For the most recent week, I picked the four stories that most excited me about the future of Linux and free software. Here is the trend that I see: Linux and free software are rapidly becoming more accepted, and more mainstream. Pretty soon, you won’t see the name “Linux” being hidden behind names like Android, WebOS, and Meego. This week’s stories demonstrate the fact that Linux can help companies make money, save money, and run extremely fast and powerful computer systems. These four stories illustrate that Linux and free software may have a future even brighter than we imagined:
- Red Hat Saves Companies Money
- Richard Stallman Schools Powerful Government Official on Free Software
- Red Hat Es En Fuego!
- When a Computer Needs to Run REALLY Fast, Linux Dominates!
Red Hat Saves Companies Money
Red Hat Corporation is a great Linux company: the first company to earn a billion dollars on free software. In TLWIR 2, I showed an OpenOffice.org spreadsheet graphic demonstrating Red Hat’s spectacular growth. The reason for this growth is that Red Hat leverages their expertise in the GNU/Linux operating system to offer its clients support for otherwise free software. It is a great business model: IT departments that are not complete experts on Linux get the software for free, and Red Hat gives them support for a very reasonable price. Now compare this scenario with one where a company chooses Apple or Microsoft products: the customer has to pay a licensing free for every workstation copy of the operating system, AND also has to pay a server OS licensing fee based on how many client computers will connect to the server. Microsoft and Apple make great products, but this antiquated business model is making less and less sense as companies are seeing their profits shrink in a tightening global economy. As some of these proprietary software vendors see record profits quarter after quarter, their customers’ profits continue to languish. It is very clear that something has to change, and Red Hat is one of the companies that is leading this change in philosophy.
Red Hat’s Enterprise Linux operating system recently allowed Santos, an oil and natural gas company, to save 2.5 million U.S. dollars. These savings are as compared to what they would have spent on proprietary software such as MS Windows or Apple OSX. I personally love to hear these kinds of stories because the money saved can go to other very important uses:
- Improving the quality of life of the company’s employees.
- Research and development to help the company produce better products.
- Pay down company debt.
- Pay shareholder dividends.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I am proud to be an investor in Red Hat stock myself. I don’t invest in Red Hat because I think that they will make me a millionaire one day (even though I wouldn’t be mad at all if they do). I invest in Red Hat because I believe deeply in the ethical foundation of the company, and I admire what they do and WHY they do it. I also really admire the CEO of Red Hat, Mr. Jim Whitehurst. He really won me over with this interview:
I feel tied to the success of Red Hat in the same way that a Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, or Chicago Cubs fans feels tied to their teams I am deeply proud of Red Hat’s success, and I wish the corporation and its teams nothing but continued prosperity.
Richard Stallman Schools Powerful Government Official on Free Software
Free software guru Richard M. Stallman recently schooled a high level European government official on the tenets of free software. Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner for Digital Agenda, was part of a captive audience in Stallman’s professorial lecture on why free software is so important. Stallman hit on many of the major topics that are at the heart of the free software movement during the hour-long meeting:
patent reform and the total repeal of software patents.
opening hardware and software specifications to allow users and developers to carefully study and understand the nature of products.
the need to allow people unrestricted file sharing rights.
There are three very encouraging points about Stallman’s meeting with Kroes:
She is an EXTREMELY powerful woman who actually has the power to initiate serious patent reform in Europe.
She respects Richard Stallman, and is willing to actively listen to ALL of his ideas.
She already seems to have a strong affinity for the free software spirit and concepts.
I predict that Europe will lead the way in eliminating a lot of the proprietary lock-down practices that have stifled innovation for the last several decades. I also predict that patent reform will first come to Europe, and then make its way to the United States. From there, it will spread globally. The Free Software Foundation Europe will play a very large part in pushing for these kinds of revolutionary reforms.
Red Hat Es En Fuego!
It is normally bad practice to write about the same company during two segments of an article. However, I have to make an exception for Red Hat since Red Hat is leading more businesses to Linux than most companies out there. The company is literally on fire, and it is forcing a lot of people to take notice, and take Linux seriously. Redmond has DEFINITELY noticed, as have Oracle and Novell. The most recent bit of good news is the strong expectation that Red Hat is about to announce record high earnings for its most recent quarter. This has lead to a great number of investors to place bets, in the form of stock options, that Red Hat stock will rise by at least about 10% in the near future. (If it does not, these investors will lose money). However, I don’t think that the most significant part of this story is the money. The most compelling part of the story is that it gives Linux a sense of legitimacy, validity, and credibility. Red Hat’s earnings are tangible proof that Linux has graduated from a hobbyist’s operating system to a serious force that MUST BE reckoned with. I like to think of Linux, GNU, and other free software as a rising lake that causes all of the boats on the lake to rise with it. These boats include Red Hat, Google, Novell, Canonical, federal and state governments strapped for cash, and anyone else who has psychologically invested in the new ways of thinking that were introduced by the free software principles.
