Home > Articles/Tutorials > Why Linux rather than Windows

Why Linux rather than Windows

by Robert Spotswood 02/20/2005

Linux has risen to prominence. However, you shouldn't base a decision to use Linux on a few anecdotes, which is all some sites provide. Instead, I try to emphasize quantitative measures (such as experiments and market studies) on why using Linux is, in a number of circumstances, a reasonable or even superior approach than using Windows.

Note that while only Redhat Linux and Mandrake Linux are mentioned here, there are many other fine distributions of Linux. Suse, TurboLinux, Slackware, and Debian are only a few. In fact, Debian is a non-profit distribution. While each one has slightly different tools, all of the are Linux and compiled programs for one will run on the others.

What is Linux good at

Things Linux is not good for

Criteria that should factor into a Linux vs. Windows decision

Cost: Linux vs. Windows


Companies don't buy computers for the sake of owning computers. They expect to get a return on their investment by using them to run their business. The more work the computer does, the better the return on the investment. The cost of owning an OS is often called the total cost of ownership (TCO). The purchase price is not the only cost involved in an operating system (OS) choice. Many elements should be considered in determining TCO, at least the following:

For additional reading, see this article which details one company's reasons for switching from NT to Linux.

Cost: Linux vs. Windows

Price (Server, seat license)

As you can see from the table below, Linux wins easily on price.

Windows 2000 Server Windows NT 4.0 Server Redhat Linux 7.1 Mandrake Linux 8.1
OS (25 users) $1799 $1138 $40 (unlimited users)1 Est. $80 (unlimited users)1
Email Server (25 users) $2374 (Exchange) $1901(Exchange) $0 (Included - unlimited users) $0 (Included - unlimited users)
SQL Server (25 users) Est. $4,800 $2499 (v 7.0) $0 (Included - unlimited users) $0 (Included - unlimited users)
C++ Compiler $109 (v 6.0, standard edition) $109 (v 6.0, standard edition) $0 (Included) $0 (Included)
Total $9,082 $5,647 $40 Est. $80

1 Both Redhat Linux and Mandrake Linux can be downloaded free of charge, but are officially unsupported. Also, one CD can legally be used to install on an unlimited number of machines without additional cost.

Cost: Linux vs. Windows

Hardware requirements (memory, processor)

The following table list the recommended minimum system requirements for Linux and Windows. Obviously, the better your hardware, the better your performance. Overall, Linux runs on hardware Microsoft servers wouldn't work on. Note that Windows NT is the oldest piece of software in this list, and therefore, should have the lowest hardware requirements.

Windows 2000 Server NT 4.0 Server Redhat Linux 7.1 Mandrake Linux 8.1
CPU Pentium II 233 Pentium 120 Pentium 100 Pentium 100
Memory (in MB) 256 32 64 64
Hard Drive Space 2 GB 240 MB 1.5 GB 1.5 GB

It should be noted that there are versions of Linux that will run on a 386, 2MB memory, and fit on a floppy. These are special purpose distributions, and usually not suited to run servers.

Cost: Linux vs. Windows

Upgradability and scalability


Upgrading a Microsoft system will typically cost around half the original purchase. What's worse, you are essentially at their mercy for long-term pricing, because there is only a single supplier. In contrast, the Linux systems can be downloaded (free), or simply re-purchased (generally for less than $100), and the single upgrade be used on every system. This doesn't include technical support. If you don't like your GNU/Linux supplier (e.g., they've become too costly), you can switch.


Linux is most definitely scalable! According to Wired, Linux powers the supercomputer at the University of New Mexico called LosLobos. It is ranked 24th on the list of the top 500 fastest supercomputers. Windows isn't used for any supercomputer.

Linux powered PDAs are also being developed and even a Linux powered wristwatch. There's even a version of Linux for the Playstation 2. Windows also powers PDAs, but the most CPUs Windows 2000 Server can run is 4. Windows 2000 Data Center server can run 32 CPUs. Linux runs on over a dozen different chipsets (not just Intel x86s) Windows 2000 only runs on Intel or AMD chips.

Cost: Linux vs. Windows

Install (cost, complexity)

Both Linux and Windows have graphical installation programs. Taking the default in both cases, installation is quick and easy. However, Linux offers the expert installation, which allows for complete control over the installation. Windows probably wins the ease of installation contest by a narrow margin. However, with Linux, once you have an installation you are happy with, you can clone that freely without worrying about licensing issues.

