Open Ballot: Would you pay for Linux?


Depending on how you pay for it, you'll probably have to part with at least fifty quid for Windows 8, and double (or more) for OS X, and they come with almost no software compared to the average Linux distribution. Yet almost all Linux distributions are free as in zero-cost.

This fortnight we've got a simple question for you: would you (or indeed, do you) pay for Linux?

As we all know, Linux is free software, but free-as-in-speech software doesn't have to be free-as-in-beer.

As a paying customer you could expect more say in how the distro was developed. At the very least, you could take your business elsewhere if a distro started heading down a path you didn't like. Perhaps a distro is building a display server named after a space hotel that the financier once stayed in, and you think that their effort could be better spent working on an almost-finished cross-distro solution. Or maybe the developers are working on the third iteration of a desktop environment named after garden ornaments and you feel that it would be more prudent not to wantonly delete useful features. You can of course switch to a different distro as it is, but with less users not currently making much difference to a company's profit, they may not worry too much about loosing a few.

The money raised could be used to pay developers to work on the problems that users want fixed, rather than the problems of businesses or benevolent dictator's pet projects.

Of course, introducing money doesn't magically solve all problems. The cost may put people off trying new distros, especially lesser known ones. Maybe cash would destroy the sense of community that builds up around Linux.

Let us know what you think in the comments and we'll read them out in our upcoming podcast.

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Your comments

people pay for games.. why not pay for a stable secure platform to play those games on?

I would happily pay an annual sub to somebody to keep on working on my distro of choice but how would that work?

I happily pay for you guys to produce the magazine, don't I?


I have often bought CDs from providers, I've yet to use the new Ubuntu donate page, but I've bought merch from the store. I think it's good to support the providers. I think Ubuntu really has something with Unity and their plan over all devices and if I have to pay for that I don't mind doing so because I think it's possibly the best user interface I've ever used, it fits my needs and workflow and I feel like that is worth paying for.

Pay for OSS?! No way.

There is absolutely no way I would pay for something that is open source. That's not to say I wouldn't pay for a rebuilt binary or for support though.

Yes and do. I've donated to

Yes and do.

I've donated to AVLinux when I was using that and I subscribe to ardour. I really like the ardour model of pay a one off for the package or subscribe to access support and all future updates and upgrades. This model also highlights a major problem with proprietary software which is that you pay for something which becomes outdated. Part of the reason I switched to open source was because of the cost of upgrading my cubasesx based studio.

The main reason I don't donate more is because I forget - we need more prompting. If there was a big "donate by subscribing" button next time I download one of the distros I use day in day out I would almost certainly go for it.

i do ... now.

I had bought some media back in the mid nineties. Since having a decent internet connection and reliable mirrors, I don't bother with that anymore.

However, in recent years, I have become a member of the Linux Foundation. I gladly donate for all that has been done to let me have available to me a free operating system. One that continues to let me do anything I can imagine.

On a distro level, I try to help via bug reports and workarounds for the community.

I already do

I pay approximately £30 on each release of slackware which is typically every 18 months. I see that as a bargain and wouldn't mind paying £100 per release. Of course, I don't have to pay anything, but I want to support Patrick Volkerding to continue producing what I find to be a very useful and stable distro both for work and play.

Paying for Linux

It wouldn't be a problem for me to pay for a Linux distro (which would be Debian in my world) but I think it will not be easy, considering the distros being open source.

No, I don´t thinks that's the way.

Let Linux be the wild OS the evolve like a living organism. It will find its way.

And don't worry about fragmentation, good code will kill the bad code. Like in nature, the most capable code will survive.

However, I am not saying that I'm not available to contribute with money to some project, I am (I've done it and plan to do it in the future).

Have done in the past

I have donated money to Mandriva and I did purchase SuSE from a well known UK PC chain. In the first case I wanted to support the distro and in the second case, I wanted the printed manual.

