Linux has grown its popularity so much in the recent years that, it has increased its worldwide users many fold and that number is growing each day. Still, the people (at least in Nepals context) are not able to understand the word free in the context of Linux. People are not able to appreciate the real free thing in Linux.
If you think that, Linux is free means, the CD containing the Linux operating system is free then, you are mistaken. Mind you, you have to pay for the CD even if the CD comes with the book you have bought or the one that comes with the computer magazines like PCQuest, Chip etc. The real free thing with the Linux is its millions of lines of source code and the huge documentation that comes with it, and mind you these documentations are not confusing like the ones which the Microsoft people provide with the soft wares they ship.
Lets understand the term free in the context of Linux more clearly. The UNIX (it is an operating system, which I can say is the parent of Linux) theory says:
Do it your way, meaning that you can do the things the way you like it. But Linux is more than a chain of hamburgers. Linux allows you to not only choose what you want on your hamburger, but also what spices you add to the mixture, and how long you cook it. Linux gives you all the same abilities that commercial UNIX packages (such as Solaris etc) give, plus so much more.
Coming back to the point: Is Linux really free? The answer is both yes and no. The GNU Public License, which is how the Linux is licensed, says that you can charge for a binary distribution, but the source code must be either included or available for the cost of duplication. Now, in the days of Internet and CDROMs, the cost of duplicating is very low, in fact. But please note that this license covers only the Linux kernel, and the GNU utilities included with most distributions. Thats why it doesnt prevent the commercial companies like RedHat etc. from assembling all these programs, adding a few special ones, producing a CDROM, and charging you some money.
The inclusion of the source code with its distribution has given several programmers a platform to play with the operating system and its utilities. So you can make changes to the Linux kernel, the way you want to hange, and compile and load the image of the kernel you have compiled. This gives a lot of opportunity to the students of computer science to work with the kernels and watch it work more closely, and at the same time the experts can add something to the existing kernel and redistribute them.
Finally, I would like to add something about why would you (or your company) want to use Linux in a personal or business settings? This is because of the things which is listed below, and mind you other operating systems like Windows XX can only dream about these things:
*Source code for the entire kernel
*Full configurability of the operating system
*Ability to turn features of the system on and off without rebooting
*Full 32-bit operating system, and for some processor architecture 64-bit is also supported
*Access to the several years of software that makes up the UNIX world.
This includes compilers, Web servers, editors, games and Internet tools.
Happy exploring the Linux!!!