Why Would Fedora be Free ? Can it be Trusted?
Chalonec.Roger at pbgc.gov
Wed May 12 17:01:14 UTC 2004
From: fedora-list-bounces at redhat.com
[mailto:fedora-list-bounces at redhat.com] On Behalf Of Rodolfo J. Paiz
Sent: Wednesday, May 12, 2004 12:42 PM
To: For users of Fedora Core releases
Subject: Re: Why Would Fedora be Free ? Can it be Trusted?
At 06:57 5/12/2004, Benjamin J. Weiss wrote:
>From: "Chalonec Roger" <Chalonec.Roger at pbgc.gov>
> > 1. Why is fedora free and why would people work on it for free?
Some additional comments to what others have said here.
Linux started out as a hobby, a free project just for fun. Its license
written by the GNU Foundation to ensure that the software could be
modified or changed and redistributed in any way, with the ONLY
that the source code be made available as well and that any
carry the same license. This was done so that people wouldn't steal the
work the hobbyists did.
That "hobby" became so successful that it turned into a major operating
system, which now powers about 70% of the Internet's websites, a huge
percentage of installed business servers, and a growing percentage of
desktops. But the license still requires that people be able to see and
modify the source code and that modifications be contributed in the same
way. So it keeps growing and improving... it's a fun thing to do for a
of people, but it has also grown to be such a useful tool that people
on it also so they can use it in their business.
For example, the commercial people who make firewalls such as Firewall-1
run their products on Linux because it is robust, stable, secure, and
can see and audit all the source code so it is a solid base for them.
since Linux costs nothing, they can make more profit on their product.
they have an incentive to see Linux grow and improve even if they do not
profit by selling Linux itself.
>Linux Torvalds wanted [...]
Err, that should be "Linus."
>That's one reason why I used to volunteer for the Red Cross and am now
>in the National Guard. Not everybody's motivated by money.
In addition to that, not all money/profit motivations are direct. As I
mentioned above, firewall vendors can make more profit on their products
basing them on Linux, and they have an incentive to improve Linux so
products get better... so they *do* make more profit because of Linux
not having to pay Microsoft for licenses) even though they do not sell
As another example, I help run three small businesses. All of them use
Linux for their servers (mail, web, database, etc.) and so far Linux has
saved me *at least* $15,000 in Microsoft license costs. That is a fact
a cold hard number. I am very motivated to help Linux grow and continue
be free, since it will continue to save me money (and therefore increase
freedom, my happiness, *and* my profit).
> >2. Some people are concerned that since Fedora is open source that
> >they don't know where the software comes from so they can't trust
> >it. How can they trust it?
The argument is silly, and just downright stupid. People are willing to
trust Microsoft even though you are not allowed to see the program, even
though they could do anything with your computer and not tell you, even
though they have been shown to attach tracking numbers to your
even though they have been shown to send identifying information about
computer to themselves during the registration process, even though they
have a TERRIBLE security record. Why? Because they know the name
"Microsoft" and because it costs money... and in the USA, due to the
mistaken perception that you could sue them if you wanted.
In Linux, you can see and read *all* the source code, and tens of
of people *do* read source code. So nothing gets in there that
and no one plays any tricks. You know *exactly* where each piece of
software comes from since someone maintains it and their name and email
address are always available. All code is audited and checked by Red
the Debian Group, Mandrake, IBM, Novell, and hundreds of other groups.
security record is excellent.
So Linux is transparent, readable, auditable, open, and the origin of
little bit of code is clear. HOW can someone possibly say that this
is *less* trustworthy than Windows, with code you've never seen and
will see, and where one company *can* play secret tricks on you. Never
whether they do or not... they point is that they can, and how are you
going to know?
By definition, Linux must be *easier* to trust than Windows.
> > 6. Ostensibly Redhat offered free versions of Redhat Linux because
> > they could make a profit on support. Now Redhat has built a market
> > and Redhat is no longer free. What is the profit motivation of the
> > Fedora group and persons/orgs who make software contributions to it?
> > (By the way, there is nothing wrong with profit.)
You are making a wrong assumption: "...ostensibly Red Hat offered free
versions of Red Hat Linux because they could make a profit on support."
error is in assuming that this was Red Hat's only motive. Of course Red
wanted to make money on support, but there are surely other, additional,
motivations as well. For example, by distributing free copies of the
operating system and a group of tools to work with it:
* More people would use it, more people would choose to work on
it, and more bugs would be found more quickly. So the software improves
more quickly with more users.
* They provide a social service to those who cannot afford to
the software. Think about the entire world, not just the middle-class
How many of the 6,000,000,000 people on Earth can afford to pay for
software licenses? Less than 10%, really.
* They honor their moral obligation to contribute something
to the Linux operating system which, by being available at no cost,
them to make a business selling support.
Remember this: Red Hat did not offer Linux for free to make a market for
support. No! In fact the opposite happened: the only reason Red Hat is
to sell support services is because Linux is free. :-) Of course they
put an enormous amount of work into improving it... but again we go back
profit and non-profit motives being less clear than you thought they
As another comment regarding motives, several countries around the world
have passed laws saying that it is an issue of national security for
to know what code is in their software, and to know for sure that no one
can change the file format and force them to upgrade. Issues of national
security, cost (think about how saving millions on software licenses
impacts a poor country in South America or Africa), openness and trust,
freedom and liberty, open systems... these are all discussed frequently.
having the freedom to choose and not being tied to a single supplier is
also an intensely strong reason for people to contribute to Linux all
As a strong example, proof that Linux is secure, and that its software
be audited and trusted can be seen by the Communist Republic of China
adopting Linux as their operating system of choice. They trust nothing
no one, but they do trust Linux. If the Most Paranoid Countries on Earth
[tm] use Linux to make sure no one is snooping on them, isn't this a
enough argument for you too?
Rodolfo J. Paiz
rpaiz at simpaticus.com
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