Cost: Linux vs. Windows

Reliability (up time; ease of crashing)

Why Linux crashes

In general, a Linux server is halted only in the following situations:

Windows 2000 is about 3 times more reliable than Windows NT 4.0

A NTSL report found that Windows 2000 Professional had a MTTF (Mean Time To Failure) of 2893 hours or 72 forty-hour workweeks. Windows NT Workstation had a MTTF of 919 hours or 23 forty-hour workweeks and Windows 98 had a MTTF of 216 hours or 5 forty-hour workweeks. It is important to note that this study was commissioned by Microsoft, and the numbers are highly suspect. However, it did find that windows 2000 profession was 3 times more than that of Windows NT Workstation 4.0. Since I do not have studies comparing Windows 2000 and Linux reliability, I will scale the results using this 3x number for NT vs Linux tests.

ZDnet tests show Linux has an uptime of 100% and Windows NT doesn't

From ZDnet: "Conventional wisdom says Linux is incredibly stable. Always skeptical, we decided to put that claim to the test over a 10-month period. In our test, we ran Caldera Systems OpenLinux, Red Hat Linux, and Windows NT Server 4.0 with Service Pack 3 on duplicate 100MHz Pentium systems with 64MB of memory. Ever since we first booted up our test systems in January, network requests have been sent to each server in parallel for standard Internet, file and print services. The results were quite revealing. Our NT server crashed an average of once every six weeks. Each failure took roughly 30 minutes to fix. That's not so bad, until you consider that neither Linux server ever went down. This test, coupled with our technical staff's extensive Linux and NT experience, leads us to believe that Linux truly is more stable than NT on uniprocessor servers."

Note that the average crash of NT once every six weeks is far different from the Microsoft commissioned study of once every 23 weeks! Based on the ratio of 2000 to NT above, 2000 would have crashed on average once every 18 weeks.

A different study, A strategic comparison of Windows vs. Unix used figures from Bugtoaster and found that in the best case for Microsoft, Windows 2000 SP2 crashed on average 232.5 hours. Again, this is very different from the Microsoft sponsored study of 2893 hours between crashes.

Bloor Research study finds Linux with an uptime of 99.95%, NT with 99.26%

From Bloor Research: "Bloor Research had both operating systems running on relatively old Pentium machines. In the space of one year, Linux crashed once because of a hardware fault (disk problems), which took 4 hours to fix, giving it a measured availability of 99.95 percent. Windows NT crashed 68 times, caused by hardware problems (disk), memory (26 times), file management (8 times), and a number of odd problems (33 times). All this took 65 hours to fix, giving an availability of 99.26 percent. The winner here is clearly Linux."

Based on the Microsoft study's ratio of 2000 to NT reliability, 2000's uptime would be about 99.75%, which is still less than Linux's uptime of 99.95%.

NT fails, Linux succeeds

One real-life situation involving NT's reliability is reported by the University of Nebraska Press's Information Systems Department manager, Quinn P. Coldiron, who writes, "Life after moving Cats [an order fulfillment and inventory system] to NT was a nightmare. The system was crashing two to three times a day with no reason that I could find. I was on the phone with Microsoft and Cats constantly, but nobody could figure it out. Microsoft had me apply Service Packs one through three and a few HotFixes, which helped, but it still was crashing at least twice a week with the infamous "Blue Screen of Death". After many weeks and about $1500.00 in phone support from Microsoft, the technical support rep told me that I should find a better software package than The Cat's Pajamas. This was not the solution I was looking for, since this is the package that a sizeable percentage of presses our size nationwide are running, so I was forced to bring the old Novell server back into production until I could figure something out. . . . Fourteen months later, we are running Linux as our server."

Cost: Linux vs. Windows

Support (cost, complexity)

Support can be examined from two perspectives: resolving problems in the installation and use of the operating system and correcting errors. Microsoft, with its proprietary OS solution provides limited, free support in addressing installation issues for the desktop product in the first 90 days. For server issues, there is no free period. The cost is $195 an issue, while desktop problems only cost $95 per issue.

Redhat, on the other hand, offers 90 days (not per issue!) of web and telephone support for all issues for only $180. This includes copies of Redhat Linux software. Mandrake Linux offers 60 days of phone support for $150-$170, and this includes the software too.

For corporations deciding to use Linux, more formal support processes are necessary. The major distributors of Linux provide active support. Unlike Windows NT and 2000, where there is only Microsoft, each distributor provides support in a timely fashion. In fact, this support may be a differentiating factor between distributors.

Distributor support is only the tip of the iceberg. With the increase in the number of Linux users, a wide range of Use groups have sprung up. There are almost 300 online groups discussing Linux. Because many existing Linux users are technically oriented, they offer useful support of many problems. In few of the groups with which I have examined, most focus on adding to the operating system or assisting other members of the Linux community. This support network is so powerful that it received the Infoworld support organization of the year award in 1997.

The Linux support companies have the source code to the operating system available. This allows them to really fix the problems their customers might experience, even to add new features on customers' demands; this is in great contrast to the support you can get on commercial platforms where the support company is dependent on the manufacturer and can only put workarounds in place to avoid the problem.

