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Slightly O/T. Linux legalities

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by Stereo Steve, Jan 8, 2005.

  1. Stereo Steve

    Stereo Steve
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    I have just gained posession of about 15 working PC's that have come out of an office environment as part of some work I was doing for them. I am planning on selling them on ebay. Don't spose they'll make more than 30-40 each but it's better than scrapping them. Problem is they all have WinXP on them but no licenses, disks etc. I don't want to break the law so will reformat them before sale. I was wondering about sticking Linux on there just so I can say they are up and running but know nothing about it or where to get it from. I thought it was all free but notice Red Hat are selling it!

    So, basically is there somewhere I can download a completely free, unlicensed version, stick it on all 15 PC's and sell them within the law? I also see some PC retailers are offering Linux free with their PC's so I guess they must be getting it somewhere.

    Could some kind person explain to me the ins and outs of this and maybe give me a link to a download site?
     
  2. KraGorn

    KraGorn
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    Linux is released under the GPL, which put simply states that anyone is free to do anything like like with it so long as they pass on the source to whatever it is they create and don't try to restrict others' rights to their derived product .. of course, the legalese is more convoluted but as far as what you're proposing to do it's pretty simple.

    In particular the GPL allows you to charge for it if someone's willing to pay, hence Red Hat can sell it. However they must also provide it completely free as well. This pardoxical situation bemuses those whose only experience of software is the proprietary, closed products with highy restrictive licenses.

    Red Hat's customers aren't paying for the software, they can download it free from Red Hat at any time (should Red Hat ever prevent that they'd be in breach of the GPL), they're paying for the support that Red Hat provide and possibly some proprietary manage software written and owned by Red Hat (I don't KNOW this is the case, but it's a plausible scenario).

    So, you are free to download a Linux release, known as a 'distribution', install it (or not) on the PCs and as long as you also make available a copy of what you've installed the GPL allows this.

    As for which distro to use, there are several some easier to use for the novice than others. IMHO the best 'intro' to Linux is the SuSE distribution, it's easy to install and manage. For the more techie and those with some experience then the Gentoo system is hard to beat IMHO and the one I use, however it isn't for those new to Linux.

    Mandrake is another one of the 'installs itself' flavours. The choice of distro is one of those 'religious' things to some in the Linux world, pragmatically they mostly the same for all intents and purposes.


    Hope this clarifies the licensing situation .. Open Source licenses are pretty simple in their principles, about the only way you can break it is to use GPLed software in a closed system and sell it without attribution and without providing access to the same source as you used to build the binaries you're selling.

    SuSE is now owned by Novell and can be found here, Mandrake is here, those are the only two I have experience of apart from Gentoo.
     
  3. Stereo Steve

    Stereo Steve
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    Thanks for taking the time to answer, I appreciate it. Can I just clarify what you mean by

    'So, you are free to download a Linux release, known as a 'distribution', install it (or not) on the PCs and as long as you also make available a copy of what you've installed the GPL allows this.'

    If I download the release onto a DVD, or CD's or whatever and whack it onto the 15 pc's, do I need to supply CD copies of the distribution with each PC or just tell the buyers they can have it if they want?

    I'm now downloading Mandrake 10.1 DVD ISO. Do you know if this auto installs like XP ie. boot from CD? Can't seem to find installation instructions on the site, maybe will be on the DVD I guess.

    Cheers in advance.
     
  4. KraGorn

    KraGorn
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    Mandrake does auto-install, most do, the ISO is bootable.

    I have to say I'm not 100% certain about the answer to your question. If you were doing it commercially I'd be inclined to think you'd need to supply it on media, as you're a private individual I'd say not and you'd be okay simply telling them where to get it.

    Unless anyone else provides a more authoratitive answer I think you're safe not suppyling a burned CD with each one.
     
  5. Stereo Steve

    Stereo Steve
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    Cheers for that.
    :thumbsup:
     

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