I will donate money again at the next upgrade (to whatever distro I chose). I'm a distro tart!

Already have

Bought Mandrake from the local PC World circa 1997. A year or two later I bought Suse from Amazon.

Never have since broadband made downloading free iso files from the interweb. It would certainly be worth paying for if that option wasn't available though.

Yes, if I don't have to.

No, I wouldn't pay for linux if I had to.
But I would pay if I didn't had to.

If it's my choice then I will be more willing to do it than if I'm obliged. Call me a rebel...

For example, the Humble bundle. I can get all those games for nothing and I always pay over the linux average price. If they had a set price of exactly the same amount I paid for them I would not have bought them!

Ridiculous but true! :)

No problemo

I think that most users who consciously installed Linux on their computer have donated at least once to their respective GNU/Linux distribution of choice. So from those users' side there won't be a problem, because they have always seen GNU/Linux free as in speech and free as in beer was always a convenient added bonus. Distrohopping wouldn't necessarily come to an abrupt end, nor the life or innovation of new smaller distributions, they would just be cheaper than the company backed ones.

I don't think it will necessarily make the barrier to entry higher, because if you would want something else you would always have to buy something, be it new hardware with GNU/Linux pre-installed (or something else which we shall not name) or new software. There should be some kind of mechanism to try it out before you bought it though, because you will get a lot of upset customers if you paid for something and later have to find out that your wireless doesn't work.

Making people pay for a distribution doesn't really solve the problem of projects changing direction when their respective leader concocts a new brilliant idea every time he sits on the loo. Because benevolent dictators do whatever benevolent dictators want to do, regardless of what people or their money demand. The only difference would be that the public outcry would be (even) louder than it is now.

I would wonder though how this monetary influx would be divided amongst all the different projects that would make up the distribution and all the software that would be available in the repositories. Would everyone get a share and yours would be calculated depending on how much percent of the install base would have your programme or package installed or would the revenue only be distributed to the projects which are on the install CD/DVD/iso? If you would opt for the former, than it would be a nudge for people to make their software available on your distribution.

A negative side effect may be that the community might become less involved if they are not aware that they have bought the right to own the software and four software freedoms and not so much a complete and finished product with a warranty and service contract.

Yes and No

I would donate to a project such as the Sonar Project. Although I do not use Sonar Linux I believe it makes a difference.
As far as distros I use, I do not pay cash for them but I contribute to open source projects. Bug fixes and documentation are my way of paying for the distro.


The red hat model clearly works, have you seen their profits lately?
In terms of linux, I would happily pay for professional support if offered.

The true cost is not printed on the price tag…

> “Depending on how you pay for it, you'll probably have to part with at least fifty quid for Windows 8, and double (or more) for OS X, and they come with almost no software compared to the average Linux distribution. Yet almost all Linux distributions are free as in zero-cost.”—TuxRadar, April 2013

Mac OS X comes bundled with Apple computers. The current version (at April 2013) is Mac OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion).

The upgrade cost from the previous version (Mac OS X 10.7 – Lion) to Mac OS X 10.8 – Mountain Lion was £13.99. The upgrade cost from Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) to 10.7 was £19.99. If I recall correctly, the upgrade cost from Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) to 10.6 (Snow Leopard) was ~£30.

Therefore, I would argue that the cost of MAC OS X is £0, however the cost of a _new_ computer with Mac OS X starts from £499 (Mac Mini), or laptop £849. Last year I gifted my sister a 2006 MacBook for ~£200, and she loves it.

I have been running the same laptop (2008 13-inch MacBook 5,1) since Autumn 2008. I upgraded the RAM to 4GB (~£40), and put a 250Gb SSD (~£150) in it. The battery capacity is still 73% vs. design. It connects up to a 27-inch display (Apple Cinema Display). It is capable of running any(?) Linux program, FOSS or otherwise, and has the added bonus of running paid software such as Pages, Numbers, Keynote (an inexpensive £13.99 each). It has been stable, and robust even under duress throughout it’s life, and hasn’t required any fiddling to work (though I have tinkered under the hood, I reckon I know just enough to cause myself trouble in this regard.)