Another support option, unavailable with Windows NT/2000, is available to open source users. With the source code available, a company could fix a bug in-house. By distributing the correction, the company would increase the stability of Linux. As more science departments use Linux in their operating systems classes increases, the number of Linux systems programmers will become common. In the long run, this may become the way errors are corrected.

One final note: If your Microsoft OS comes with the computer, rather than being purchased separately, Microsoft won't support it. They will refer you back to the seller for all support problems (unless maybe you have a credit card handy).

Cost: Linux vs. Windows

Internal Administration

Windows advocates claim that system administrators are cheaper and easier to find than Unix/Linux administrators, while Linux and Unix advocates argue that fewer such administrators are needed because administration is easier to automate and the systems are more reliable to start with. Some Linux advocates have told me that Linux lends itself to hosting multiple services on a single server in cases where Windows installations must use multiple servers. License compliance administration can be costly for proprietary systems (e.g., time spent by staff to purchase CALS, keep track of licenses, and undergo audits; see here for one city's fun with audits - they settled for $129,000, which doesn't include their cost of going through the audit) - a cost that simply isn't relevant to Linux.

A major difference between Linux and NT/2000 is the apparent target market of administrators who are likely to use these systems. NT/2000 does not require the administrator to understand software programs. While Linux does have graphical configuration programs, Linux is widely driven by scripting languages for its configuration and maintenance: the administrator is also a developer, and need not rely on the existence of a pre-written package to solve a problem - the feature can be created, and there are always many ways to do it. In fact, most, if not all, of the Linux graphical tools are just front-ends to scripting programs.

Hence, on Linux, the administrator's creativity and ingenuity allow them to quickly and easily customize the system. Linux (and Unix) programs are in general designed to inter-operate with each other allowing the automation of any program with a scripting language. Nationwide database networks have been easily created through simple scripts, without the need for expensive development or purchasing of software. A simple example is often sited by Linux advocates: `Try adding a new user on NT. Now try adding a thousand new users. Its very easy to do something with mouse clicks, but it's far more important to be able to automate a process.

Cost: Linux vs. Windows


Unless you already have Linux administrators on staff (and you might; some may run Linux at home), you will have to do some retraining. But that also deserves a few points worth noting. One of them is that administrators also need training to go from one version of a system to the next, as well as periodic courses to get up to date. For instance, Microsoft MCSE program is OS specific. An MCSE for the NT track is not an MCSE for 2000 without passing additional tests. The other thing is that the training budget only is a small part of the total cost. Things like downtime and overtime because servers crash in strange moments and an administrator needs to work all night to reformat and reinstall the machine tend to be far greater costs to the business in question than the occasional training course.

Cost: Linux vs. Windows

System Lifecycle

With Linux, your system lifecycle is determined by you. Pentium 100's, which many people would throw away nowadays, can be turned into routers, firewall, or even dumb terminals (see here for details).

Looking at the table above listing the minimum system requirements, you can see that every new Microsoft OS requires hardware upgrades to just keep the same speed. One test (see here) notes that windows 2000 running office 2000 ran 25-27% percent faster on the same hardware as windows XP RC1 and office XP. By comparison, the last major upgrade of Linux from 2.2 to 2.4 did not change the minimum recommended hardware.

Compatibility: Linux vs. Windows

No OS can be everything to everyone. The decision of which OS to use should always be the best tool for the job. If you keep in mind the lists above about what Linux is good at and what it's not, you should be able to make a very informed decision.

There are several solutions, such as VMware, and Win4Lin that allow you to run the Windows OS under Linux. And once the OS is running, so will your applications. Wine is a Windows emulator for Linux, which, in theory, allows you to run Windows applications in Linux.

Applications: Linux vs. Windows

While Windows advocates point out that Windows has more applications than Linux (which is true), this misses the point. First, looking at the total number of applications is the wrong way to decide on an OS. There are actually two questions that need to be answered.

  1. What types applications would I actually use/want? Most desktop users in a company environment use an word processor, spreadsheet, web browser, email client, maybe a database of some sort (usually with a custom front-end), perhaps some accounting software, and maybe a few games.
  2. How many of those type(s) are actually any good?

Those questions become easy to answer for servers. Unless your running a true application server, there are usually only a few types of "applications" that you would even want to run on a server. The following table lists some of them. Most of the applications listed for Linux are available for free, and many are included in the various Linux distributions. This list is not meant to be exhaustive.