When a Computer Needs to Run REALLY Fast, Linux Dominates!
All of us that run a GNU/Linux operating system on our computers know that free software is a stellar performer. Though I run Fedora 14 on my nine year old IBM T40 backup laptop, I could NEVER run the latest version of Windows, Windows 7, on this same machine. GNU/Linux has allowed me to extend the lifetime of this laptop far beyond what it would had been had I opted for the normal Windows upgrade cycle. I bought the laptop in 2002, a full three years before my full conversion to GNU/Linux. It originally came with Windows XP installed. I do not believe that it would have even been capable of running Windows Vista. However, I hate to run an old and outdated operating system. GNU/Linux became THE natural choice.
My main laptop, a Toshiba Satellite L675D, recently developed a display problem where the screen randomly started to flash all white. It was extremely annoying because it would happened at the absolute worst times: when I was writing an article, working on homework etc. I sent the Satellite back to Toshiba for repairs (I got a message today that they have repaired it under warranty, and will ship it back to me tomorrow). Now, imagine if I had still been locked into the world of proprietary Windows operating systems: I am so dissatisfied running old operating systems that I probably would have sold my trusty IBM T40 years ago. I am writing this article on the T40 now, and I must say that the machine looks like an absolute beast. It looks like it has been to hell and back. There are so many cracks on the machine, from being dropped probably hundreds of times, that it looks like an abused stepchild. But the point that I am trying to make is that GNU/Linux brought new life to this ancient friend, and allowed it to perform at a high level long past when I expected it to.
The secret that I learned is one that the people who run supercomputing systems have taken to heart: if you want the best performance from your system, for the best price, GNU/Linux is the only viable choice. The statistics are truly staggering:
- All 10 of the world’s fastest computers run Linux.
- 91% of the world’s fastest computers run Linux.
Here is the point: It does not matter what people SAY, the only thing that matters is what they DO. When people want convenience on their desktop or laptop: the ability to go to Best Buy, buy any piece of software, and know for certain that it will run on their computer, they choose Windows. When people want an operating system that is tightly integrated with the computer’s hardware, and is virtually crash and virus proof, they choose Apple. However, when people want the best raw performance, and the ability to CHANGE the operating system itself by editing the source code, GNU/Linux (with all due respect to the BSD OSs) is the BEST choice. What the universities and companies running GNU/Linux on their supercomputers have stated loud and clear is that GNU/Linux is the right OS for performance, stability, and reliability. I am anxiously awaiting the day when the desktop and laptop pc users start to realize, and act on, what the supercomputer users have known for years: Linux rocks!
What more can I say: this has been one of the most exciting Linux weeks in awhile. Free software is thriving, Linux is thriving, GNU is thriving, and Mr. Richard Stallman is causing trouble and keeping people honest, as he always does. There are a lot more stories that I could have featured: there has been great news about Meego running on Nokia’s latest handset, the N9. However, I wanted to focus on just four stories that I think will have the biggest impact on the fluorescent future of Linux and free software. The most encouraging sign for me is that people are really starting to get it. I have heard so many conversations recently by people stating that they are tired of being locked in to unethical contracts by their cable companies, cellphone companies, and other service providers. Many of them harbor the spirit of free software without realizing it…yet. There is a strong thirst for the free software principles building in the general populace:
- more and more people are running their cars on vegetable oil (greasecars), and homemade biofuels, than ever.
- people are “rooting” and unlocking their cellphones to gain freedoms that their carriers are unwilling to give them.
- People are giving the cable companies the proverbial finger by switching to free digital over-air broadcasts, Netflix, Google TV, and other lower cost options.
These trends exhibit a very honorable trait in human nature: the more that one tries to dictate and control the behavior of people, the more people will rebel,and let the “controlling” entity know who the REAL boss is.
Have a great week! I’ll see you in the next edition of TLWIR.
Ballard, M. (2011, June 17). Free software guru sanctifies brussels bruiser. Computer Weekly. Retrieved June 21, 2011, from http://www.computerweekly.com/blogs/public-sector/2011/06/free-software-guru-sanctifies.html
Dean, S. (2011, June 14). Red hat and santos offer up case study on linux cost savings. Ostatic. Retrieved June 21, 2011, from http://ostatic.com/blog/red-hat-and-santos-offer-up-case-study-on-linux-cost-savings
Dieterich, C. (2011, June 20). Red hat bulls shop for calls . The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved June 21, 2011, from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304887904576398120761824758.html
Vaughan-Nichols, S. J. (2011, June 21). The best & fastest computers are linux computers. ZDnet. Retrieved June 21, 2011, from http://www.zdnet.com/blog/open-source/the-best-fastest-computers-are-linux-computers/9121