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A question about "free" (0$) linux to current linux users


I think you are missing my point entirely.

If linux was not initially set at $0 We are talking going back to 1991. 26 years.

It wouldn’t have been made available for free at that time, it would have been sunk into a company that would have got investments and built an OS back when OS/2 was still a viable operating system.

Your question attempts to discuss an ecosystem that would not have evolved as it has.

It could have died, or it could have usurped Microsoft before Windows95 became a thing.

Mac OSX may not have been created when it was and the entire landscape of personal computing would be different.

People wouldn’t have to switch.

It doesn’t. These are not the people who spend their time boasting about how great it is.
I really do believe you are making comparisons to an ecosystem that doesn’t exist.

Things that have evolved to date that wouldn’t have in the same manner if Linux and it’s various distributions were not FOSS:

When I visited CERN a few years back, most every system that did anything of significance was running a specialized distribution that was built by CERN for CERN, but is also freely available for anyone. This is what makes Linux great.
Does it make it better than Windows or MacOSX. I haven’t seen an instance where that’s possible for Mac or Windows.
They had a few machines running Windows, some were even running XP because the PLC they were driving doesn’t have drivers for anything other than XP. But that’s a decision by the manufacturer of the device. If they wanted to run anything but XP they would need to buy an entirely new PLC. That’s a restriction put in place by the manufacturer. They could reverse engineer the PLC and build drivers for it. But that would cost as much if not more than a new PLC.

Linux Terminal Server Project
I know there is a school district in Washington State, that converted the entire district to Terminal Services running both Linux Desktops and servers for students and faculty alike. It spawned further development in the LTSP.

I’m trying to establish your purpose in asking a question that deals with an entirely different development timeline from the one we have evolved with over the last 26 years.

As Bryan Lunduke has repeatedly said, the things that make Linux great are also the things that make it suck.
I’m not disputing it’s merits or it’s drawbacks. I’ve never said it’s better. Because I believe you can’t judge a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree.

What I am saying, is that your question warrants further stipulations.
If They take the ecosystem that exists today and start charging for it would you pay money to acquire it?
Most people would say no.
If you further stipulated: If CompanyX built a viable desktop operating system that was fully comparable in functionality to both Microsoft Windows and Apple MacOSX, would people buy it. I think yes.
Any “games” argument that spawns from this just needs to be directed at the fact that MacOSX hasn’t been a viable gaming platform for most of its life. It’s a well sought after computer and operating system.

I hope this helps you understand my approach to your questions.


I don’t pay to use any distro, but any particular one I like or agree with in direction I go out of my way to donate. Whether that be Patreon or just anon donations.

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Donation seems like the way to go for alot of thing this days. So yea donating is definetly an option for me.

Its not just for distros either. The main devs for Pulse Audio and GIMP have patreons. Gotta make things better somehow.


Over the years I have donated to distro’s. Whatever distro I’m I will find some way to give them some money. I prefer subscription, small regular payments. But I have bought mugs, hats and other things. I’m not in a position to contribute through code or art but some cash is fine.

On a side note I buy the licence for Windows that I’m running. I wonder how many people buy legitimate Windows licensing? Not a grey market site but pucker legit copy from MS?


what about using keys from scrap computers? thats what i do. although with win10 you can run keyless with a few minor things disabled (personalization for one).i usually do the latter as i generally only use win10 in a vm. i dont use win10 at home, myself (except in a vm, then i usually am troubleshooting someone else’s machine, or downloading windows updates for work) . my kids have a legit copy on their computer for skrool.

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It something I would do back in the WinXP days, I think I still have a list somewhere. I used to pirate games too, any software for that matter.

Around ten, fifteen years ago I made the decision to not pirate games. I wanted new games and came to the decision that if I wanted new games I should be paying for them. Then there was a campaign in the Open Source world that software engineers need to eat too. So point I started to donate what I could to the projects I used. At that point it’s not much of a leap to start thinking that Microsoft “deserved” it’s pound of flesh too.

Right now my thoughts are, if you are going to run software that has a cost you should pay it. You are making the decision to run it knowing it includes a cost. You have a choice after all, Linux and open source “free” software is more than good enough that you don’t have to use proprietary software if you don’t want to spend money. It ticks me off that someone will spend loads of money on new PC parts, build a glorious gaming rig and then cheap out a pirate Windows, it makes no sense to me.

