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The Almighty Buck

Do We Spend More On Linux Or Windows? 468

jmcneal writes with this chin-stroker: "My colleages and I have been debating this for a while at work: 'Do people spend more money on Linux Distributions or on windows?' The limited sampling we have is that users buy distros almost every six months, at full price, at retail outlets. We have only one person who has gone out and purchased Windows at a software outlet, the rest of us only get a new copy when we purchase a new PC, about every 1.5 to 3 years. Is this behaivior common? How much have /.ers spent on distro's vs Windows in the last 2 years?"

I know I've spent more money specifically on GNU/Linux distros than specifically on Windows, buying various boxed sets and books-with-disks, but when an operating system is part of an OEM package, some costs are hard to tweeze out. (Not to mention whether, and how much, Windows users would have to pay for the functionality of the nice free, Free software that comes with typical Linux distros. And that in a workplace, support costs more than the OS's initial purchase price.)

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Do We Spend More On Linux Or Windows?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    We spend the most on MacOS.
  • So many people here complain about the "Windows Tax" and yet many of you wind up spending more on Linux than Windows. Now, will we start seeing +5 insightful comments talking about "well, when you figure in the Linux Boxed Distro Tax....?" I don't think so. That would fail the /. double standard. You don't need facts on your side when you're pro-Linux or anti-Microsoft.

    Mod me down, whatever, you know it's true and you just don't like it.

  • Well, I paid $50 for a Linux book back in 1996. Since then, I've always had enough bandwidth to just download it.
  • Linux:
    Slackware 8, $0 (DLed)
    Drivers, $0 (ditto)
    VMWare, $79

    Windows 2000 distro: $0 (Gotten as a Student Developer)
    Dreamweaver: $119
    PalmOS Desktop: $230 (comes with Palm IIIxe)

    Lets see now, $79 verses $349? Even running Windows in VMWare is expensive!!!

    WolfSkunks for a better Linux Kernel
  • by Phaid ( 938 ) on Thursday August 02, 2001 @02:16PM (#2175107) Homepage
    Other than at the very beginning of my involvement with Linux, when I downloaded everything onto floppies, I've always purchased a copy of the Linux distros that I use, mainly to support the vendor and also to get cute stickers to put on my computer.

    As I recall, I've purchased Slackware 2.3, Slackware 96, Red Hat 4.2, Red Hat 5.1, Red Hat 6.1, Slackware 7.1, and now Slackware 8.0. In most cases, I actually downloaded the distribution first, tried it on a machine, liked it, and bought it.

    I suppose the total cost of these must have added up to around $280. When I compare that to buying boxed versions of Windows 95 and Windows 98 for all three machines, it really doesn't look too bad.
  • I have spent $0 on Windows in the last 2 years (I build my own systems, and Windows is not on the list of things to install)

    Regarding Linux, I bought a $40-$60 Mandrake Powerpack version 7.0 last year.

    Also, I've bought the official 2.8 OpenBSD CD set, and some posters/t-shirts + donation (total came to around $100 - $30 of which was the OS CD)

    Of course, I also had the option of downloading and burning ISO's (which I often do), but I wanted the goodies.
  • In the M$ world, I'm forced to pay for something (Windows)

    In the GNU/Linux world, I'm willing to pay for something.

    Secret windows code
  • Exactly, that's why my most recent workstation purchase came as a stack of parts. It was the only way that I could guarantee that I wasn't paying for Windows. There was a price savings, but mostly I hate paying for things that I don't want.

    Besides, am I the only one who thinks that comparing how much you paid for Linux to how much you paid for Windows is insane. After all, what useful software do you get with Windows, besides notepad and freecell? When I consider how much it would cost to replace all of the Linux software that I use regularly with a commercial replacement my investment in Linux starts to look pretty intelligent. By the time you pay for an Office Suite, development tools, database (PostgreSQL rocks), application server (Zope), and all of the other nifty tools you are talking about a substantial pile of cash. The fact that I can then put these tools on as many machines as I like and use them for whatever purpose I want only sweetens the deal.

    Linux is a sweet deal no matter how you slice it.

  • Yes, there certainly is a lot of Free Software for Windows. In fact, I don't feel comfortable on a Windows box until it has Cygwin, Emacs, Perl, Python, Bash, and a host of other good software.

    Which sort of makes my point. Why pay money for Windows, and spend time and effort downloading all of the Free Software on your list if you could simply get a Linux CD from Cheapbytes and get nearly all of the above software right on the same set of CDs. Better yet, run Debian Linux and update your software to the newest version with a simple 'apt-get update ; apt-get dist-upgrade'. Plus, you get virus protection for free.

    Of course, I suppose that it is possible that I simply like the Unix environment, and so my opinion is biased.

  • I haven't bought a distro since SuSE 6.1 in 1999. Anything newer has been downloaded by myself or someone else in the local Linux users group. Until someone gave me a machine that had Win95 on it a couple months ago, I didn't have a Windows box for couple years [I was going to install linux on it, but decided it could be useful for playing w/ Samba]. So unless buying a game or two from Loki counts, the amount spent on linux and Windows is the same: zero.

    I'd rather put the money into hardware.

  • I'm sorry, I had to say something.

    When you type those commands, you need internet connectivity, which, in turn, would cost money. In some places the internet would cost you nothing, but in places stuck in the ancient world of modems, and high priced ISP's, we get charged over 19c/Mb (most of the time that is when you go over the download limit, avg. on modem is about 300Mb).

    But, I will concede that some ISP's out there give a lot of bandwith for very little, but I still believe that if you wanted to measure the cost of Linux, how much you pay for the cd's is only the start.

  • Tee hee. Is that sarcasm or have you really never heard of me?

    Yes, or I could use anacron on my 802.11-equipped laptop. But I am not so confident that I want those "unstable" packages installed while I'm sleeping. My workstation is also my main web server.



  • You are right. However, you can get an Official Debian distrubtion on CD for much less than the official release of anyone else. But of course you get 30 days of just awful phone support with those other guys :-) . There is an incredibly long list of Debian CD vendors, many of whom have rock-bottom prices, here [].



  • HP finds that most of its Linux customers download their Linux. We also find that Linux usage is consistently under-reported because the install happens after the sale, and the installation has no correspondence with a shipped unit of an operating system. This will probably change as the character of customer changes and more of them go for enterprise-quality support, as we ship our own load more often, etc.

    I'll tell you what I'm doing on my personal system. Every day, I type

    apt-get update

    apt-get upgrade
    and my system is updated to the latest version of Debian []. No charge, ever, and the software quality is best-of-class. I have my choice of "stable", the released version, or "testing", or "unstable", with "unstable" being the least tested (and the one I use) and "testing" being leading-edge packages but ones without show-stopping bugs. Over the past 5 years or so, I've really had only one situation where I had to stop and fix my system before I could get work done, because a package was badly broken. If I were running "stable" or "testing", I would have avoided that.



  • I know it is convenient to have a real boxed set, and I have certainly spent more money on Linux than on windows. I do spend money when the software is worthy. Piracy stinks.
  • by garcia ( 6573 ) on Thursday August 02, 2001 @03:12PM (#2175127)
    I agree. I have only bought Slackware. The rest of the distributions I have used have either been downloaded or on CD for near nothing ($1 or the like).

  • have you factored that the after-sales cost of a Windows installation? Some of my old Windows desktops shall the install CD at least once evry 5 weeks, some of my Debian machines have never seen a CD.

    Consider the support of developers cost as well. I buy probably one openbsd CD a year. Not because I need it, but because the developers work saves me time and money and purchase of the CD is a reconised support channel. Also I like their stickers. ;)
  • I've never directly or indirectly bought Windows (there's never been any problem buying an OS:less PC here); on the other hand, I've never bought a distribution either.

    That's not to say I've never spent any Linux-related money; O'reilly has gotten guite a lot of my hard-earned money over the years, for example :-) I've also bought games from Loki and some sundry other documentation (GTK+ and Gnome programming manuals, for instance).

  • I've bouight two boxed Linux distros, Red Hat 5.1 and Mandrake 7.0. Probably $35 for the Red Hat, $50 for Mandrake. Plus, four other distros off of Cheapbytes for around $10 each with shipping. That's a total of $125 for Linux, not counting books and a Tux stuffed animal.

    I bought Windows 98 SE for $180. It came with a lousy thin manual and not even a jewel case for the CD. I also paid $50 for Norton Antivirus, which I count as part of the OS because not having an antivirus is not an option on Windows. And, I paid around $100 for an Office 97 cd (Mandrake 7 came with StarOffice).

