Why do I support Open Source?

Those that know me, can hardly think of me without hearing me make some sort of comment about the superiority of Open Source products. This invariably leads to some debate, especially with those who also play in the IT industry.

So why do I support Open Source products, how do they improve my life to the point were I get very vocal about having to use proprietary products.

To answer this, I'll have to take you back a few years, when I first started to use Linux at home.

Mid 2002, I was still using my old Compaq Presario 7464 as my main (only) computer. It came standard with Windows 95 and worked quite well. After a night filled with struggling to get a printer working I decided to give Linux a try. I had a copy of Red Hat 9 lying about and finally got around to installing it. To my astonishment, I found that my computer seemed to run much faster when I booted into Linux, than when I booted into Windows. Whatever the reason for this was, is now a moot point as I started using Linux in earnest. Less than a week later I got hold of a copy of Suse 8.0 and found, after installing it over my old Red Hat partition, I had yet again managed to speed up my computer. I did no optimizations of any kind, I simply installed and found that I had a much better user experience as far as speed is concerned.

3 Months later, I realized that I have not touched my Windows partition in almost as long. It was at this point that I decided to get rid of Windows for good. But not before I managed to get hold of Suse 9.1.

My life as a developer changed dramatically. Suddenly I had every tool I could wish for at my disposal. An assortment of compilers, interpreters, databases and believe it or not, even a web server. All of this, with no money leaving my pocket, but more importantly... all legal. It was very liberating to have the ability to play with such tools, while I was not at work.

This left me in a position where I could experiment at home, and be far more productive at work.

One afternoon, I decided to price all the software I now had available to me, if I would have to replace it with proprietary equivalents. By the end of that exercise, I took myself for a cup of coffee, happy in the knowledge that I won't have to spend two years income on software, to play with at home. I kid you not, the final figure came to just over half a million Rand.

But that was still only the tip of the iceberg, the biggest value I got from Open Source, was the documentation. Everything is open to investigation and study. With proprietary software, my experience has been painful in that regard. To get the same information from proprietary vendors, I would have had to spend several decades worth of income in order to learn what I now know.

Then there came the day I needed to ask a question, I found a mailing list and less than an hour later I had my answer and much more. The monetary value of the free support available for Open Source products can only be guessed at. All it takes is for one to be polite and willing to make a bit of an effort.

I have come a long way since those first steps to freedom. Over the years that followed, I have never been let down by my insistence on using Linux at home. There were and always will be times when I need to sit down and read a bit, so that I can do some obscure, seldom done thing. These are the times I cherish the most, as they invariably turn into the times I learn the most.

But to crown it all, I get to do it for free. As in free beer :)

And the final word, is that I have the power to change the word. With Open Source products, if I find something I like more than one I currently use, I can legally and cheaply change to the newly discovered product. No charge, no fuss.

So, this then is why I support the Open Source movement. It's all about me, what I like, what I want to do and where I want to get to. And while I have the ability to contribute, promote and assist the progress of these products and those that create them, I will.