How Does Open Source Affect CS Research?
by Marc Hedlund
Linux is freely available and runs on commodity hardware, suiting academic budgets well. Its source is available, so a question about OS underpinnings can easily and definitively be discovered. And as a UNIXy system, it is familiar to and comfortable for computer science academics in a way Windows is not. Together these qualities make it very attractive to a researcher trying to prove a point.
(Of course a lot of these things are not new -- look at the availability of Berkeley UNIX and others long before Linux. Yet as more and more commercial entities -- even OS vendors like IBM -- adopt Linux, its credibility as a "reference implementation" will grow. )
In general I think this is a good trend and one very well suited to, for instance, the goals of the Free Software Foundation -- providing source provides education. I hope, though, researchers remember that there are other OSes, and other ways of thinking, than the ones most readily available to them.