I still have some way to go as this logic in my own mind has not spread to TV and Movies however. I still pirate that shit all the time. I’m more than aware of the double standards in my own thoughts and actions. So do whatever you need to do to get stuff done. Just think about it…

Linux is not the correct word in this case. When you say Linux I understand that you’re talking about the kernel that’s opensource and free by nature.
Would I pay for a Linux distro? Yeah I would if that meant I would have a streamlined experience, with an installation as easy and the one offered by Windows. Basically a distro that’s “install and forget” (reasonably) and won’t require any kind of tuning by me (as far as I know usually wifi and GPU drivers are the cause of headache among Linux users).

all software has cost.
with android, it is google collecting data (and not having root access by default, among other restrictions).
with apple its the closed ecosystem (and the not having root access …) .
with linux/bsd it may be a learning curve; witness @wendell livestreaming a attempt to get vga pass through working on ubuntu <5 hours later> …

just because something costs $0 does not mean its free

with windows it used to be you had to pay for the software, and it performed adequately for the most part. however now $micro$oft now requires you to pay and collects data on the scale of apple and google (which are both “free” to the end user).

for the TLDR crowd “free” software means having access to the source code. it may have a monetary cost (RHEL anyone) but you get the source with the software.

i have no problem with giving devs my money, but i feel like if paying for the ability to use Linux becomes the main thing among distros that adoption will slow down. when you start out you might test out over 10 distros, lets say they are nicer than windows and instead of 100$ for a licence it is 10$. that is still a base investment of 100$ to find the distro you want and even then it opens up for greed and annoyance with licencing.

Ok I will admit to it
Paid 5 bucks plus shipping for the installation Disk cause I was too lazy to figure out how to burn it.
Then threw in another 20 something for the repositories (total waste of money)
But 5 bucks for a good os was worth it.

Linux really took off because Solaris was getting expensive and BSD wasn’t there yet and the GNU project balked at their license. MS did not factor into the equation much. It was a Unix vs Unix affair.

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I have regularly “paid for OpenBSD” for as long as I have used it (you can purchase a CD/DVD at their site or at a local re-distributor).

I would still Patreon Linux rather than “pay” for Linux. However the only way I would pay for Linux remains, for as long as the Linux business model didn’t provide the developers an "incentive to fuck me over" (TM by Apple/Microsoft/Google).

@DeusQain already touched on the subject of incentive with the following example:

This is worth emphasising.

Yes, I would pay for Linux, but only towards a business model that works for me first and not against me, and I’d pay for Linux even if it cost me more money, within reason.

The sooner people realise that someone must be paying for each and one of us to be free, the better.

Perhaps people would be more inclined to use Linux if they had to pay for it? Because if you don’t pay for it, you don’t understand you have received something worth committing to? As in, there is no transaction psychologically binding you to try Linux just a little harder to get used to it before going back to Windows? It is easier to pay for something than to invest time into something? Who is the target audience of Linux - people who won’t pay for the utility? Just a few thoughts nagging me.

Back when I started, I did basically have to pay for Linux. My option was to go to Worst Buy and pick up a copy of Red Hat for $30 or whatever it cost back then. Broadband was getting big, but it was nowhere near my area. I did pay for Linux, I wasn’t terribly affected by it as I wasn’t really in the know about free vs libre. And I would do it all over again, because a couple years later I had my first IT job, which I might not have gotten without exposure to Linux.

There was a good comment I read a number of years back. Something like, “Linux aimed high to hit Microsoft, missed, and hit Sun instead.” As much as I love Linux, and for as much as I think Linux is gaining ground against Microsoft now, that comment rings very much true.

I forgot the most important part. I am actually going to be paying to use Linux again, sort of. I help deploy Proxmox all over the place. Part of those deployments is going to be a 1 year subscription for Proxmox. That only comes out to about $90 for the year, but still, it’s something.


That’s how our history played out. Yes.

But in order for it to be a viable desktop operating system that is competing with Windows directly. It would have had to take a different path.

Maybe. I do occasionally give some money or resources to some projects or help myself where i can, which I would consider an equivalent.

But to your question, would you pay initially if it was always paid for? If all things were equal, probably, if they weren’t, i’m not sure.

People don’t pay for Windows or OSX. The cost is built into the hardware so the question is biased against Linux because no one pays for the alternatives.

Maybe a better question would be would you pay for hardware with Linux pre-installed at the same cost as hardware with windows pre-installed. In that scenario I probably would have given the equal choice to make at the time.

What is it you’re looking to discover?

I’m supporting Solus on a monthly basis, so, yes. I would (and do) absolutely pay for it. I also run SLES and RHEL on some servers at work, but they’re paid for by the company, so I’m not sure if that counts.

That said, I’m not sure if I would have tried it back when I started. (I suppose I could have pirated it, but that’s not the point, I think) I would have most likely dismissed it altogether, but I can definitely see the argument for the “pay what you want” model.

EDIT: Don’t try to post before coffee.

Going after the “vim and bash” developer crowd on OSX may be a more realistic user base to try to court than Windows gamers.

Linux on sleek and sexy laptops would do it. Dell has had success with their xps line.

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I don’t disagree. My point was if we went back to the beginning and Linux was pushed into a single OS project, and it shot for the Desktop market, the OPs question would be more viable.

This. If they’d just stop using Broadcom wlan, they’d be the perfect laptop.