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The Hidden Costs of Linux Ownership

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Linux might be free to download and install, and it might offer you freedoms that aren’t available from commercial software, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that everything about Linux is free. You might save money, but there are still hidden costs that need to be taken into account.

The first cost is uncertainty. It’s hard to measure uncertainty in any definitive way but that doesn’t mean that it should be ignored. When you take a copy of Windows XP, Vista or Mac OS X and you install it onto a system with the appropriate system requirements, chances are that unless you have a particularly bizarre configuration or a defective component, you can be pretty certain that the OS will install and things that you have installed (WiFi adaptors, network cards, graphics cards and so on) will work just fine.

After all, you’ve paid someone to come up with a workable product where most of the kinks have been worked out (OK, I admit, both Leopard and Vista were released with too many kinks still lurking within the code). The same when you buy a bit of hardware. Hardware is designed to work on particular platforms and if you go out and buy something, again being mindful of the system requirements, things should work out OK for you. This isn’t true 100% of the time, but given the billion or so PCs in use, the failure rate is surprisingly low.

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Just to reply to a couple things you've said in here:

You say that when you install Windows it will pick up all the hardware in your system automatically. I hate to break it to you, but you'll have better luck with Linux doing that. It's actually a safe bet that Windows isn't going to detect much of anything out of the box. You'll need to download the device drivers for everything in the system including chipset, network cards, video cards, sound cards, etc.

Another thing you mention is movie DVD playback works in XP out of the box. That is also not true. The only media player that comes with Windows does not have the codec required to play back DVDs. You need to install a 3rd party program to accomplish this. Why these third party companies are allowed to provide their codecs with their products and Linux is not allowed, I do not know. I do seem to remember VLC being able to play DVDs, however, and it is free and easily installable. I think that you are confusing installing Windows and getting Windows preinstalled with drivers and software to do all these things. If you buy a computer with Linux pre-installed, it will have the same about of compatibility and support as Windows.

Next you say that Windows "just works". I work in a PC-repair shop, and trust me, Windows doesn't "just work". In fact, most people have messed up their Windows install so bad that it takes a huge amount of time to fix it or simply just having to wipe the system clean and starting over. This is from viruses, malware, or just plainly not having the knowledge of safe computing. I've installed Linux on several new people's machines, gotten them all up and going and, guess what. I go back a year later and it's just as speedy and clean as when I left. That's a huge difference.

Next you move on to support. I've never had a problem with Linux that has had a weird error message, at least compared to Windows.

I don't know, I could find some real reasons to gripe about Linux, but none of your reasons hold water. I don't mean to be disrespectful, but it's what I believe.

re: reply

I doubt Mr. Kingsley-Hughes will read your response, but you never know.

The hidden cost of Linux? You're kidding me

This article is ridiculous! Author Adrian Kingsley-Hughes claims that Linux has its hidden costs and goes on to list them, but many of his arguments are flat-out wrong or unsupported. Let's check it out:

"When you take a copy of Windows XP, Vista or Mac OS X and you install it onto a system with the appropriate system requirements, chances are that unless you have a particularly bizarre configuration or a defective component, you can be pretty certain that the OS will install and things that you have installed (WiFi adaptors, network cards, graphics cards and so on) will work just fine."

I've seen plenty of MS upgrades go wrong; for ANY operating system, a fresh install is best. Chances are, EVERYONE has a somewhat bizarre setup. With GNU/Linux distributions, you know what is generally going to work and what isn't, especially if your educated guess is based on the last Linux install. With both Mac and Windows, however, once proprietary support is dropped for one component or another, there is a chance that part will never function again. Or maybe the new Vista doesn't have drivers, or they don't load properly (like all too many new Dell's with their soundcard in Vista). Point is, if you rely on an proprietary OS and drivers, you're stuck with their level of functionality and supported lifetime, AFTER going through the hassle of finding the drivers for everything. With modern Linux, almost all drivers are just built right in. Wifi and 3D Graphics Cards are known issues and we all wish they'd work flawlessly always using FLOSS drivers, but they currently don't; the situation is always improving and my graphics and wifi work, but not everyone has my equipment. Bizarre.

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Hidden Cost of Enterprise Computing

I'm really fascinated sometimes how many people talk about Linux. This definitely includes your truly - we often talk with our emotions and with some sort of will to make to a headlines. It is not bad to be passionate about something, but it leads sometimes to overvaluing the issue on hand. I make such an error myself at times.

Take for example the article I just read. Adrian Kingsley-Hughes from Datamation (IT Management publication) wrote an essay, in which he discusses the hidden costs of using Linux operating system. While he's right on some points here and there, he seems to be missing to be consistent - and mainly he mixes enterprise problems with generic Linux issues. Here's what I'd think:

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