    I find Mandrake 8 to be a much better OS, with a superior install package, and much better internet tools. It installs and finds everything on my system (though I haven't tried the scanner yet). Also, the Linux drivers for my HP Deskjet 952 are much better than HP's Windows drivers that lock my system up when I print.

    Linux 1, MS 0, HP 0

    Jon Acheson
  • I have never officaly purchased windows, however I have recieved Windows 95 and 98 with some of my PC's which amounts to the same thing. I have purchased Linux off the shelf (specifically RH 6.2 for their higher support - for business use - this does not really count as my employer picked up the tab on that.)

    I have purchased numerous CD's from cheapbytes, but now I have a cable modem I download my distros.

    However, were you to ask how much money have I spent in the last little while on software?

    I have spent $50.00 on Deus Ex for Windows (Because I did not know that there was a Linux version in the works - DAMN!)

    However, I have also purchased:
    Corel Word Perfect 8 for Linux
    Quake 3 Arena for Linux
    Soldier of Fortune for Linux
    Decent 3 for Linux
    Heretic II for Linux
    Unreal Tournament (No Linux specific version, but it works under Linux if you download the installer.)

    So I have spent more money on software companies that support Linux than those who support Windows.
  • I remember what a prof said to me in college (economics, not comp sci or business, BTW). Paraphrased: "I don't think it's morally wrong to 'borrow' software while you are a student. But the day after you graduate and get a job, you should either delete it, or send someone a check."

    Is it morally wrong to borrow medicine if you are deathly ill and not going on health care until next month? Is it morally wrong to borrow medicine if you have maxed out your credit card? How about borrowing food to feed a starving child? How about borrowing food to feed yourself before next week's paycheck? How about borrowing software when you are a poor student? What about when you are rich student?

    Yes, morality and ethics are fuzzy, but you should mention to your professor that stealing is stealing, not borrowing. Sometimes it is justifiable, of course. Just don't kid yourself about what you are doing.

    PS, one of the reasons that I love free, open-source software is because the author gives the public the right to make their own decisions about such things. But intellectual property laws protect the author, and say that he or she alone has the choice to grant away that control and propriety as they see fit. In other words, the laws should protect the author, and isn't it great when the author turns out to be a good person?

  • I've never in my life bought a piece of software that Microsoft produced. The computers I've bought or obtained either had no OS installed or I paid nothing for the machine and it already had Windows installed. I've also seen pirated copies of Microsoft software (Windows 2000, Visual Studio, etc.) being passed around the offices where I've worked faster than hot cookies fresh out of the oven. I don't think most people feel the least bit of guilt over illegally copying Microsoft's software.

    On the other hand, when I first tried Linux about 3 years ago, I bought the Red Hat box set because I wanted the documentation, wanted to support a company that I believe in, and because I didn't have the bandwidth to download a distribution. I wasn't aware of places like CheapBytes [] at the time. Since then I've purchased numerous CD's online through companies such as these who sell for a couple bucks each. Nowadays I have DSL and a CD burner so I download or write every bit of software I use.

  • I don't know about the job market in your area but from where I'm at this isn't actually true. One can get an MCSE cheap, but you get what you pay for, a B-school dropout who heard that "There's money in them computer thingies". A competant MCSE and a competant Unix admin are going to cost around the same.

    If you want to mentor a young'in there are probably more people around who are familiar with a /bin/sh prompt than you think. Try asking around, maybe at your local LUG.

  • I don't believe that. The last boxed set I bought was RedHat 6.2 back in 1999. I bought StarOffice and WordPerfect since then, that's it. The rest has been downloaded from the net. Of course I only buy boxed sets for major upgrades, minor releases I upgrade piecemeal as needed.

    When figuring Windows, you also need to consider functionality. Windows is cheap at under $200. Add in mail and news software and a browser that aren't security breaches waiting to bite you, a version control system, development tools, a database system, SSH client, a compression and archiving tool, a word processor and so on, and the Windows system starts to cost a lot more than the equivalent Linux system.

  • Yes, or I could use anacron on my 802.11-equipped laptop. But I am not so confident that I want those "unstable" packages installed while I'm sleeping. My workstation is also my main web server.
    Yes, that was sarcasm. And I don't fault you for wanting to monitor the installation of packages. However, I do fault you for running unstable on your workstation, and furthermore for running your primary web server on the same machine. Oh, and did you mention your primary web server is a laptop with wireless connectivity? I'm guessing reliability is assured through HP's throwing some money at it. Unless you're nostalgic for Windows uptimes or something, that is.

  • I'll tell you what I'm doing on my personal system. Every day, I type

    apt-get update
    apt-get upgrade
    and my system is updated to the latest version of Debian.

    There's a program called "cron" that you might want to use to automate this. To learn more about it, try "man cron". No need to be ashamed about this advice; I was a newbie once too. Hope this helps.

  • Since I no longer use Windows, I spend more on Linux by definition. I don't think this is the question. I think the question is how much would you have had to spend on Windows to get the equivalent functionality to that you are getting from Linux?

    I have both download .iso files and curned CDs of Linux and purchased cheap CDs from CheapBytes/LinuxCentral/LinuxMall repeatedly. I also recently sprang for my first fully commerical version (SuSe 7.2 "Professional") because I like SuSE 2nd best (behind Debian), but SuSE does great hardware detection -- useful when installing on other people's hardware.

    I have six machines and a laptop at home, all running Linux (okay, one FreeBSD machine in the name being ecumenical).

    Two of those machines dual-boot: one to Windows95. One to Windows98. On my laptop I have VMWare (come on, Plex86!) and I have Windows2000 Workstation running under it (because I'm consultant and sometimes you work for people who force you into that sort of thing).

    Now, if I had to run IIS, 2000, SQLServer on my home network instead of Apache/Linux/PostgreSQL, I would have paid and be paying a lot more.

    Maybe I upgrade my Linux more often than I would Windows, but that's BECAUSE Windows costs a lot, not because Linux is more expensive!

    All of this is anecdotal and doesn't prove a thing about TCO. But my point is, who cares about a lower TCO if you hate the product? Liver has a lower TCO than Filet Mignon, but that doesn't mean I want liver every night!
  • It certainly does depend.

    Judging by how trivial you found Apache, Perl, MySQL & PHP setup I can presume that you are hardly a typical computer user.

  • I use Slackware and FreeBSD. I have a subscription to both at $24.95 each shipment. FreeBSD ships a new release approximately every six months. Slackware goes anywhere from 6 months to one year (the last one took almost a year).

    So I am paying about $75 per year for two operating systems with complete userland utilities, applications and extras. A bargain if you ask me. And I can still get them cheaper or for free, I just chose to support their development with cash.
  • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Thursday August 02, 2001 @07:25PM (#2175168)
    > Windows, on the other hand, has a fixed cost, but (for me at least) requires much less time to get to an operational state.

    The big difference for me is, once I install and configure Linux it stays installed and configured. With Windows there's an eternal annoyance of fixing spontaneous reconfigurations and mysterious breakages.

    Useless anecdote: Yesterday I ran by a place of business to pick something up. They were expecting me, so I was only in the room for a couple of minutes. What did I hear while I was there? A secretary complained that something wasn't working right on her computer, and someone standing behind her said, "He reinstalled your software yesterday."

    The ordinary cost of running Windows makes the hassle of virus repairs look cheap.

  • Microsoft that is. A few copies of Win98 here and there don't really show up, particularly when it's the /. population were talking about. What they're interested in is the corporate desktop, OEM deals and servers.

    Kick 'em in the servers, that's what I say.

    My 2c: I've bought a couple of FreeBSD distributions, and got the original Win95 upgrade when it came out. Hey, I was young, I was experimenting, I didn't inhale.

  • the important thing is that it doesn't have to.

    I spend a lot more on Linux than Windows, even if you count the Microsoft tax payed with each new PC I bought in the past (I build them now).

    The important distinction, however, is that I spend the money becuase I want to, not because I have to. Even if I download a distro, I eventually buy the boxed set when I happen by a computer store because I want to support the Linux distro companies, but unlike with Windows, nobody is compelling me to do so.
  • im a sysadmin by trade, i have a burner at work and more bandwidth than your choice of european contries piped into the site, so nope i dont HAVE to pay, but i do have a slackware subscription 'cuz some folks do deserve the money, otherwise we'd never get new quality distros
  • Let's see, in the last 7 or 8 years (since I started using Linux), I've spent aproximately the following $ on Linux:

    $15 - CDs from CheapBytes []
    $15 - CDRs for distros that I've burned
    $30 - stuffed Tuxes from ThinkGeek []

    In the same time, I've spent the following on Windows:

    $0 - oh, that's right, I don't use Windows on machines I control.

