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Who Uses Linux, Free Software and Open Source?

Various governments are now sufficiently heavy users that it would be difficult, more expensive, less stable or less secure for them to switch to anything else.

Cuba uses it as a question of sovereignty. They don't want the CIA to be able to command that Microsoft inserts a back door into windows without telling anyone, thus potentially leaving their secrets open to casual perusal by a foreign power. Whilst this isn't likely, it is not without a valid set of reasoning, and by choosing something open they can check that this has not been done. A lot of Latin American governments have the same concerns.

Another reason that governments at all levels migrate is cost. Some developing countries have a massive install base of unlicensed software. As international agreements try and get them to crack down on the enforcement of intellectual property laws, some of them face licensing liabilities for government use that exceeds their entire national income.

As they can't pay more money per year than the entire country (as opposed to just the government) makes that year, some of them mandate looking at open source software in preference to proprietary software where possible.

Because of the potential lost revenue to old vested interests, this has lead the IIPA to submit a request to place all countries with such a requirement on the USA's Naughty Countries list, despite the fact that one of the biggest users is in fact the USA. Open Source for America found it ludicrously easy to Refute IIPA's Attack on Open Source Software.

In fact, if the government of the USA were to ban its use by the military, most of the Navy and the Submariners couldn't leave port, and lots of the intelligence services would basically have to close for many months while they looked for something vastly inferior which could still do most of the job.

Be it the entire government in Cuba or in Malta, or the devolved region of Extremadura in Spain, or the city government of Munich in Germany, governments at all levels find it helps stretch tight budgets leaving them more of the taxes collected to actually provide services and helps keep taxes down.

Is it just governments?

No, companies use it as well. When Disney moved to Linux, it let them take expensive proprietary workstations that cost 35,000 dollars per seat, and replace them with cheaper high end PC's, meaning that every artist now had the same capabilities that the head designer had just 5 years earlier. As if that wasn't good enough, independently another bunch of Linux users at NASA developed Beowulf clusters. This opened the door to cheap supercomputers, which is why we have all these CGI films like Shrek.

(Ernie ball, said never again after a business software alliance swoop dragged his name through the mud for not wiping a few copies of unused applications from hand-me-down pc's, with no chance to become compliant.) see Article on cnet.com

Google dumped windows over security, and here is a detailed rationale for exactly why.

A doctor was doing a remote diagnosis via webcam and secure website, when a Windows Stealth reboot caused potentially life threatening delay. Windows spotted that there were Updates available, which needed a reboot to complete. Despite telling the computer not to do it right now, it rebooted anyway, costing 15 minutes delay which could have been critical in getting the patient the right treatment to save their life. Given that there have been Windows updates which have crashed machines requiring a wipe and reinstall, this is unforgivable.

Any company that has a major website, or needs lots of data processing (like Google, the New York and London Stock Exchanges and various banks) all are likely to be relying on Linux or BSD Unix to provide major infrastructure components. If you are not already using it at work, start expecting to in the next few years.

Even when Windows is required at work, a lot of techies say that whilst they might have to use it at work, they use Linux at home. Actually it is even worse than that, as according to this article on wired.com, a lot of staff are bringing their Apple tablets and laptops to work, as their windows machines are not letting them get their work done. As Apple's operating system is based on the darwin BSD kernel, which is open source, anyone using it is using open source.

It's not just companies that use Linux, charities as well. For example Alone in London set up a 30 machine network for less than 70 pounds per seat.

Action Aid looked to Linux to protect their email from viruses.

Even if you don't select Linux for your home computing, you probably already have used it and have not realised it. Here are a few examples:

  1. On an aircraft: - you probably watched the in-flight movies on an embedded Linux system
  2. When you accessed the internet: - the adsl wifi router probably had an embedded copy of Linux running the web management application.
  3. When you watched TV: - Believe it or not TV's have now got complex enough that they contain management computers, which often run an embedded version of Linux.
  4. When you last looked something up on Google: - almost all of the back office stuff which is used to generate the results of your queries are run on Linux.
  5. When you last used a website: - most likely it ran on a Linux server. most of them do.
  6. When you used your mobile phone - most people use an iphone or an android phone which is based on open source.
  7. When you read an ebook on your tablet or ebook reader - most have open source in there somewhere.
  8. When you use the windows data recovery disc provided by your antivirus company - most are customised linux distributions.
and many others use it quietly in the background.

There are many other examples that I could give as well.