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Starting with a strong outline

Supporting hardware through open source software. By Philip Ling.

There's a lot to be said about Linux, not all of it complimentary. For instance, there are still questions about its 'hard real time' ability and whether it will ever be able to meet hard real time requirements. This remains one of the few arguments for not adopting it, but another less tangible reason is the hidden cost of using an open source operating system. Here, it is the lack of available support that presents the most prominent concern, with the availability of middleware and possible problems with application development coming in close behind.

While these issues are being addressed they haven't quite disappeared, particularly the issue of support, which has become an important part of many company's Linux strategy. However, the mindset for some users seems to be; the OS is free, so they are reluctant to pay for anything else, including support.

Unfortunately, very little in the real world is ever actually free. Both the contributors to and the benefactors of an open source movement like Linux need to be profitable companies, in order to remain in business. The compromise, then, is to pay for support and services – despite the bad taste it may leave in the mouth – if it can save you time and money in the long run.

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Graham Pitcher

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