April 25, 2019

Linux Servers Are the Smart Business Choice

FOSS is Friendly

  • February 9, 2011
  • By Carla Schroder

Linux servers are the smart business choice; Windows servers are not. In this series we'll look at how server and network admins can get started learning Linux, and in future installments learn about excellent Linux/FOSS servers and software for all business tasks.

To oldtime Linux server admins it seems quaint that in this new millennium, the year 2011 in the 21st century, there are still a considerable number of IT managers and staffers who think the world begins and ends with Microsoft Windows, with all the lardy, vulnerable application stack that goes with it, and the horrible customer-hostile pricing and End-User Licensing Agreements (EULA). The best thing I can say about a Windows IT infrastructure is you're paying top dollar for something that sort of works OK. Though it is without peer at fueling the World Wide Botnet.

The good news is there are all kinds of excellent alternatives in the Linux and Free/Open Source software (FOSS) world. Keep in mind that "Free" means free as in liberty, not free as in no cost, though much FOSS is free of cost. Far more important is you get access to source code, open standards and formats, and enjoy liberal rights as an end user and developer. FOSS does not punish you for license violations the way that proprietary software companies do. There are no FOSS patent trolls, the Business Software Alliance will not be sicced on you, and nobody will try to extort all kinds of money from you because they think you trespassed on their sacred Intellectual Property. That is a nasty vague propaganda term that I prefer to shorten to Eye Pee, because Eye Pee is appropriately vulgar and silly.

FOSS is Friendly and Helpful

FOSS does not punish you for sharing ideas and implementations; quite the opposite. The worst thing that happens with a FOSS license violation is you lose the right to use the software. That's it. Come into compliance and all is forgiven. You should honor the licensing terms, both because you're getting exponentially greater value and because you're legally bound to. But unlike the proprietary software world, most FOSS projects are busy developing great software and don't consider litigation to be their primary business model.

How do you violate the terms of a FOSS license? Any potential licensing problems occur when you distribute any FOSS-licensed software. Whatever you do for your own internal use is your business. Probably the most famous example is BusyBox, the wonderful embedded Linux software stack. Hardware vendors are forever selling their devices bundled with BusyBox without bothering to understand or honor the BusyBox license. Because violations are so rampant BusyBox gets extra support from the Software Freedom Conservancy in actively pursuing violaters. This is all silly and unnecessary because the hardware vendors are getting a first-rate software stack for free. All they have to do is honor the terms of the license, the GPL (General Public License) which is very easy to do. Usually the part that trips them up is the clause that requires making sources available. Put up a public repo, it's not nuclear physics.

There are way many different FOSS licenses, and there are traps and licensing conflicts for developers writing applications for distribution. The Software Freedom Law Center will help you, and has even published A Practical Guide to GPL Compliance to assist developers. See? Friendly and helpful. No tricks, no traps.

The Linux Foundation is an excellent resource for both corporate users and individuals, all full of howtos and help.

The Linux Driver Project assists hardware vendors with writing and maintaining open-source drivers for their products.

The Linux Wireless Project is a great resource for assisting vendors of wireless devices.

In the server room and network FOSS is interop-friendly, much more so than proprietary software companies who rely on lock-in and incompatibility to force customer loyalty.

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