Chris Wiegman Chris Wiegman

5 Reasons Why Free Software Can’t Replace Everything

I’ve been a fan of free and/or open-source software for some time, however I’ve just never been truly able to move to an all open-source platform. I’ve tried Ubuntu, OpenSuse, and various other Linux distributions as well as putting all free and/or Open-source software on a Windows system and every time I wind up with my tried and true Windows software. Although there are probably 100 or more little reasons for this, I can sum it up in 5 reasons.

1.) Many of my peripherals and other hardware just won’t work on the free operating systems. Whether it’s the audio or a scanner or something else the only way I can ever get everything to work at once is by applying some rather complex band-aids which, although they support the basic features of the hardware, never seem to support all the features I need.

2.) Too many updates! Some people complain about the frequency of Microsoft’s or Adobe’s updates, but they’ve got nothing on the daily downloads I need to keep my Linux OS and its software secure. On top of it, many times the updates modify the feature-set which can really add to the frustration level when the button you press doesn’t do what you expect it to.

3.) When I do find a software I like it often isn’t long until it gets cancelled. I can’t count the number of apps I’ve grown to rely on only to have them cancelled a few months later as the developer(s) just don’t have the time or money to support them anymore. Of course this happens in the commercial world too (just ask anybody who really liked Wordperfect) it is far more prevalent and can be far more annoying with OSS.

4.) While community forums can help with some support, they just can’t take the place of dedicated customer service people. I don’t use support services too often, but when I do I want to be certain that the person I’m talking to knows what they’re talking about.

5.) A lot of software packages just don’t play nice with each other. Firefox (as an example) is great, but it just doesn’t integrate as well as IE. This is true with office suites, IDEs and so many other applications. When your computer is composed of software from primarily one or two companies you know it will all get along far better than apps from all over the place. I’ve had more than one instance where the cool new app I found for one thing killed the functionality of something else. More often than not these problems often aren’t even evident for some time after you installed the new application which can make troubleshooting a lot more difficult.

In a nutshell, free/open-source software is good in doses, but to use it exclusively and disregard the commercial alternatives more often than not just isn’t worth the cost of both convenience and time.