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I haven't used Linux before, and I have a question about the distros sold in stores, like Red Hat and Mandrake : is their source code available to download free? If so, are they free for personal use? Are they GPL software? Thanks.
You can easily download most distros for free. The free versions of some of the commercial distros just leave out the non-free stuff that can't be distributed due to licensing issues.
Personally I only use free (as in speech) software but that's a decision each has to make for themselves. You'll find that most Linux related software is distributed under the GPL and includes source code or makes the source code easily obtainable as that's the whole point of the Open Source community. You will also find that some software is only available as source and you compile it yourself.
So, find a distro that sounds interesting to you and dive on in, the water's great!
Companies like RedHat, Mandrake, and Novell make their money because their customers pay for support. When you buy the distro from them you're basically purchasing the support.
I should also mention that you will find that there are non-commercial distros out there that aren't in it for the money at all. Noteably, Debian is a good example. Debian isn't an actual company at all in the true commercial sense, but is instead a world-wide community project. That's true open source community which is what Linux IMHO is all about.
There are others and they depend in large part on contributions from users. I've been known to send in contributions and/or purchase CDs from some of the ones I like to help support their work and I encourage other Linux users to do like-wise. If you find a nice free non-commercial distro that you really like and use, it's a good idea to help support them to keep the project going.
I try to stay away from the distro's that have commericail enterprise versions unless your going to buy the enterprise version of course.
The free free one's they hand out are beta testing for their enterprise version. Of course they don't call it this but it is what it is. They include way to many packages that havn't been well tested yet and others are straight out beta's. Stability is questionable.
Also they have a tendency to turn everything on by default. I guess in an attemp to work out the bugs for their enterprise versions.
Slackware, arch, debian, gentoo, etc. Good
I tried them all and this is my two cents. I'm sure some people will disagree with me though.
Originally posted by Knoppix knewbie Thanks for answering. So how do companies like Red Hat make any money? Do you only pay if you are a business? Also, what are some of the popular programs that aren't in the free versions?
they are required to distribute the source, because they are redistributing code licensed under the GPL. you can read all about it here: http://www.gnu.org/