Some benefits of running Mac OS X over a Linux distribution:

1. Mac OS X is stable and functional, with free and paid applications that work really well.
2. Mac OS X can run everything that a GNU/Linux distribution, either nativelt, in a virtual environment, or by dual-booting into a Linux distribution with Apple hardware.
3. Well designed and constructed hardware.
4. Smugness related to having the best design. (Yuppies? Neckbeards? Hipsters? Artists? Designers?)

Some benefits of running a Linux distribution, rather than Mac OS X:
1. It is free (usually).
2. You can run it on less expensive than Apple hardware.
3. Smugness related to freeness and open-sourceness. (Hippies? Philosophers? Neckbeards?)

I think paying for things changes the relationship. The motivation to contribute to the community for free is one of play. If the people contributing their time and effort to the community were doing so for free, to enhance a paid piece of software, the motivation is gone. Free-as-in-speech software has to be free-as-in-beer if you expect unpaid volunteers to contribute, surely?

Reconciling giving away your copyright and intellectual property rights to a charity or NPO versus a corporation or commercial for-profit enterprise are very different propositions.

“By the people, for the people” is a world apart from “by paid employees, for the corporation”.

XP was good value

I bought WinXP in 2001 and am still using it, albeit virtually. What good value that distro was. If we paid a cost-reflective price for Linux distros, I'd expect Ubuntu to be one of the cheapest as its costs would be spread over a wide user base. Mint and others would be able to piggy-back on that in keeping their costs down. If Ubuntu/Mint were to charge £100 for 13 years' support, I wouldn't argue with that.




I would pay more for a laptop guaranteed to work flawlessly with free software. I would pay for avoiding proprietary crappy BIOS and UEFI implementations. BTW I have donated to Debian.

Why not ?

As a long time SuSE (Suse suse etc) user since SuSE 7
(from your coverdisk), I started buying distros with
SuSE 8 professional. It is only fair to pay for the service of putting distros together and for "working out of the box".
Although the main reason for doing so were the binary
graphics drivers for SuSe and Mandriva.
Since nowadays I donate for distros I use, I would't mind
paying a reasonable amount.

I would happily if it came pre-installed

I would happily pay a fee if it came pre-installed.

I hate that I HAVE too pay for windows when buying new hardware.

I would rather pay for linux or more like paying for a couple of months of support (that would be even better if the PC/Laptop is not for me... family and IT support don't mix well, at least in my case).

I don't pay. Ever.

I don't pay for software. However if I won the lottery, I have Mint and KDE in mind to donate to.

If everyone did pay for Linux, however, I would expect Gnome 3 would either never have happened or been give a lukewarm reception. Unity would probably be dead (good riddance) because no-one would have paid for it. Very few people wanted it or Gnome 3. Or KDE 4 for that matter.

Ok, lets face it, if money drove Linux development, there would be pretty much no real movement on new software.

Thank (non-existant deity of choice) that this isn't the case.

...whatever it's licking, is here to stay or gone for good....

I pay $20 per annum to my distro of choice to help pay for bandwidth. But I'd be more than happy to pay that for a licence.

Who wouldn't pay for something that 'just works' doesn't need constant maintenance, Anti-virus and all that dross... I got 7 machines in my house, I haven't got the time to try and keep windows running on all those!

...and why is there a picture of a fish on those yellow Danger: Wet Floor signs? it's not that wet surely?

Probably now....

Modern distros are almost certainly worth paying for, but would they have reached this level if we'd had to pay for them from the start? It's one of those things that's now hard to bring in retrospectively, if you had to pay for Ubuntu, what guarantee that the 'benevolent' dictator wouldn't use the money to pursue his own vanity projects anyway?!?!?