    And every computer I've bought since my very first 8088 has been in pieces & sans OS, so no MS-Tax there.

    So that's $60 on Linux and $0 on Windows. So clearly Linux is infinitely more expensive than Windows.

    Hmmm...Since Linux costs so much more, perhaps I should consider switching...

  • If your using unstable, you really should use the following commands:

    apt-get update
    apt-get -u dist-upgrade

    You want to use dist-upgrade since you are upgrading your distribution with every upgrade. It provides for better conflict resolution algrithms that are needed with a distribution upgrade. Second, the -u option flags you to make sure you really want to continue, listing every package it will upgrade, add, or remove. It is important to see what apt-get wants to remove due to version number conflicts before you boldly delete some required packages that you actually use. Currently, if I allowed the upgrade to continue, it would delete my nvidia 3d drivers. The current mesa drivers are not compatible with the nvidia drivers.

    You can always upgrade any group of packages with:

    apt-get install package1 package2 ...

    Good luck

  • Assumptions: dl'ed distros cost $1.

    Work: I've spent about $100 on Linux software. Probably about $10000+ on M$ stuff (sorry, until Gnumed is ready for use, I'm stuck.) On a per box basis, it really gets ugly. About $150+ per M$ box. Even figuring for having bought two actual distros (and dl'ing tons more, and buying many through CheapBytes) I've spent perhaps $25 per Linux box. On software.

    At home, between wife and I, we've spent around $300 on M$ software (full retail on Dos 6.22, Win '95, and Win '98. Gotta play them games. No bundles. I build my PeeCee's). I've spent maybe (at the far outside) $15 on distros. Most of the Linux I've used at home have been from those work CD's. On a per computer basis: $7.50 for Linux. $150 for M$.

    Books: Many hundreds Linux specific (maybe $300). About $200 on M$ stuff (mostly for NT networking stuff. Turns out it was easier for me to put the tricky stuff on Linux boxes rather than pay for CAL's on the M$ boxes). And about another $300 for program specific things (Apache, NFS, Samba, etc.)

    So, there is a bit more actually spent on the M$ stuff. But here is the interesting bit: Even if I had paid around $1000 each for the distros for work, I would still save money. How? CAL's. I don't need to work through and pay for weird licensing things to run services on a Linux box like on NT boxes. I can let 1 or 1000 people hit Apache on Linux. Not so for IIS.

    Anyway, there's another point. And given that my data is no more useful than anyone else's, I'll even forego the +1.

  • Probably a flame and/or a troll, but I almost have to agree. Like I said, I used 5.1, 5.2, was just about ready to pay for 6.2, then they came out with 7.0. Problem is that with that brain-dead compiler, I couldn't use 7.x RPMs on 6.2. So piss on 'em.

  • >>If it's a company you believe in, there's nothing wrong with buying the product that keeps them afloat.

    That's how I wound up buying two distros (RH 5.1 and 5.2) Now that I've switched (Progeny) I may send them some money someday (ie, when I have some)

    I remember what a prof said to me in college (economics, not comp sci or business, BTW). Paraphrased: "I don't think it's morally wrong to 'borrow' software while you are a student. But the day after you graduate and get a job, you should either delete it, or send someone a check." Buying a GPL distro is not too different. I have the legal right to get as many copies of FooLinux (I don't think that's a real distro, but I could be wrong:) for free/download/cheapbytes, but if you find one, and like it (and in the case of Progeny and others, use their servers for updates) then you should pay for it. Eventually. When you can.

    Of course, I would like a 'set your own price' version. Works like this: I dl'ed Mandrake (as an example. I'm working on something right now that will work MUCH better with rpm's, and haven't tried Mandrake in many moons) but didn't pay for it. Say I like it. So to give something back, I want to send them some money. But I can't afford the $80 packaged set. Heck, I don't even really want it. So I go to their webpage, and click in $15 (example only) and my credit card number.

    I'm sure this scheme would require some odd accounting (at least in the US) in order to get the IRS weasels satisfied, but it's a situation that I would like. Kinda like 'non-micro micro-payments'. Or something.

    Anybody have something like that running?

  • Is the slack CD just another of those fancy 'I wanna install Linux' installs or can I do whatever I want?

    Slack allows you to do whatever you want.

    When selecting packages (in expert mode) the text goes something like "Packages marked with an asterisk are required for your system to run. however, it IS your system..."

    If you know what you're doing, you can even install slack without the installer - the packages are split into categories (base, games, X, KDE, Gnome, network, development, etc...) you can just tar -xvzf the files onto a new partition or subdir (if, for example, you're creating a root NFS for diskless terminals)

    This is the main reason that Slack is my distro of choice..
  • The reason I switched to Linux wasn't because the OS was free but because I wanted to start a hobby developemnt project, and wasn't about to pay what Microsoft charges for development tools. With Linux not only is the OS free but also the C++ compiler, debugger, editor, etc etc. Not only that, but for serious development work IMO a Unix command line environment beats the crap out of some Win-Bollocks IDE.

    So, anyway, perhaps a more interesting question is how much have you spent on your development environment.

    As far as Linux itself, I bought RedHat 5.2 retail, and Mandrake 7.2 and 8.0 (crap) from cheapbytes. I'm considering buying SuSE (retail).

  • I've purchased Mandrake (7.0 and 8.0, I think I got 7.1 in a magazine), RedHat, Caldera, SuSE, Slackware, and the three BSDs (FreeBSD w/book a couple of times).

    I've never, ever, bought anything from Micro$haft. Since I haven't bought a complete PC since Windows was released (I've just upgraded piece by piece since the 8088/DOS days), I don't think I've even paid the new PC M$ tax.
  • Over my entire computing life:

    Money spent on Windows: $0 (The only prefab computer I ever bought came with MS-DOS, I have never paid the MS Tax)

    Money spent on Linux, including CD-Rs: $19

    So in my case, yes, it is true, I spend more money on linux.

    -- iCEBaLM
  • Money spent on Windows: $0 (The only prefab computer I ever bought came with MS-DOS, I have never paid the MS Tax)

    That should read PC-DOS which was IBM's version of it...

    -- iCEBaLM
  • This question is straight out of Bizarro World.

    With a Windows release, you get Windows. That's it. It might be enough to get your mother on the internet, but not much more. (Unless your systems come bundled with Office, in which case you're spending closer to $500/system than $100.)

    With a Linux distro, you get the OS, editors, compilers, databases, web servers, mail servers, etc., in that base price.

    If you're the average business user and only need Office and a single application (e.g., an accounting package), your software costs might be as little as $500/system. Still far more than the cost of CD bought in a store and shared among the systems. The only reason people don't squeal, loudly, at this price is that it's largely made to look like part of the cost of the hardware.

    But if you're a developer, the cost of your tools (compilers, database engines, source control programs, libraries, etc.) can easily hit tens of thousands of dollars.
  • by ElJefe ( 41718 ) on Thursday August 02, 2001 @03:13PM (#2175210)
    Almost no time lost. I'm running Win 98, and it crashes MAYBE two or three times per week. And I don't shut it down at night either.

    I rarely lose any work, since the crashes usually occur when I'm playing an "obscure game". On the other hand, I never use Office and I'm not running a server, so my experience may be atypical.

    The point is that Windows does what I need it to do, and so does Linux when I use it. But if they can both do the same thing (web browsing, for example), I'll pick Windows.

  • by ElJefe ( 41718 ) on Thursday August 02, 2001 @02:11PM (#2175211)
    ... on how much you value your time.

    I've spent a grand total of $0 on Linux (if you don't count CD's to burn). However, I'm not very skilled with Linux, so it takes me a long time to get everything installed and configured correctly.

    Windows, on the other hand, has a fixed cost, but (for me at least) requires much less time to get to an operational state.

    Like everything else in life, there's no easy answer. If you've got plenty of free time, Linux is "cheaper". But if you're like me and a lot of your time is spent on other things (homework, drinking, Counterstrike, etc.), then your time is too valuable to spend figuring out options in a config file.


    (and yes, I am running Windows and Linux on two separate computers. but I use Windows most of the time.)

  • I'm a FreeBSD nut. When a new release comes out, they always make an ISO image of the first CD (the only one that most people use) in the set available for download. If my target machine has a fast connection to the net, I just install by FTP. If not, I download and burn the ISO image and install from it.

    A week or two later, the CD set arrives in the mail. I've got a subscription set up where they automatically bill me and send me a CD set when a new release comes out. This serves to get money donated to people who help FreeBSD.

    In my opinion, I spend $0 on my Unix.

