Being a hacker, the part of free and open-source software that really appeals to me is being able to tinker. This is why I use Arch Linux rather than its more polished compatriots. But I’m also interested in the way volunteer communities largely composed of hoobyists and enthusiasts can be leveraged to solve problems that are normally very expensive.
Even after only working in the software industry for a couple of months, I can already see how writing software is an expensive business for companies like Microsoft. Developers’ time is not cheap, and it takes a lot of time to produce a product of any complexity.
But you only have to look at Linux or KDE or GNU to see the levels of complexity that can be reached by people working essentially for free. Sure, there are people being paid to work on all of those areas, but even then the fruits of their labour are being given away for free. They can’t even do what Qt Software does and simultaneously sell a commercial version and give away a free one, because they don’t own the copyright to the whole codebase and hence can’t dual-license it.
All this is why I was interested to read about how the ideas of open source are being applied to hardware. It’s a fascinating read for anyone interested in the mechanics and economies of open source.