable and robust operating system,
incorporating all that has been learned about attaining these goals from
the more than 35 years of history of Unix-like operating systems.

(11) An extensive selection of high quality application programs is
available for use with Linux, most of which are also free software
(including nearly all of the most popular ones). Many of them have
features and performance equal or superior to those of comparable
applications for use with Microsoft Windows. In fact, users often find
that all the applications that they want are available freely on the
Internet and that it is no longer necessary to purchase any commercial

(12) There is a choice of numerous distributions (several hundred) of
Linux, each with its own unique set of characteristics but all basically
compatible with each other. This allows users to select the versions
which best meet their specific requirements. It also means that if one
provider of Linux were to go out of business, there would still be many
others from which to choose. Moreover, it fosters a healthy competition
among them, thereby contributing to the continuous improvements in
Linux's quality and performance. If the choice seems overwhelming, it is
usually difficult to make a mistake by selecting one of the most popular
distributions, such as Red Hat or SuSE.

(13) Linux features a high degree of flexibility of configuration, and
a great deal of customization can be accomplished very easily and
without having to modify the source code. For example, it is a simple
matter to configure Linux during installation so that it will be
optimized for use as a workstation, desktop computer, notebook computer,
web server, database server or a router. Likewise, the appearance and
behavior of the desktop, including icons and menus, can be configured in
an almost infinite number of ways, according to user tastes or
requirements. They can even be made to resemble Microsoft Windows.
Should this not be enough, the ability to freely access, revise and
recompile the source code allows virtually unlimited flexibility of

(14) Linux and other free software uses open format file formats.
These are formats for word processing, spreadsheet and other file types
that conform to industry-wide standards and which can be used by any
developer of software to create compatible programs, in contrast to the
closed formats commonly used by some proprietary software. This
eliminates the problem of lock-in to proprietary standards, with the
consequent difficulty and expense of switching to other software in the
future. It allows the user to have complete control of its data,
particularly in the event that at some future date the developer who
originally created the software goes out of business or stops supporting
its earlier software.

(15) Linux is generally faster for a given set of hardware
specifications. This is due to greater optimization of the source code,
including far less code bloat.

(16) Linux features a high degree of compatibility with other
operating systems. For example, it can read, write, copy, erase and
otherwise manipulate data that resides on Microsoft Windows partitions
on the same hard disk drive (HDD), act as a Windows server for a network
containing Windows clients, format disks for use with Windows, and even
run Windows programs directly if necessary. In contrast, the Microsoft
Windows operating systems cannot access HDD partitions that contain
other operating systems, cannot format disks for other operating
systems, etc.

(17) Very high ethical standards are maintained for Linux and other
free software, in large part due to the very openness of their
development process and the free availability of the source code. Linux
has never been convicted in a Federal court of violation of U.S.
antitrust laws or other crimes, nor has it had to pay penalties for the
unauthorized copying of technology developed by other companies.

(18) Linux reduces the need to upgrade or replace hardware when
upgrading to newer versions. This is because its code is very efficient
and compact, thus allowing it to work effectively on older computers
that are not suitable for the newest versions of Microsoft Windows.

(19) Linux is capable of operating on a wide variety of platforms
(i.e., processor and system types), rather than just being limited to
Intel-compatible processors and computers. It scales well and is well
suited for use on a diverse array of equipment ranging from
supercomputers to industrial robots to electronic medical equipment to
cell phones (and can even run on a wristwatch).

(20) Linux is a superior choice for use in academic institutions for a
number of reasons. Among them is the fact that there are no secrets (in
sharp contrast to proprietary software), thereby providing students the
opportunity to study how computers really work rather than to just learn
how to use them. Many educators are convinced that it is far more
important for students to study computer science fundamentals than to
practice specific applications (such as Microsoft Word or Microsoft
PowerPoint). One reason is that computer science fundamentals will still
be valid many years from now, whereas the specific application programs,
especially the proprietary ones that do not conform to industry-wide
standards, are constantly changing and those currently in use will
likely become obsolete in a few years7.

(21) For governmental agencies, Linux and other free software allows
for transparency of data because it stores the data in formats
consistent with industry-wide standards. This is in contrast to the
proprietary, closed formats characteristic of commercial software. Such
transparency is important for maintaining an effective democracy.
Keeping non-secret data in standards-compliant formats allows anyone to
access it without having to purchase expensive proprietary software.
Also, storing secret data in standards-compliant formats is widely
regarding as being more secure than keeping it in proprietary formats.

(22) With Linux and other free software there is little reason to fear
the existence of backdoors, in large part because all of the source code
is available for inspection. A backdoor is a secret method for obtaining
remote access to a computer. There is a (not unjustified) concern by
many foreign governments and corporations that back doors have been
covertly inserted into proprietary software that could allow the
software developer and agencies of other governments to snoop into their
most confidential data.

(23) Using and advocating Linux helps foster a healthy diversity and
increased competition throughout the software industry. Such competition
can promote technological advance, improve performance and lower costs
for open source software and proprietary software alike. Both economic
theory and hundreds of years of real-world experience clearly show that
monopolies have little incentive to innovate, tend to produce shoddy
products, charge inflated prices and tend to corrupt the political

(24) Linux and other free software have not only caught up with, or
some cases surpassed, their proprietary counterparts, but they are also
developing at a faster pace8. This trend will accelerate as demand for
such software continues to grow and more and more individuals and
organizations become actively involved it its development.