    SecretAsianMan (54.5% Slashdot pure)
  • I buy OpenBSD twice a year. $30 + shipping every six months...

    It adds up. Just from a quick count of my FreeBSD CDROM collection, I can account for at least $400 worth. Plus the $100 I just sent as a donation.

    I spent maybe $80 on Win95 a few years ago, and don't plan on spending any more...
  • Price comparisons between Windows and Linux are something of an apples-to-oranges comparison. I'll compare it both ways to contrast.

    I've bought most of the Red Hat releases since 5.1 -- 5.2, 6.0, 6.1, 7.0, 7.1. I tended to buy the premium boxes (at $70-90), but a couple of times I got the basic package (about $40). All told it comes to about $360, maybe as much as $380.

    As a developer I bought MSDN for a few years and got my Windows releases from that. I needed MSDN for my work anyway so it was a pretty good deal. That was $500/year and, since I bought the machine clean of any OS, I didn't pay for the OS twice. That's like $1,500 not including the compilers. I stopped doing that when the MSDN price jumped to $800 (my bill arrived the same week Microsoft was telling the court that they weren't a price gouging monopoly ... HAH!).

    Since then I've bought Win98 full retail ($190) to upgrade a desktop PC and Win98 and NT were bundled with my laptops (not sure the real cost, but probably on the order of $50 and $150 respectively). I've not upgraded to WinME or Win2K purely because they offer little to no benefit over what I currently run.

    So over the course of the last 5 years that I've been using Linux I've paid Microsoft $390 for my operating systems, ignoring for a minute the developer stuff. I've paid pretty much the same for either OS, although I've kept much more current with Linux than Windows. It's not looking so bad for Microsoft.

    But there are two problems with that comparison. First, those aren't complete systems -- they're just the OS -- and I'm running fewer Windows systems than Linux systems. To see how much it really cost we have to look at /all/ of the systems, and they must be /usable/ systems.

    In terms of installations, I'm running just three Windows-capable systems (one of them dual-boot to Linux). I'm running six Linux systems (again counting the dual-boot). Average price per box is, therefore, about half that of Windows before we even start looking at what it costs to make Windows actually useful.

    Now, when I install a Linux system it's pretty much complete. I have gone out and bought Wordperfect ($50, but not used now that Abiword is up to the job) and MTV ($20). $70 on add-on software to do everything I need to do. So far I've only had to buy a single version of these things.

    With Windows, however, I bought Office 95 ($200 with a big education discount), Office 98 ($300 with a PC), and virus software ($70) just to get basic functionality. So tack on $570 to the Windows figure, and keep in mind that I was pirating an Office installation for awhile. And, again, I didn't fork out the money for Office 2000 so I'm running a release behind.

    Even running without full legal licenses we're now seeing Windows cost more than twice as much per box, with only one system ever being upgraded, as Linux did for six boxes and six upgrades. Effective cost per box if you never upgrade is something like $420 for a WinME installation and $520 for a Win2K installation because Office and antivirus software is so necessary. And that's minimum!

    Now, again as a developer, I need compilers. Last time I bought VC++ (5.0 I believe) it cost me $300. So, for a usable developer system, I paid $1,100 for MSDN+Office+VC++. I haven't looked at VC++ prices lately, but last I knew MSDN was $800, so today's prices are $1,400 or more -- and $800 of that comes due again next year.

    Compare that to the Linux developer's system. I paid for Red Hat and /nothing else/. Total cost to be up-and-running with a purchased unit is about $40, or $80 if you splurge and get paper docs (which, nowadays, aren't even available with Windows). I splurge, so for my development system I would pay SEVENTEEN TIMES as much. (There's some benefit to VC++ versus what you get with RH, to be sure, but not seventeen times as much benefit no matter how you measure it).

    Now, I also run Linux as a server. It runs e-mail and web services (and other things, but those are critical). Were I to do the same on Windows I'd have to buy Win2K Server (what's that, $800 minimum?) to get IIS, plus somebody's mail software (never even tried to cost that out). So for my server box we're looking at a grand or more (a LOT more if I were so stupid as to run Exchange). I opted out of that approach entirely.

    So for my wife's box we've got about $350 in Microsoft software (excluding the $70 we spend on ant-virus). For my development box we've got $1,100 in Microsoft software (again no anti-virus). For my laptop we've got $50 in Microsoft software (running Win98 w/o Office or anti-virus since I only use it to play DVDs). That's $1,500 in Microsoft software ... not including upgrades, and not including server functionality ... to get our desktop and laptops doing what we need. And I'm years out of date with VC++ (possible only because I do most development in Java nowadays).

    Compare that the $80 I just spent on RH 7.1. I don't need WordPerfect anymore, but I like MTV, so that gives me a total system cost of $110, and that covers three laptops and three servers. And, if I wanted, I could /legally/ reduce that price to $20.

    Given that I have not yet spent as much money on Red Hat software, over five years, as I paid for a single year of MSDN I would have to say that yea, Microsoft software is more expensive ... so long as you're comparing fully useful systems. If all you're doing is comparing the base operating system then Windows comes out pretty much even, although I tend to upgrade only about a third as often.

    The numbers I've paid to Microsoft start to get really scary when I add them all up. Conversely, the numbers I've paid Red Hat were so low that it's hard to see how they will ever make much money.

    jim frost
  • In my opinion, what is payed for a distro is only a small portion of the total cost of ownership. If you pay $39,999 for a CPU license of commerce server, and $50 for a box of redhat from compusa, its easy to look first and say, ok, one is costing me less. Lets suppose, though, that you have to hire a full time admin. For the MS server, you get an MCSE and pay him $50,000 per year. To find a good Unix / Linux admin you might have to pay $75,000 per year. Figure out what you spend in 2 years, and thats a little more revealing. (There are fewer qualified admins who know there way around a shell prompt than there are people with MCSE's, thats why the one's salary is higher.)

    Unfortunately, this is where most people stop reading, and decide that for their money, they will get MS, pay more now but have less TCO down the road. Anyone who works with the stuff enough knows that you get what you pay for. If you want to get the less skilled MCSE's, its your business.

    I still do not get what the point of the original question is. I get Windows from my University, burn my distros. Otherwise, I would pay $2000 for the windows MSDN license or nothing for a linux distro. Hmm, let me think...
  • by yellowstone ( 62484 ) on Thursday August 02, 2001 @02:28PM (#2175226) Homepage Journal
    Linux *can* be free, if you're willing to [...] download
    And if you're able to download. Those ISOs are big -- even with a broadband connection, it's a pretty hefty download. For those still putting along at <= 56K, it's just not possible.

    OTOH, I'd bet most people (in the US, anyway) are within an hours drive of a Linux Users Group meeting, and could get someone to cut them a CDR for the cost of a blank.

    On the gripping hand, if your like me, and think that the companies that put out the distros are performing a service to the community, you might consider the price of a shrink-wrapped distro money well spent.

    I have no fin
    no wing no stinger
    no claw no camouflage
    I have no more to say...

  • I've probably spent over $1000 on various FreeBSD and Linux distro CD's and other various things like shirts, hats, towels (huh?), stuffed animals and such. All to help pay the bills for the great folk that are writing this stuff. I sure as hell can't write it, so I figure I'll throw a few bucks around to help. I'm pretty sure that the people hacking this stuff i.really/i appreciate it. How 'bout more of you join me?

    Dive Gear []
  • by islack ( 65221 ) on Thursday August 02, 2001 @05:17PM (#2175232)
    Anyone that is getting XP will probably pay lots more.

    If you ask a bunch of Linux users if THEY spend more on Linux or Windows, I would be VERY suprised if they spent more on Windows.

    If you are a Mac user, how much will you spend on Windows? Most likely $0.00 unless you have bought it by accident & could not return it or bought virtual PC for your Mac.

    Does anyone think the case would be different for Linux users?

    The arguement that a distro is free but it costs you $$$ to get all of the O'Reilly books falls flat. To actually figure out most advanced Windows features (comparable to those that high level administrators using the books would use), you would still need to get materials. I know of no one (Linux, Windows or Mac users) that feel Windows "help" is actually helpful. I know I can learn lots from the man pages but I have rarely been able to find anything resembling helpful in Windows help.

    A better question would actually be several questions:

    • What WOULD it cost you to LEGALLY own the software you are running and how much DID you spend on it. (this eliminates the well, I bought linux on a CD or I just get a crack for Windows) (OEM costs are fine if you got the software with the hardware)

    • How much have you spent on supporting documentation. (yes, even higher level Windows admins need this stuff)

    • How much have you spent on bringing in consultants?

    • How many servers do you/does your team handle? (in Servers per person)

    This is by no means all of the possible questions, just a few to get everyone thinking.

