The free software revolution has changed the way many users think of software and of their computers. Programs for every task, even entire operating systems, are available for free off the Internet. But can there really be any such thing as a free lunch? Or has the free software movement finally disproved that oldest of adages?Many free software packages are indeed perfectly suited for their task. Some are better than many commercial alternatives. I sit here typing this article on a PC running the free Open Office suite under Fedora Linux, which is also free. However, there are certainly disadvantages to using free software.
For a start, there is not free software available for every task that commercial software provides for. The wide range of commercial software means that you can find software that suits your every need, only that you will have to pay for it. But, especially in business, it turns out that the software will very quickly pay for itself in aiding in productivity and in ease of use. At home, commercial software is still the software of choice for more or less all tasks.
On top of this, businesses will probably be using the commercial software packages. That means that if you cannot use the commercial software, then the business will choose someone who is more familiar with it over you. There are many reasons for businesses to choose commercially produced software.
Firstly, commercial software is something you can rely upon. You know that there will probably be a dedicated technical support base out there if you need help on an issue. Commercial software will probably also come with a guarantee of quality you can be sure that the software will do what it says on the box and will also probably avoid damaging your system. With most free software, there is no such guarantee of quality. The software may also contain dangerous malware, which will
It is not the large, well known free software packages that are the problem in this case. Open Office and the Linux kernel have been supported, updated, and proven to work, and indeed still are. Those are just too examples out of many for the success of free software. However, the vast majority of small freeware applications have no such successes, and as a result should not be relied upon to perform critical tasks. Using untested software on a system can bring dangerous effects.
In short, though free software can bring massive advantages, it can also bring massive deficits. In each situation, you need to weigh the benefits of any available free software against a commercial package. Indeed, there are many situations for which only a free piece of software exists. In short, though free lunches are indeed becoming more available through the Internet, you need to check to make sure that they are properly cooked.