Yes and no.

I have paid for Linux. Way back when I took my first tentative, wobbly steps on the Linux trail I shelled out for the boxed version of SUSE. I thought the manual would help. It didn't, much, which is no doubt my problem but it did at least lead to my epiphany - that Linux is a journey of discovery etc etc, and it doesn't need funding. (See my upcoming book 'Zen and the Art of Linux Audio Maintenance').

On the other hand I have made direct contributions to app developers who, single-handedly, have made my life easier. In particular a big chapeau to Derek Allard who created Bamboo Invoice. You ought to feature it by the way.


Like many others I've paid for Linux on physical media-through-the-post years ago. Though of course in that instance we're paying for distribution rather than for Linux itself. I paid a small sum for the convenience of not having to download Debian on 56k or whatever.

Producing a paid-for domestic edition of Linux might actually raise its profile a little bit. People often tend to think you get what you pay for and, as such, Linux is the cheap (free) alternative for those who can't afford the real deal. People are not used to living in a world where free stuff is any good. So yes, perhaps a price tag (and I'm only talking about attracting new, non-technical users here) might act as a seal of quality.

Of course if such a disto were made, many people would pirate it. And rather than downloading something for free they'd feel like they were getting something with real monetary value for free. Which is kinda interesting in itself. Maybe the pricetag should just be a trick to get people to pirate it and feel that they were getting something of value for free.

Having said that, I would not like to see Linux head in that direction generally. The free-of-cost nature is of course a huge advantage over the alternatives and is also, I feel, fundamental and important to free software culture.

In many ways we already do pay for Linux. When you buy a router ora Kindle or a NAS or TV or whatever with embedded Linux on it, part of what you pay goes towards the work that company did to customise Linux to that task (which may benefit Linux as a whole if modifications find their way upstream or if we consider anonymous ubiquity a victory). We pay for Android by using Google services and looking at their Ads. I'm not sure these indirect forms of payment have any relevance to the desktop, though Canonical are obviously exploring those avenues.

On the whole, yes I'd be willing to pay but I'd have to feel that the money was going to the right places (back into design/development, not lining corporate pockets) and feel that I was getting something for my money - a reason to choose this paid version rather than the countless free-of-charge distros.

It depends on what I'm paying for

I might consider paying for a distro either directly or in the form of a donation, if and only if it were completely my property, and released as open source under a Free Software License.

I would never pay for a distro which required a EULA.

Choice is still the way forward

I like the Canonical approach, the OS is free but you can choose to donate or to buy services. I'll donate on Thursday when I download and I'll continue to subscribe to Ubuntu one.

I won't pay for another copy of Windows so long as I have a choice; the cost of the OS is offensive, it provides poor value for money, it's forced upon us through shady OEM deals and their patent threats are deplorable. It galls me to know that they're sucking $5 per handset from some manufacturers for Android.

Anyways, back to the point - if you're using something and want to see it continue why not contribute if you have the funds?

Paying for more

I don't agree with those who say you can't buy open source - to those I say, why pay more (or anything at all) for less (i.e. proprietary software with no source code).

Personally, I think linux distros are superior to windows/macOS, so would personally pay more for it. But I agree that it's difficult to implement.

I don't think paying for it is the question

I have no problem with paying for a distribution. The problem to me seems that it is how the monies are distributed; particularly among the programmers who contribute their time to the advancements of the distribution.

Having companies, who input larger amounts of money, having a decision into the future path an operation system takes may not be the best route for home users. Or, impedes the diverse flare of programmers ideas.

We already have a way to ask for new ideas or fixes, but a paid for service, or collective paid for service, could be a good business idea. Though the benefits would more than likely be used by, and be in the interest of, business users.

Some of the distributions actually want server space and bandwidth rather than finance, to bring the fruits of there work to the public. Currently CentOS is in a similar situation.