    I know many people will say "Hey, I never bought windows" but they will have gotten 95/98/NT4/2000 and are currently running XP on their systems. Does it mean Windows is free? No, it just means they don't have a legal copy of it.

    Hope this helps.
  • Actually... When looking at "Total Cost of Ownership," it breaks down something like this, for me. I administer about 20 linux machines, 30 macs and a handful of Windows PC's, mainly NT and 2K.

    I do buy linux distros, mainly because I can purchase three or more of them for the cost of one Windows license, and I get those cool Red Hat stickers. I am also supporting a company that I believe in. Having CD installers around makes things easy, and you get some support with your CD purchase, and though I've never actually used it, it does make my bosses happy that I have that to fall back on. The real difference, though, is that I only have to buy one set of Red Hat CD's for 20 linux boxen. Cost per year, about $100. Upgrading from NT to 2000 cost us somewhere in the neighborhood of $2000 (including staff time). Upgrading from Red Hat 6.2 to 7.1 cost about $500 including staff time.

    What we were talking about, though, is total cost of ownership. Windows machines, mainly running After Effects and Maya. Expensive workstations to begin with. The cost of the software that runs them and on them pushes the purchase price per system up to about $20,000. This is for, for example, dual processor, gig of ram, ultra160 SCSI or RAID, Fire GL4 3D card, 21" trinitron, sometimes two of the above, plus the software. They are windows machines, so I spend about an hour a week on each machine doing routine maintenance, software updates, figuring out why they are crashing, dealing with hardware failures, etc.

    Macs: purchase price: $4,000-$5,000 plus $3000 for software (Photoshop, Quark, After Effects, Premiere, etc). This gets you dual processors, gig of ram, we can normally live with ATA hard drives in those machines. I set them up correctly, and then annually, I burn a disc with all of the software updates, reformat the hard drive and make everything current. 3 days of my time per year. In 6 years, I have never had a hardware failure on a Mac, with the exception of a keyboard that somebody dropped a cup of coffee on. I always get angry when people say that Macs are more expensive than PC's. That's probably true on the low end of the spectrum, but when you are talking about workstations, and not desktop PC's the mac is a real bargain. I've got two machines on my desk: a G-4 450 with ATA and a Dell dual P3-700 with Ultra 160. Both have .5GB of ram. The mac is as fast in virtually every measureable or practical comparison. and cost less than half of what the Dell cost. Not that I do that many comparisons now that the Dell is running Red Hat instead of NT.

    The linux machines. Mostly servers, a lot of them from Penguin Computing. I have had one hardware failure, an IBM deskstar 75 GB hard drive, which Penguin replaced in the most painless warranty experience I have ever had. They tend to cost less than $5000, I set them up, and basically never think about them again, with the exception of our firewalls and web servers, which require constant tending.

    The biggest hassle with the Windows machines and the Macs is that most of the software, you have to pay for as well. While the hardware-cost to performance comparison is about dead even between a Linux workstation and a Windows workstation, the total cost is much higher on the Windows machine because of the enormous software investment. Even Office is insanely expensive unless you're buying an upgrade. At one point, when discussing the liability associated with software piracy, my boss suggested: "wouldn't it be cheaper to pirate the software, then just drop the cpu's out the window into the lake if anyone from the Business Software Alliance ever shows up?" Do the math. He's right.

    The linux workstations and servers are pretty much fire-and-forget, but in the event of a mishap, the repair time is huge.

    Bottom Line:

    Windows: high initial cost, highest maintenance cost, highest software cost.

    Mac: mid-range initial cost, low maintenance cost, highest software cost.

    Linux: low initial cost, low maintenance cost, lowest software cost, longest down-time in the event of a failure.

    The answer to the question is: Linux is cheaper than Windows, particularly when you realize some economy of scale by installing it on numerous machines. And at the end of the day, all my boss cares about is how much it costs.

    my $.05

  • I've bought a couple RedHat releases, 5.0 and 6.2, but they were just because I was a newbie when it came to Linux. It was nice to have a booklet on hand, even if all the documentation was available online. After having used Linux for a while, I'm unlikely to buy another boxed set of it, with high speed Internet connections keeping me up to date.

    I think the more important thought on this are the associated costs. It might be simpler to set up Windows out of the box, but the application base is pretty commercial. For example, I have a CD burner in my Windows box, and I wanted to burn an ISO to CD. I fired up the software that came with my drive, and lo and behold, after about ten minutes of futzing with it, I found myself unable to burn the image. Under RedHat, I would have been up and running pretty quickly, with stuff that comes bundled with 7.1. A search turned up a bunch of shareware and commercial apps for Windows -- very little for free. (Ironically, the ISO was for Windows XP, and this little quirk was making me long for Linux.)

    I've spent ~$200 for Win95, ~$100 for Win98, and around $250 for Win2K. For Linux? Probably somewhere around $60 total. Then figure in all the software I buy for Windows, that have freeware alternatives under Linux. If I were an accountant, I'd be scratching my head over this. "Why does it make sense to spend more money on something less stable?"

  • I know Windows best feature is it's supposed ease of use, but I have bought several $50+ books. Some of the more esoteric marketing gimmicks, excuse me, features, are poorly implemented and poorly documented. Books are really the only way around that.
  • by matman ( 71405 ) on Thursday August 02, 2001 @02:07PM (#2175238)
    This is a good topic for a slashdot poll: how much money as a consumer have you spent on Linux distributions? 0, 1-100, 100-500, 500-2000, 2000+
  • by matman ( 71405 ) on Thursday August 02, 2001 @02:33PM (#2175239)
    You don't need to buy books, there's a tonne of documentation that comes with almost every distribution... man pages are pretty authoritative, and stuff in /usr/share/doc is usually pretty thorough... almost every package has a website with a mailing list and posts the author's contact information. If you need to buy a book after all of that, it's not the fault of the developer. Books are nice, but not necessary. I havn't really used Windows since Windows 95, but I remember that the documentation sucked, and if you wanted to understand how much actually worked, you'd have to buy a book or dig through websites that were badly organized.
  • Windows:
    1 Win98 (included with machine): $0

    You can't be daft enough to assume that the OEM didn't make sure to pass on the full cost of a Win98 install licence in their profit marign, regardless of the actual price from MS to them. Or are you?

    The only "free" Windows is a warezed one you put on clean hardware you build from components.

  • Ahh, ok. I wasn't even thinking about the lawsuit over the licence thing because 1) I don't think MS cares, and 2) the warez scene doesn't seem to consider the consequences much :)

    As for the rest, I only skimmed the article, and skimmed the comments. The discussion here generally peters out too quickly for me to want to get involved anyways. 2-3 days tops.
  • Same with Windows.. Just installed NT4 on a development machine.. The updates for the OS were 70M, the updates to Office were 80M, the new browser was another 30M, and the updates to Visual Studio were another 200M.

    I'll be patching IIS, SQL server, and Exchange later, that's another 270M total..

    I'm now 350M over the d/l limit, and a few megs over what'll fit on a CD..

  • I started with RH5.2(?). Prior to DSL, I purchased any updates on Ebay for about the price of the disk ($10 is the most I think I spent)

    That being said, if we compare apples to apples this is a difficult metric. Historically, I would get a "patch" from Windows. However, with Linux it has proven to be just as easy, especially in the newest releases to install the entire new version. I get everything that is up to date without hunting for the Access Fix, the Word Fix, MSIE's security updates of the week...etc.

    If you are out purchasing the full retail, box version for each new release, I would ask "Why?" What can you possibly get in the 7.2 box that you didn't get in the 7? [This is easier to understand when companies foot the bill. For some reason we can always spend someone else's money easier than taking our time to download a version, burn new CDs, etc. ]

    If you are buying new retail versions each time, I would make the suggestion that you buy a good set of manuals (look around here someone is always suggesting). Then get your distros through ftp (or auctions if you cannot download at high speed). You will be money ahead and have a better working reference.

    One caveat, if this is your first implementation buy the retail with the manuals, etc. The install guide that goes with the specific distro you have is invaluable when you first start. Other manuals may be better, but you won't know until you have done the first install.
  • It's only a fair comparison if you count all the software packages you need to pay extra for with Windows:
    • Database management
    • E-mail server
    • Terminal server
    • Revision Control
    • Compilers
    • Encryption software
    • Firewall software
    • Unlimited-client fileserving
    For anyone who actually uses their machine for more than just surfing the web and reading email, a Windows machine needs lots of costly packages added just to be in the same league as a $50 Linux distro.