(25) Linux and other free software provide the opportunity for users
to contribute to the advance of software technology because the source
code is freely available to study, improve, extend and redistribute.
This has been fairly common, and the most notable corporate example has
been IBM. In addition to giving back to the software community and being
a virtue in itself, such contributions can have great public relations

There are also several situations in which businesses and other
organizations might benefit from converting their operating systems from
Linux to Microsoft Windows:

(1) An organization that is downsizing its operation and already has
valid but unused licenses for Microsoft Windows might be able to reduce
personnel costs by replacing its Linux experts with Windows
administrators, as the latter can generally be hired for significantly
less than Linux administrators.

(2) Were Microsoft to offer an organization an extremely low cost
incentive package, including providing long-term licenses (and upgrades)
at nominal cost, paying for new hardware and providing free training and
support, this could be a very attractive proposition. In fact, it could
be a win-win situation because of the great publicity value that could
accrue to Microsoft from a company or other organization converting from
Linux to Windows.

1For links to articles about some recent conversions to Linux, see Linux
Success Stories, The Linux Information Project, December 2005.

2Linux and most other free software is licensed under the GNU Public
License (GPL). This highly successful license has been specifically
designed to provide as much freedom as possible for users, both in a
monetary sense and with regard to use. The GPL allows anyone to freely
access the source code for software licensed under it in order to study,
use, modify, extend and redistribute it as desired with only the very
minimal requirements of always making the source code for
redistributions of modified versions freely available and including a
copy of the GPL text with the software.

It should be pointed out in this context that there are also compiled
versions of Linux that are not free in a monetary sense, which is also
permitted by the GPL. However, they are not necessarily any better than
the free versions. Businesses and other organizations have the option of
selecting whether they want a free or non-free version, and if they
select the former, they have many distributions from which to choose.

3This is a major reason that Google selected Linux, according to
industry sources.

4Forced upgrades occur when the developer stops supporting an earlier
version of its software, and thus security patches for the newest
viruses and other malware become unavailable and drivers are no longer
developed for new hardware. Thus, many users have little choice but to
purchase or lease the newest version. This can be very costly because of
the licensing fees or other payments that must be made to the software
developer or vendor. Further adding to the cost is the frequent need to
purchase new hardware to accommodate the bloated code in the new
versions of the software. In addition, installing the new software and
troubleshooting it can be very time-consuming for system administrators
and disruptive for business operations.

5 The highly controversial BSA is an international organization that was
set up by major developers of proprietary software. It is empowered by
the mandatory EULAs accompanying such software to make surprise audits
on users and to levy heavy fines in the event of violation.

6 The is the same principle that is employed by public key cryptography
(PKC), which is the most secure form of data encryption. And it is the
opposite of the approach used with proprietary software, for which an
attempt is made to keep the source code secret as a means of hiding
security vulnerabilities.

7 For a more detailed look at the reasons that Linux is the best choice
for use in educational institutions, see Linux and Education, The Linux
Information Project, March 2004.

8Numerous examples could be cited. For example, Apache is the dominant
web server, hosting far more web sites than any of its proprietary
counterparts. Likewise, it is widely agreed that the free Firefox and
Opera web browsers are far more advanced (in terms of security,
usability, etc.) than Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer
is free in a monetary sense, but it is not free software because the
source code is not made available and users are prohibited from
modifying it.

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  1. 2006-01-02 Ruben Safir <> Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] Limits to Copyright enforcement
  2. 2006-01-03 Ruben Safir <> Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] Big Brother is watching you
  3. 2006-01-03 Ruben Safir <> Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] [Fwd: TONIGHT -- REP. WEINER ON NY1 INSIDE CITY HALL]
  4. 2006-01-04 Matthew <> Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] RMS talk
  5. 2006-01-04 Steve Wainstead <> Re: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] RMS talk
  6. 2006-01-04 Ruben Safir <> Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] [Fwd: GPLv3 Conference]
  7. 2006-01-04 Ruben Safir <> Re: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] RMS talk
  8. 2006-01-05 From: "Inker, Evan" <> RE: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] [Fwd: Linux usage in NYC schools]
  9. 2006-01-05 Ruben Safir <> RE: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] [Fwd: Linux usage in NYC schools]
  10. 2006-01-05 Paul Robert Marino <> RE: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] [Fwd: Linux usage in NYC schools]
  11. 2006-01-11 From: "Inker, Evan" <> Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] Microsoft's file system patent upheld
  12. 2006-01-11 From: "Inker, Evan" <> Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] 25 Reasons to Convert to Linux
  13. 2006-01-18 From: "Inker, Evan" <> Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] FW: UNIGROUP 19-JAN-2006 (Thu): OpenSUSE Linux Field Trip to Nove ll
  14. 2006-01-18 From: "Inker, Evan" <> Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] Consumer group calls for anti-DRM laws
  15. 2006-01-19 From: "Inker, Evan" <> Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] NYLXS Chinese New Year Celebration
  16. 2006-01-20 From: <> Re: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] NYLXS Chinese New Year Celebration
  17. 2006-01-23 From: "Inker, Evan" <> Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] Development Release: SUSE Linux 10.1 Beta 1
  18. 2006-01-24 From: "Inker, Evan" <> Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] January 2006 General Meeting
  19. 2006-01-24 From: <> Re: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] January 2006 General Meeting
  20. 2006-01-24 rc <> Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] Retraining for Silicon Alley
  21. 2006-01-25 From: "Gwendolyn Champion" <> RE: We approved yours loan
  22. 2006-01-25 Peter Siegel <> Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] Re: January 2006 General Meeting
  23. 2006-01-26 Walt Costanza <> Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] If you think you can use it, it's yours.
  24. 2006-01-26 From: "Inker, Evan" <> Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] Novell Linux Survey: What Software Do You Want on Linux?
  25. 2006-01-31 From: "Inker, Evan" <> Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] NYLXS General Meeting, Thur Feb. 09, 2006 7:00pm

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