If we had to pay for Linux, I would like a percentage going towards the base of Linux, example the kernel. With the rest of the money being a user choice as to how the rest is split among the components that make up the distribution. This method can then be used to produce statics on what is popular among the users.

Also I'm Yorkshire so I am tighter than a chav with their last bottle of Frosty Jack.



I don't think people are saying one can't buy open source so much as it's a very difficult thing to *sell*. Since (assuming GPL) there's nothing to stop someone else giving away for free the thing that you're selling.

People buy RHEL, being fully aware of the existence of CentOS and Scientific Linux etc., because they value the service they get on top of the product. I think this is a difficult approach to transfer to a domestic environment since home users are less willing to pay a support contract/similar.

Paying for FLOSS

Yes, I have paid for official Ubuntu discs (to spread the word) and also bought merchandise from their store. I have donated to Linux Mint, Openshot, KDE and DVD Styler projects (and probably some others I can't remember).

I make a very important distinction: Donating money into Linux distributions or FLOSS projects I personally use isn't an endorsement of commercial software models, but rather selfishly, a direction of cash directly into projects or organisations whose work directly benefits me.

I used to pay for Windows and also software that I needed. FLOSS projects are infinitely cheaper in comparison to obtain (since they are free to download), but in appreciation of the work put into the software, but more so the additional running costs of software development (such as maintaining a server or website domain address) I am happy to give a little to get a lot back.

until I looked at the bank

until I looked at the bank draft which had said $7303, I accept that my brother was like really making money part time from there pretty old laptop.. there uncles cousin had bean doing this for only 21 months and resantly cleared the morgage on there villa and bought Mazda MX-5. we looked here, All29.comCHECK IT OUT

Of course!

I would willingly sell me house and all my possessions to help my distro of choice!

I dare the Linux Format crew to do the same!

Killer keys

The thing that killed Windows for me was, when installing a system (which happened quite a few times thanks to our accident-prone teenager), I was required to enter what seemed like an endless number of 25-digit product code keys. I'd be happy to pay for Linux software as long as no keys are required. Otherwise I might just as well be using Windows.

Already do in a way

Ever since switching to Linux I've done a lot less pirating and a lot more donating(to distros and projects alike). I think the system we have going works for Linux (and humble bundle, kickstarter projects, etc.); no DRM and a possibly modest fee if any at all

I look forward to donating to Linux Mint again in the near future come next release.

Would I pay for Linux

Yes if it was a reasonable price. But what that price would be I don't know

You don't pay for keys in a world without locks, doors or walls

You wrote: "Ok, lets face it, if money drove Linux development, there would be pretty much no real movement on new software"

Last year (?) some economists calculated the yearly monetary value of the Linux kernel (think it was just the kernel), and came up with a huge result.
Money does in fact drive Linux development. Not that alone, but look at the top contributors to the kernel. They are professionals backed up by large corps, including Microsoft.

It's not a hobby OS, it's big business. And one that won't disappear when cloud or Android or the next trend blows over, thanks to the FOSS licenses.

...which incidentally permits us full access too and allows us to contribute where we can. The Linux kernel of today is not the enthusiast system it was to begin with.

But we will not pay for a "usage license" like proprietary OSes require. Because that's not where the monetary value of Linux lies. The other OSes however MUST sell keys and continuously improve the closing in of its users for future purchases where Linux is an open garden, no walls, no limits.

(@the LXF: we the subscribers are sort of paying you to propagate Linux through Linux knowledge and PR, and in this way also paying for Linux. Are you begging the question?)

Start paying for Distro, start paying for packages

Yes and No. Paying makes sense as it helps survival and progression. But how do you apportion that across Linux, the Desktop Environment, the Distro and the Apps? And who decides what that fee is? Its the beginning of Windows Land, whereby everyone sets a price and the cost goes from affordable, in that you donate what you can afford to the causes you prefer, to unaffordable - and then people start having to choose what to have and what to go without. Therefore, No. However, a single website that allows you to donate money and apportion it how you want would make life considerably easier.