  • My very first Linux distro was Slackware, downloaded over a modem back in about 1996 or so. I was mainly curious and managed to get it working into a usable system. Remember, back then, there was a LOT more configuration to do before you had a 100% functional system the way you wanted it. I toyed with it on and off for two years, but just as I was getting permanently hooked on Red Hat Linux 4.2 (bought on cheapbytes for $2), I had a bit of lifestyle change and effectively went without a computer for 8 months.

    In the middle of 1999 I returned to the real world and decided that I really wanted Linux on my current computer, a laptop. While browsing through a department store, I happened upon Mandrake 6.0 for about $40 and up until about 1 month ago, remained a dedicated Mandrake fan.

    A month ago, I purchased the Mandrake 8.0 PowerPack for around $75 and was immediately disgusted when neither machine I installed it on would boot. On one machine, it took about a week to customize it, that is, to remove all the extraneous crap. Don't get me wrong, Mandrake is probably a fine distribution for many people, but I've gotten to the point where I just want a minimal working system and then simply add my own customizations and software.

    After cursing myself for the Mandrake debacle, I started looking for other distros. I considered Debian, Slackware, even FreeBSD. (Note: I know BSD is not Linux.) I even tried putting together my own system, but glibc proved to be too much of a challenge.

    Just as I gave up on glibc and my homebrew distro, Slackware 8.0 was released that same week. I downloaded it, installed it on a crappy P166 to see how I liked it, and found that I liked it immensely! I installed it on the rest of my machines with no troubles and no regrets.

    Funny how I had the right idea all along in the beginning of my Linux adventure.

    Just to make this post a bit more on-topic, the Linux distros I've bought total about $150. The only copy of Windows I ever bought came with my laptop, and so cost me around $90. Glad to see that Linux has gotten more of my cash.
  • by pbryan ( 83482 ) <> on Thursday August 02, 2001 @02:25PM (#2175253) Homepage
    This seems like an apples to oranges comparison, because a significant number of people I know use Windows which isn't legally licensed! Time and time again, I see burned copies of Windows being installed and sitting on bookshelves. This doesn't seem to be a problem with Linux, because the distro is essentially free, with the value add being media and documentation packaging.
  • Slow news day, /. ?

    At last check, 344 articles pending review. I'd say not. Bad editing? Maybe.

  • by Moonshadow ( 84117 ) on Thursday August 02, 2001 @02:05PM (#2175257)
    ...warez sites are for Windows!
  • I'm now 350M over the d/l limit, and a few megs over what'll fit on a CD..

    Tell me about it! The only times I've paid for a Linux distro were:

    • When I bought a Redhat 5.2 Cheapbytes CD
    • When I did a network install of Mandrake and went a long way over my d/l limit

    In download fees, Mandrake 8 cost me $NZ80 to install. Thank God for cheaper bandwidth plans these days (and why can't a minimal install of Mandrake fit into 70MB like some *nixes and distros? Huh?).

  • Bought a copy of SCO 286 Xenix. And a copy of ESIX, and a copy of Unixware. Picked up a cheap olaris development set. $3,500 or so

    Bought a copy of 3.1 NT, upgraded to 3.5, then 3.51. Bought a "reseller" only verson of 4.0, "for evaluation an:t use it for day to day use" or some such restriction. $1150 or so.

    Got handed a copy of NetBSD and FreeBSD 2.0.5, and have just used the features like FTP install and packages/ports. $0.

    DLing a FreeBSD release mens I get it faster than they can ship it to me.

    With the ability to DL new releases with FTP, the packages/ports, why would ANYONE bother buying one of the 200~ linux versions? Sticking with FreeBSD made it (SO( easy to kick the Microsoft habit, the SYS V habit and no need to spend $30 for "a better linux".
  • I only ever bought one version of Windows (95 cuz I HATED 3.11 that came with my Pentium 100). Since thern I have been fortunate. I got 98 with my current machine which has a new brain (everything from my old Pentium 450 except MB, CPU and heatsink which have been all been replaced with a Duron 700, matching heatsink and ASUS A7V MB), and I won a copy of Windows ME in the launch contest for Windows ME. I had my CD one day before the launch. With Linux I have bought Caldera 2.3, a slew of Cheapbytes CD's, RedHat 7.1 and then I have downloaded various distros....Debian, Redhat and Slackware. Total spent on Linux, counting blank CD's, about 70 bucks (30 times 2 and about 10 bucks on blank CD's). For the 96 copy, I paid approximately 90 bucks (plus or minus 10 bucks). So, I spent more on Windows, especially since you consider the 98 I got with my machine was probably rolled into the cost of it. That said, I usually try to buy every other version of my current favorite Distro, RedHat. Missed 7. 0 and have not bought 7.1, but I may wait since it's been rumored, and denied by Red Hat that there's a beta floating around. Maybe they are trying to hype up things for 8.0??? (new GCC 3.X and other things....)
  • Linux *can* be free, if you're willing to take it the old-fashioned way, instead of in a shrink-wrapped box with a glossy manual. You can download just about any distribution for free, install it for free, use "Linux tech support" (Usenet, chat rooms, man, etc.) for free, and so on.

    Windows *can* be free, but only if you steal it. Assuming that this is not an option (especially in a commercial environment), there's no way to acquire, implement, and support a Windows system for free.

  • Some people have stated (and even been modded up for stating) that they never paid for Windows because it came installed on their systems.

    When you purchase a pre-OSed system, you're still paying for the OS!

    Sorry, someone had to say it.

  • So, those who build their own PC's and use pirated software/friend's software pay nothing.

    I believe that the debate should be kept within the realm of things that are legal. To do otherwise would pretty much invalidate any argument either for or against free software because it could simply be said that "All software is free when you steal it!"

  • by Punto ( 100573 ) <puntob@gma i l . c om> on Thursday August 02, 2001 @02:13PM (#2175289) Homepage
    Of course people that run linux will spend more on linux, because they use linux (not windows).

    Being a windows and linux user myself, I _should_ be spending more money on windows, because I have to buy the software I use (eudora, X server, etc), but I don't. And linux I just download, and it's not illegal.

    It's about the money, but it's also because it's more confortable to download the cd and burn it without having to go to some store with salesmen.


  • vs Linux buy once use many.

    It's almost impossible to buy a PC with out Windows pre-installed on it. This is the only thing that keeps people from buing Windows in a retail box. This means even if you are replacing a machine that you will no longer use, you are going to pay for another copy of Windows. If you decide to upgrade a machine to another version, the OEM license does not give you permission to transfer the old version to another machine so you have paid for 2 licenses and you only get to use one.

    With Linux (for most distros at least), you buy one factory burned set of CD's and you can walk around to 100 different machines and install it. If you buy a new machine you don't get forced to buy a new Linux distro. If you upgrade your distro from version x.y.z to version x.y+2.z you don't lose your right to use the x.y.z distro.

    The only reason why Linux seems more expensive is because the cost of purchase is very clear and immediate. Microsoft buries the cost of Windows into the machine and so you can't see that $100.00 worth of that machine went to Microsoft. If computer retailers could break out the costs of the computer I'm sure there would be no talk of what we pay more for Windows or Linux. Windows is definitely more expensive.
  • I have installed linux on 8 computers in our Taiwan office (although over the past three years, at least 4 times on each computer updating), and will install another 8 in China this month.

    I have never paid for a distro. I have always downloaded them and burned ISO's or done FTP installs.

    We purchased one bulk 10 user NT license years ago. NT just sits in a cardboard box (not a real boxen) in the backroom. Linux saves us thousands of dollars per year as a company, when considering that we do not need Office, Exchange, etc.

  • by RickHunter ( 103108 ) on Thursday August 02, 2001 @04:37PM (#2175300)

    Having been in the same situation a year ago, allow me to ask you this. If you want to learn Linux, why are you using Windows for your everyday work? If you're using Linux every day to get your work done (not even complicated things - just getting familiar with the text editor and some of the other common tools available), you'll find that it becomes much easier to use very quickly. Even if you avoud the config files initially - once you learn how to read (not access, read) man and info pages, they're easy. (Although the fact that Debian's config files are very well-commented helped a bit...)

    Yeah, there's a learning curve. But if you don't jump back to Windows every time something starts looking difficult, you'll get past it fast.

  • The largest cost is your time, intentionally wasted by MS.

    I've only "bought" three Windows packages directly. One XT with DOS 3.2 on it. One 486 with Win3.1 on it and bundled software. One laptop with a bare Win95. The last purchase was a waste as Debian works much better on it. That 486 was upgraded with someone else's software, and other machines were treated much the same. Three years ago, I bought a Watcom Fortran Compiler for Windows. All of it helped at the time, but now I regret all the time I spent learning MS BS.

