I’ve been using Linux/UNIX for about 20 years. I am also Assistant Director of the Boston Linux and UNIX Group, and have contributed to several open source products. In general, I find open source software more flexible, more transparent (no security through obscurity), and more focused on what’s needed instead of what marketing says would be cool. I like that open source software is usually developed modularly, with separate components each doing what they do well, each designed to be combined with other component, each with its inputs and outputs documented for fitting Tab A into Slot B. Open source’s community support model (with a sufficiently large community) is often far superior to calling tech support. All that said, I still believe very strongly in “the right tool for the job”. Sometimes open source is not the answer.
Just like commercial software, it’s important to evaluate not only how well the software suits your need, but the “health” of the product and its creators. Just because it’s still available doesn’t mean it’s still supported, updated, and in common use. That may not be a deal-breaker for you, but it does need to be factored in to the decision.
Those who know me will back me up on this; I evaluate things fairly. You will never hear me say $FOO is clearly superior than anything else, and there’s no reason for anyone to use anything else. That includes Linux and Linux distros. I calls them as I sees them, and I do not feel that Linux is always better in every situation for every user, nor is one distribution/brand of Linux clearly the best for all situations. And I’ve been using Linux since Red Hat 4.2 in 1997 (I still have the disks).
I recently installed Ubuntu Karmic (9.10), waiting a few months after release as I usually do so the major bugs are already fixed, and ran into many more problems than I expected. I find this unfortunate, because one of the main reasons I switched from Fedora to Ubuntu is no longer valid. Some of this post is about this release, and some is about the state of Linux in general.
Red Hat (RHAT) is to be included in the Standard and Poor’s 500 Index next week!!! That’s just so cool. While I switched to Ubuntu a while ago myself, Red Hat is a great company with great products, and they contribute very heavily to the Linux kernel, drivers, and software.