You get what you pay for

If people would pay for a license, would the OSD - model still work?
Remember all those software comes without warranty. However, if it comes to license people also might increase expections.
See how much RedHat has to deal with user support.
Would this work for private users?

More open than free.

Linux is something that can't be numerated, measured, or tagged. It's open in first place. Yes we can grab it, build a User Friendly Interface in all of its extensions and create another thing. That can be tagged and charged for. Never try to charge Linux. Charge Ubuntu or Android. Charge for a model built around it. Maybe it explains why Canonical does not care much about mentioning Linux directly on it's media, or Google.


Yes, I would pay for Linux. If I didn't have to pay so much in terms of the cost of my time to get basic parts to work correctly. Audio, wireless, dual monitors, printing & scanning.Many of these basic things break several times a year, requiring tons of time to Google and research various fixes that will work on one version of a model of a thing but not the next.

I don't print often, nor scan often, but for some reason every time i try to, I spend a half an hour trying to fix something.

As far as software, I haven't seen much Linux software that's really worth paying for. Yes, I'll look at the Steam games and see what comes out, but in general, there really aren't many Linux apps that are as good as the web apps.

If I do..

If I pay then I would expect everything to just work - like having it talk to my mp3 player or my e-reader.

However, paying for a distro would stop people trying different distros - how many will you install just to see what it is like if they cost £30 a time?

However, it won't happen. There are so many distros out there that even if some started charging, others would remain free.

Linux - priceless!

Yes for a reasonable price

I would pay a certain price and have donated to FOSS projects before. But it is finding the balance that is the issue. Perhaps a humble indie bundle styled pay what you want feature would be the best model to adopt or even a premium subscription for things like tech support or remote help.

Payment means control

If I pay for Linux that implies that there is an entity that controls the software. While I agree that some more money in the pockets of those involved in Linux would help, the handing over of the control to enable payments would not be a good thing.

Pay what you think it's worth or if not, just what you can.

The first project I ever donated to was to CrunchBang Linux. After a year of use I realised it was exactly what I needed with no fluff or marketing hype around it and was better than any paid-for product for my needs. For this, I donated twenty quid to the author. Not quite because of the whole 'please donate us money or the project will die' guilt trip thing that some people like to tout (which I must add CrunchBang did not do) but quite simply: the author deserves it!

Twenty pounds might not be a groundbreaking amount of money but it's a sign of genuine appreciation to the author from a grateful end user. That and it works in a kind of karma system in a way, "You get what you give" and all that.

If I decide I no longer want to use it, I know I won't get my money back but I'm happy in the knowledge that my money is going into the pocket of a man who I think deserved it, not into the bank account of some faceless corporation who wouldn't even notice.


I would probably pay 5 to 10 euro voluntary contribution each release of kubuntu if they made it easy like Ubuntu does. It would be wonderful to have a proportional split to some other projects but the sheet number of components that go into a distro would require very fine splits of the money and micro payments are not that practical yet.

I DO Pay for Linux...

I HAPPILY support my Distro (Ubuntu) by purchasing swag and accessories from the Canonical Store, and having a paid Ubuntu One account.

Were it not free, I would GLADLY pay for it however, as the ONLY reason I use Ubuntu (and the only reason anyone should use ANY OS) is that it is the best operating system I have ever found for my needs.


I definitely would. I would hope paying for a distro would encourage its developers to focus n things the community wants, instead of doing something else, however. Otherwise, I may switch to another distro.

In some way yes

I have and will pay for a distro to help support it. Also, support via the community helps reduce costs for the distro.

Only free contribution

No, I would not pay for Linux - if I would be forced to.

I already donated (a small amount) to Ubuntu, H2 and other projects.

But this was always bssed on free will and when I had some money left.

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