    Indirectly I've supported much greater costs. My schools and now my company pay out the nose for Windows junk. It's sad. Yes, you and me both are paying for all those windows boxes in all those labs on campus and sucking the life out of you at work.

    Linux has cost me much less and provided much more with less efort in the end. My distros have come from books, CD shops and from the web. The book, Linux Unleashed (Red Hat 5.1), was a good place to start but newer are not as useful. CD shops, Cheap Bytes and Linux Central for example, carry up to date CDs for cheap. All can be gotten from web sites if you know what you are doing. Debian is the easiest to get that way and to learn about. Books on most specific subjects I'd have to have bought in the Windoze world anyway, so I won't count that as a cost.

    The time saved has been amazing. Installs are much easier for Linux. Without all the propriatory BS of install floppies for each and every device and program, and much less baby sitting Linux installs go fast. Documentation is worlds better under Linux, so I waste much less time trying to figure out how to do something that should work but does not. G77 runs older FORTRAN code without modification and that saved me considerable time for CFD class. FTP, Telnet-ssl and X works much better than Window's quirky file and resource sharing, so there's more time I've saved. Another great time saver is not having to rebuild periodically. Stuff just works when you need it to and it's easy to upgrade when you want to.

    As the last of my windows boxes die, I'm just letting them slip off. Now that I've great print support set up on a Red Hat 7.1 box, I have little need for those windows boxes and don't bother with them as their print service fails (parallel and USB!). I tried putting W2K on my wife's box but it failed to even format the hard drive. I put on the older 98 because the Voice of Command demanded it. That was three months ago, but already the printing on it died. Red Hat runs it good. 98 stays there until I can find a driver for the Cannon parallel scanner (doubtful) and a D-Link USB camera, or it quits booting or running those devices. 98 no longer boots on my last windows box, and it's been great to spend the time on cool stuff like IPChains, Exim, Chat, Gphoto, Gimp and gcc instead. Good bye broken, shitty, begging MS junk. I'm off the upgrade mill, cause you suck!

  • For the average user, how may be tempted to buy books on Xcell or Outlook, Windoze cost plenty. First they have to buy non crippled versions of the software that came with their $1000 PC, if you don't count the cost of the "bundled" junk. Then something breaks and it's off to the store for the $250 oil change, err, I mean upgrade. Before they know it, their computer is "obsolete" and can't even be used as a word processor and they feel like buying another one. This cycle happens once or twice when some new multi media toy is introduced that suckers more people into buying another box. What a rape!

    Sorry, it's much cheaper to buy $400 worth of parts, install Linux and keep the thing running for years. It's even cheaper to pick up a "obsolete" box and put Linux on it. After getting over the Nix knowledge hump, it's been much easier to maintian Linux boxes that don't break. As Bruce Perens pointed out above:

    apt-get update
    apt-get upgrade

    will keep your Debian system patched (not that it needs much of that) and updated against security holes.

  • by ukyoCE ( 106879 ) on Thursday August 02, 2001 @02:36PM (#2175308) Journal
    I would only purchase a distribution for the work environment. In which case I would probably buy 2 or 3 copies(~150$) for the server(s), and then replicate freely across hundreds of corporate users. Think of paying Windows licensing per workstation vs using Linux? even if you pay for the distro, you're saving a SH**LOAD of money(and/or legal expenses getting sued by MS for pirating).

    As far as home users, my friends and I have all paid for one or two distribution copies. At 30-50$ we'll say we spend 100$ total on linux. Ever.
    Meanwhile with Microsoft, we all have probably twice as many licenses as we do computers, seeing how they come with everything but Color TVs. So while I'm using Windows on a single PC at home, I've paid Microsoft upwards of 500$ for that single license.

    That's not even mentioning the support fees. I have tried many times to get tech support from Microsoft, and its fscking impossible! And if you do get through? They charge you for it. Nevermind that I just spend >100$ on a crappy OS, but now I get to spend money just to get it working. According to this presentation I ran into today, this guy at a corporation was spending thousands of dollars in tech support to Microsoft, trying to get them to fix the instability of THEIR OWN PRODUCT! Is that f*cked up or what?

    Between friends, Linux User Groups(LUGs), and your own bandwidth, Linux is free. Tech support? More for free online(and more helpful users) than you can find for Microsoft Windows.

    So your answer? We spend less on Linux. *FAR* less.

  • There are 3 reasons I have ever bought a "boxed" Linux distribution. These are very simple, yet I know a lot of people who live Linux the same way:

    1) Hard Copy Documentation. And Vendor Specific Documentation. There are times, at least on my system, when for whatever reason the MBR gets overwritten or trashed...sometimes by Windows, an AV program, or LILO being written to the MBR instead of GRUB (LILO *hates* my hardware setup). Linux documentation on the internet is *useless* when all I see when I turn my computer on is LI L0 LI L0 LI LO... What saved my ass? The RedHat Manual that came in the Boxed Set. After noticing the damned Boot Disk also used LILO, which was useless for me, I just grabbed the box, flipped to the LILO/GRUB section, and the Rescue Disk/CD and in 5 minutes had a happy system again :-)

    2) When I am trying to introduce someone *new* to Linux. Buying a "boxed set" is perfect for both me and them. Many, many times it has been more than helpful and useful for me to say "Hey, just take a look in the book...It will probably help you more than me, because I have become to good at this that I am sure I will miss something that is important to you and not to me anymore..." For example, I use the BASH shell, and I love it for one reason above all else...Command Line Completion. But, as I discovered, I don't even think anymore when I am trying..."Type first 2 letters.....1 more letter.....etc. etc. I can whip around my system like a jet plane. But when I was trying to show my friend something the other day on his *new* Linux install, he stopped me in the middle of my typing to ask me "How do you type so fast...?" That was when I knew I was over his head...It was simply time to give him the book which came with his Distro. It explained, in plain English, what a "shell" was and what "command line completion" was about, and many more things. Books that come with "boxed sets" like RedHat or Mandrake are absolutely invaluable to me and many, many others. Everything you could ever want short of being a system admin can be found in those books.

    3) I feel that giving my small contribution of money to Linux makes me feel like I am giving to a cause I can relate to, understand, and at times defend very wholeheartedly. I feel computing at times makes me want to vomit and run away from the United States to find a country where intelligent, normal human beings use computers and make the laws. But, then I realize that battles and wars are won, not by the big battles, but sometimes by just a lot of people fighting the good battles. Giving a little to the good and small fight. And if my $50 can one day help a platform like Linux bring reality back into the computing landscape, with a hope for fair competition, standards, and decent laws...then it was a $50 well spent. And a cause I can be proud to say I was a part of...even if in the smallest way
  • Not to mention that now people have a lot more "older" machines lying around. It's a lot easier for an old machine to run functionally on linux than windows...


  • by mrpull ( 112590 ) on Thursday August 02, 2001 @03:15PM (#2175312)

    You already can set your own price for Mandrake :)

    Go to Mandrake's Donation Page [] and give them a buck or two. You can even specify a project you'd like to help fund.

    my $.02


  • The point of stable isn't to have the latest stable releases, in fact that's what unstable is for. Stable refers to the fact that it's no longer a moving target. The myriad of software components have been tested with eachother. This means that that ancient version of mozilla is known to work with that ancient version of galeon. That prehistoric version of o'caml works with all the o'caml libraries in that distribution.

    Stable and unstable are not statements about likelihood of crashing! Stable is for those situations where you need to know that the software has been tested. A lot. Unstable (and now testing) is for everything else.

  • You can't be daft enough to assume that the OEM didn't make sure to pass on the full cost of a Win98 install licence in their profit marign, regardless of the actual price from MS to them. Or are you?

    You can't be daft enough to have missed the fact that I calculated my cost in the same (flawed!) way the article did. Or are you? My (not too subtle, I thought) point was that even if you didn't count the cost of the OEM software, since the article didn't, in my experience, it cost (my employer) more than 5x as much to get similar but lesser functionality from a Windoze box as I got from a Linux box. And the cost on the Linux box was optional-- I paid for convenience.

    The only "free" Windows is a warezed one you put on clean hardware you build from components.

    There's no such thing as a "free" copy of Windows. Even if neither I nor my employer had to lay out a penny of cash for Windows-related purchases, the cost in lost productivity and risk of lawsuits for being in contravention of M$'s license would be >$500, IMO.

