Home > coding, linux > “Why do I have to pay for Redhat if it is ‘Free Software’?”

“Why do I have to pay for Redhat if it is ‘Free Software’?”

Unfortunately but quite naturally, there are many many people who are surprised when they first learn that “Free Software” is not necessarily available as a free-of-charge download in immediately usable (i.e. compiled binary) form.

“Free” is an ambiguous word in the English language: Free like “free beer” (= gratis, free of charge) versus free like “Free Speech” (= libre, based on guaranteed freedoms, liberties).

This ambiguity is an old problem of the term “Free Software” – first coined by the “Free Software Foundation” (FSF) in the 1980s – and was actually one factor that motivated the foundation of the “Open Source Initiative” (OSI) and its official definition of “Open Source”.

Both definitions use the same criteria and are essentially different names for the same category of software. To acknowledge and peacefully combine both of these naming conventions some people also speak of “Free/Libre Open Source Software” (FLOSS).

The Redhat Linux distribution is Free/Libre Open Source Software. The source code is licensed under the GPL and similar Open Source licenses and can be downloaded from Redhat’s ftp server. The binaries are not available as gratis download, which is perfectly in line with FLOSS rules.

For almost every IT professional these days, it is very beneficial to understand what “Free/Libre Open Source Software” (FLOSS) is. It might seem like a complex and dry subject at first, especially when some business folks confuse things further by using the vague term “Intellectual Property” for everything from copyright, trademarks, patents to license agreements, etc.

Categories: coding, linux Tags: ,
  1. February 12, 2014 at 16:36

    Redhat does have a totally free distribution. They call it Fedora.

  2. February 12, 2014 at 20:23

    Don, I know that. The title of my post is in quotation marks because I am quoting a common question from my coworkers that I usually respnd to by explaining the suble semantics of “Free Software”, “Open Source” and “FLOSS”.

    To your point: Fedora is not Redhat. Fedora is like Redhat’s beta test-bed.

  3. February 12, 2014 at 21:11

    I was sure you knew that but I wanted to make sure it got mentioned somewhere. Fedora is ” a Red Hat, Inc. sponsored and community-supported open source collaboration” to use their words.

    I started using Linux with a distribution called Yggdrasil. Their last version was released in 1995 so that helps explain how long I’ve been a Linux geek.

    I currently use Mint as I find it’s the nicest collection of almost ready for prime time programs and packages.

  4. February 12, 2014 at 22:26

    I recommended Linux Mint DE to my wife’s dad and he liked it. He is a bit of an OS nut who runs triple-boot Hackintosh machines with Windows, MacOS and Linux as well as various Parallels VMs just for the heck of it. :o).

  5. February 12, 2014 at 22:28

    Redhat also closely collaborates with the CentOS community / distribution, which is source-identical with Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). See their recent announcement: http://www.redhat.com/about/news/press-archive/2014/1/red-hat-and-centos-join-forces

  6. February 12, 2014 at 23:08

    Some guys I know always used to use CentOS for their servers. I tried it but wasn’t impressed. I did run Fedora for about a year and was happy with it for a while and then went to Ubuntu for a short time before switching to Mint a few years ago.

  7. February 14, 2014 at 09:28

    Speaking of keeping distro names clear, it’s probably best to stick with calling it LMDE or Mint – LMDE instead of “Debian Mint” (making it seem like an official Debian project, which it isn’t). On the Debian support channels we regularly have to redirect LMDE users back to Mint support channels because a certain percentage of users are confused.

    • February 15, 2014 at 08:31

      I just fixed the misnomer in my previous comment. Thanks for pointing it out.

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