Open Ballot: freedom or function?


For our next podcast, we want to know whether the primary reason you use open source software is for its freedom or for its function. It's a choice between the freedom to potentially redistribute and modify the code, and the festival of functionality that can be found within most open source software when compared against other tools at the same price.

We realise that, for most, the answer is likely to be a mixture of both, but we're interested in which you think is the most important. If you'd like your views read out on our podcast, please post your answer below. Anonymous Penguins post at their own peril.

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Your comments

I probably own most every MS

I probably own most every MS os up to xp. I have also used linux since the 1990's. After working in a corporate environment with MS as an admin for over ten years, I was fed up with it. We only use linux now at home now. It is both functional and and easier to use at a number of levels that MS much less Apple can not touch. We do multimedia to writing our our own software (giz apps and games). The only ever limitation of linux was from licensing issues and not because linux could not do it. I have not bought a new machine in probably 5 years. We have not needed one. Being distressed financially, linux and bsd has saved our bacon. I still use p1, p2, p3, and p4 systems for various projects. Something MS can not do with their latest software. Another nice thing too with servers, routers and client machines all running the same os, management is ten times easier. Also, no more licensing problems. You can change a server to a client machine and vice versa all from just adding or removing packages. Try that with Microsoft. Being able to tailor systems and software has given us tremendous more functionality and freedom. Functionality gives rise to freedom at another level. Even if MS and Linux were the same price, I would still take linux. MS can take their product keys and put it where the sun does not shine.

Freedom as long as functionality is at a minimum

To be fair, even just a few years ago, there was quite a bit about desktop Linux (applications and DE's) that wasn't incredibly functional. Also, high payoffs in function would often need a steep learning curve. Freedom has been the crucial aspect that has always tipped the scale towards FOSS.

Personally (and I suppose this is the same for those who have been using different distros and open-source apps over the years), I've chosen FOSS because of several freedoms: (1) configuring my systems as I want; (2) learning about how my systems work; (3) using and sharing whatever content and software I want; (4) getting certain guarantees about security and QA that come naturally from an open development model.

That said, I've always reluctantly used non-free software as well, when the alternatives were simply not functional enough. This has been the case for Flash, Nvidia drivers, Skype, etc. Hopefully, things like the nouveau driver and HTML5 video will gradually allow me to ditch the non-free bits.

Innovation, excitement, and ease of use

Innovation is my primary reason. I can't see Wintel with their continual repetitions of a disabled copy of the '75 XEROX WIMP Personal Computer Workstation, coming up with a system with an interactive human interface that will talk to me, listen and possible laugh at my jokes, read my doctor's hand writing, and let my life sized 3D avatar try on proper fitting clothes I can order online. May need something better than an ix86. Four Cell chips maybe?

Linux is exciting. I can recompile the kernel or any other program. I can write shell scripts that do things a GUI can. I can combine a load of GUI apps in a wrapper, I can read, understand and modify services through a text interface, and I can build Linux from Scratch. Whoopee. Wish I could program those 4 Cell chips to do what I want, but anything more basic than shell scripts, is beyond me.

Most of the above para adds to my ease of use, but I won't leave out the wonderful GUI that lets me zoom a huge virtual screen to an easily read 640 x 480, lets me have multiple desktops out of the box, or the plethora of professional quality free applications that let me do all the things a real UNIX GUI workstation does, or runs another OS in a VM, all for free. Oh Yeah, Linux is definitely my system of choice for all the best reasons.

for freedom and function

Most of the claims made by MS and Mac over Linux and Open Source Software are not encountered by me. I have used FLOSS (free Linux and open source software) for 10 years for the freedom and the function. I am not a developer, programmer or server manager/system admin, just a user.

MS is the standard, Macs are easy, Linux is nerdware, complex and too technical. Actually folks repeat the misguided words of folks fearing for market share loss. For the most part FLOSS is not in the market, yet is freely available and does the job. What more do you want? You want a brandname? try Ubuntu or Fedora or SuSe! Open and AbiWord are fine and free. Claims of superiority via features I will never use by MS is lame. Macs are not that easy and are in fact Unix and BSD underneath. If you have to do more than launch a Mac app, Linux is easier.

Function is fundamental

Function is fundamental! If it doesn't work, I can't use it.

Cost is also fundamental. If it works, but I can't afford it, then I can't use it. If 2 apps both do the job, but 1 is cheaper, I'll buy the cheaper one.

Reliability is very important. Without it, life's a battle.

Simplicity is also important. Over-complex functions waste my time and tend to be less reliable. Unwanted functionality is distracting clutter. Bloated functionality tends to work more slowly and break more often.

Freedom is also important, but it ranks under the above. I use open source systems and apps because there are functional/cheap/reliable/simple ones available for what I want to do.


Using others junked hardware COST(£0.00) is prime followed by FUNCTION then FREEDOM. FREEDOM lets me get at the source, but most source is relatively complex and impenetrable to most users. The passing on of code is therefore ~almost irrelevant.


I've been using Linux for about 7 years, and I use it not because I'm a windows-hating zealot (anymore), but because it can get the job done better than windows can. I'm a computer engineer and I dual boot one of my laptops for work with Arch and W7, but I used to have XP. The XP would give me a blue screen of death 90% of the time when resuming from suspend. Rebooting every time there's an update is rediculous and a waste of time. To be fair the W7 has done the same thing to me 3 times since July, but it is quite an improvement for that brand. I remember when it was Linux that nobody could get to suspend and how difficult it used to be even in Ubuntu to set up suspend. This is no longer the case.

Anyways, back to the point: A computer should work the way you want it to. Use whatever software that works the best. If MS happens to make the best IDE (VS 2010 is awesome) then so be it. I would buy VS2010 if there was a version for Linux, but since they don't want my money I can't. Life's too short to use software that doesn't work the way you want it to, even if it is free as in freedom.

Freedom like Ubuntu Linux is good.

That item which does addition and removal of software without revealing the technical aspects is good-enough for most people, just like the update manager that does specify when updates are available. This listing of popularity in stars does reveal to most people what is likely to be useful with the simplified software manager found in Ubuntu-Linux.

If a person does desire alternatives then the command line for accessing Synaptic or Aptitude is an option, that's because menu-bloat is a difficulty. Those extra-items can be added to the menu later with menu editing tools by people which are able to endure variety, the ease of use is a matter of design instead of accident.

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