    If I didn't recognize your handle, I'd think: "IHBT. IHL."
  • by petard ( 117521 ) on Thursday August 02, 2001 @06:02PM (#2175324) Homepage
    Here's a breakdown of my expenses over 3 years for two machines with similar functionality (from my perspective, the Linux box actually gives me more... the Linux one doesn't handle Office-format docs as well as the Windows one, but that's ok by me... I save as portable formats when I take work home) One's my home box, the other my employer provides. Linux cost me 1/5 as much... certainly not more than Windoze! And let's be real. I have broadband. I only buy linux distributions because it is, relative to Windows, cheap & convenient. It *could* have all been free :-). Windows could not have, at least not legally.

    6 distros @~$50 = $300
    4 books @~$50 = $200

    1 Win98 (included with machine): $0
    1 Visual studio 6 (incl. NT4): ~$1600
    1 Win2k upgrade: ~$150
    1 Office 97: ~$500
    1 Office 2k upgrade: ~$250
    1 Office XP upgrade: ~$250
    1 Winzip: ~$25
    1 Nero CD Recording SW: ~$70
    1 Norton AntiVirus: ~$70
  • Of course most people get the latest and greatest version of Linux by downloading (and burning) themselves. Not everyone has the bandwidth. Some people buy the boxed set to get the support, the goodies, or to just support the company that bothers to put the package together. If you want them to stay in business, then you find a way to give money to them.
  • the difference of course is when you buy Windows part of the money goes to the people who make it, and part to the brainchild Bill Gates who conceived it. Whereas when you buy Linux, 0% goes to Linus and probably 0% to most of the hard working programmers, too.
  • I think ca. 1994 or so I bought a Slackware subscription, but I haven't paid for Linux since then. I've downloaded Debian and RedHat distributions ever since.
  • One of the things that the pro Microsoft camp at the UofM here likes to claim is that the administrative costs for Unix/Linux is higher than for Windows NT/2000. They also like to claim that one can administer a Windows based server with less knowledge than a comprable Linux/Unix server. Both claims are false. Admin costs for running a Linux web server are basically those of hardware and manpower. Which means that you miss the licensing fees of the various Microsoft servers. I dunno what that's up to these days. The other problem you run into with MS products is falling victim to security bug of the day which may cost you dearly. The linux community is a lot more forthcoming about these things. In so far as books go, I have picked up Linux Unleashed, and this really cool Penguin computing Linux book and those are the only two I've needed. Meanwhile three books on NT later and I still had no idea what I was doing. And that brings me to the learning curve part. Windows can get a novice off to a quicker start because the can kind of stumble around the graphical user interface and start to do things pretty quick, but that's a long way from being able to administer a network connected server. In order to run a windows server, you need to understand the registry, TCP/IP, Netware, process control, security, and well, all the other things you'd have with any server. Meanwhile with Unix/Linux you don't have to deal with the registry. Yee haw! So, yeah you have to memorize obscure command line syntax to run linux, but almost everything works, the registry doesn't self destruct every six months, the documentation matches reality, and you don't have to reboot every few days.

  • when you get it with a machine.

    Linux is purchased as a donation.

    The difference may be too subtle for some to grasp I guess.

  • Here is how one should really look at it. How much money do you spend on something you really like? I'll use music as an example. I will ALWAYS buy CD's by certain groups, but NEVER by others. If I care about something enough, I will spend the money for it. If you only like one-third of something, I doubt you're going to go out and purchase it. If you are worried about legality, you will do what you have to.

  • Well, I've used several versions of RedHat (hurricane to zoot), Debian Potato and Woody, assorted Slackware distros, and tomsftbt (floppy distro). I've also got a mostly working scratchbuilt linux installation. The grand total I've spent on this software: zero.

    Well, assuming you don't count the $0.50 per CD-R and the cost of downloading the ISOs.

    I've spent about $500 on Microsoft software (Windows NT and Office), but I got much less use out of it than any one of those Linux distros. When I bought NT 4.0, it was very broken and had poor driver support - as a result, it wasn't really practical to use with my hardware for about a year. After a year, the driver support got better and the service packs caught up with the really bad bugs, and about a year of real usefullness followed. After about a year, NT 4.0 started to look really shabby next to Linux, so I stopped using it. After that experience, I'm never going to buy proprietary software again if I can help it. $500 for a year's usefullness is a ripoff.


  • by AlphaOne ( 209575 ) on Thursday August 02, 2001 @02:06PM (#2175390)
    Why is it people think that Windows is free because it was already loaded on a PC?

    Windows isn't free. The PC manufacturer paid something for it and passed that cost, plus a markup, onto you. Granted, it's far less than what you'd pay in a store, but there is a real cost associated with it.

    So, let's say that a PC manufacturer pays about $100 for a Windows 2000 license on a new PC.

    Each Linux distro costs about $39 for the plain installation. So, you can buy almost three copies of a distribution before you're paying more than you did for Windows.

    They key point you're missing here is that you don't have to pay for the distro. Most of them can be had for only what it costs you to download the boot images and the various packages the installer retrieves. Or, if you're a real purist, you can download the entire ISO instead.

    Windows has never been free.
  • by mami ( 209922 ) on Thursday August 02, 2001 @02:46PM (#2175393)
    My retarded half brain bought the boxed distros in the beginning, because I was too retarded to download all the stuff over a stupid modem.

    Later my retarded brain became so sophisticated that I bought the boxed distros for the accompanying documentation to see which distro cares more about their customer's fullblown retarded brains.

    Who would try to use the opportunity to write good handbooks for their distros so that potential clients would finally get cured from their retardism and be ever so grateful to become loyal supporters of open/free software ? That was THE
    question which my heart desired to get an answer to.

    Now I am cured and have a big, mellow heart. That's why I am still buying every disto I want to try out in a boxed version from my neighborhood computer store. I just fell in love with the idea that people work to keep the source code open and I think they deserve my support.

    Actually I am proud to be a retarded supporters of companies, who support free/open source software and am quite willing to invest my couple of pennies in them.

    If just the geeks would be as retarded as I am, the world of /. would be a much nicer place to live in.

  • I know I spent a ton on books for Linux. Not counting COM - I can't really think of any Windows books I've purchased.
  • I can speak from experience. Sometimes we are caught off guard, and need a Linux distro on a machine with out network access, and didnt come prepared with the CD pack of various CD's (Find me a sysadmin that DOESNT have a cd pack of several free OS's and sunsite archives). I have found it quicker and easier to run into a best buy and get it there. So I alone have bought 2 boxxed sets before because of this, And I'm sure I'm not alone.

    If it's a company you believe in, there's nothing wrong with buying the product that keeps them afloat.

    Linux: Because a PC is a terrible thing to waste.

  • A couple of weeks after Mandrake Gnu/Linux 8.0 was released I left my Puter on non stop for around 6 days to get the two ISO's over a 56k dial up I got droppped a couple of times but whenever that happened I just resumed the download. I think I took a break for about a day between the first ISO and the second becasue we were expecting an incoming call and didn't have a second line. So it is possible
  • by janpod66 ( 323734 ) on Thursday August 02, 2001 @08:26PM (#2175492)
    Packages in Debian "stable" are generally months older than the latest released version of the software. That means they don't include many bug fixes, configuration file changes, etc. If you are living in an environment where you collaborate with other people, you need to be roughly at the same version numbers. And non-Debian systems are much further ahead than Debian "stable".

    O'CAML, for example, is still at version 2.x in Debian stable, while the current version is 3.01. When everybody else in the world is using 3.01, it doesn't matter how "stable" the version is that comes with Debian "stable", it is still useless. And there is nothing "unstable" about O'CAML 3.01.

    Mozilla in "stable" is at M-18, far behind the current version of Mozilla; in fact M-18 is far less stable than any of the more recent Mozilla releases. And the configuration files have changed between M-18 and recent Mozilla releases, meaning that people cannot share them.

    You get the idea, I hope. There are many more examples.

    Keep in mind that most of the software that goes into Debian unstable has received extensive testing by its authors and that Debian isn't responsible for non-packaging related problems. There is little reason for Debian "stable" to be far behind Debian "unstable". I don't pretend to know what Debian should do, but I do know that it is pointless for Debian maintainers to recommend to users to just use "testing" or "stable".

  • by s20451 ( 410424 ) on Thursday August 02, 2001 @02:13PM (#2175500) Journal

    Linux, by definition, can't be pirated, and I have spent essentially $0 on Linux. However, I know plenty of people who install Windows with all its bells and whistles, including Office, etc., who also spend $0. Of course these people aren't doint it legally.

    I will reiterate a previously raised point ... MS's decision to crack down on piracy opens a window for Linux, since these people will be looking for a new free (as in beer) OS.

"If you lived today as if it were your last, you'd buy up a box of rockets and fire them all off, wouldn't you?" -- Garrison Keillor