Application Type Windows Application(s) (for NT and 2000) Linux Application(s)
Firewall ? Iptables (2.4 kernels), ipchains (2.2 kernels)
Proxy Server MS Proxy Server Squid, Apache
Web Server IIS (comes with OS) Apache
DNS Server MS DNS Server (comes with OS) Bind
Print Server Comes with OS Samba, CUPS
File Server Comes with OS (NFS only included in 2000) Samba, NFS
VPN PPTP (comes with OS), IPSEC (comes with 2000) Free S/Wan, PPTPD, VPND
Email Server Exchange, Domino Sendmail, Qmail, Postfix, Domino
SQL Server MS SQL, DB2, Oracle Postgres, MySQL, DB2, Oracle
LDAP Server Active Directory (2000 only) OpenLDAP
Wins Server Comes with OS Samba
Telnet Server ? telnet-server
SSH server ? Openssh
Finger Server ? Finger-server
Time Server ? NTP
FTP Server IIS (comes with OS) NCFTPD, wu-ftpd, Apache, ProFTPD

You can see that if you are flexible and don't require all the whiz-bang features, there's not much a Windows server can do that a Linux server can't do cheaper. And if you must have all those whiz-bang features, remember they come at a price, both in dollars and security.

Performance: Linux vs. Windows

Performance should not be a big issue when deciding between OS's. If your company is regularly maxing out their computers, that probably means business is excellent. In which case, affording a few new computers to handle the extra load should not be any problem. However, for those that have to know...

Which has better performance, Linux or Windows? It depends. It is possible to construct tests which show exactly what you want them to show. However, most of the studies, except those funded by Microsoft, seem to show that when Linux doesn't have superior performance, it comes in a very close second. When you consider the cost and stability difference between the two, Linux wins easily on a performance for the price comparison. Here are highlights from a few of those studies:

From http://lwn.net/1999/0121/Samba.html: "Samba 2.0 has been benchmarked using the Ziff-Davis NetBench (R) benchmarking suite, as the world's fastest Windows server, achieving 193 megabits per second file serving performance on a Silicon Graphics (R) Origin 200 (R) server with 60 Windows clients."

From http://www.ugraf.com/Unix-nt/jt/Unix-nt.nob.html: "Several times a month, customers in the printing and prepress industry ask us what server platform they should use: Unix or Windows NT. Windows NT might be acceptable for day-to-day operations in the average business, but does not handle the loads that publishers typically put on servers."

In another test performed, using all results "available by July 13, 2001, there were three hardware configurations, all from Dell, which ran both GNU/Linux (using the TUX web server/accelerator) and Windows (using IIS) on exactly the same hardware. In two of three cases, the performance of Linux/TUX is better than Windows/IIS, and in the third case, TUX was better at first (by April 2001) and now IIS is better (as of July 13, 2001). Microsoft changed the availability of Microsoft SWC 3.0, and by SPECweb99 rules, this means that those test results are ``not compliant'' (NC). This is subtle; it's not that the test itself was invalid, it's that Microsoft changed what was available and used the SPEC Consortium's own rules to invalidate a test (possibly because the test results were undesirable to Microsoft). A retest then occurred, at which point IIS produced a value of 8001. This simply demonstrates that all actively-developed systems are in a constant battle for performance improvements over their rivals."

I wish I could give you some test results for the SQL servers, but I can't. The licensing terms for both Microsoft SQL server and Oracle forbid publishing test results without prior approval from Microsoft or Oracle respectively. Obviously, no fair comparison can be published between them and free SQL servers (Postgres and MySQL) because the loser(s), would not give approval.

Security: Linux vs. Windows

When I talk about computer security, most people immediately think of crackers, or defaced web-sites. There are actually two different issues in computer security.

  1. External threats (which does include insider threats)
  2. Vendor threats

External threats

The only fully secure computer is one without an operating system, no network connection, disconnected from power, and locked away inside a bomb proof vault. The fully secure computer is also unavailable for use. You must decide this one for yourself.

The first threat is the one most people are familiar with, external threats. These are basically security flaws in the software itself and people, be they outsiders or insiders, taking advantage of these flaws. If no one would take advantage of the flaws, then there is no real threat. Unfortunately, people will take advantage of these flaws, so this must be considered. The financial costs of these external threats can be extreme. Bad press, downtime, financial theft, loss of customers, decrease in employee moral, and overtime for the administrators are just some of the factors to consider.

The most important factor, bar none, to consider in the argument, "Which is more secure against external threats, Linux or Windows?" is the skill of the administrator and management's willingness to take security seriously. A poorly configured machine is more vulnerable than a properly configured machine, regardless of the OS. However, even the best, most security aware administrator can only do what management will support. If management orders the administrator to open up an unfiltered telnet server on the internet, then the administrator must do that. (Hint: This is a VERY bad idea; expect to be broken into quickly. A SSH server (perhaps with filtering) is a much safer idea.)

Some argue whether open source software (such as Linux) less secure than closed source software (such as Windows) because with open source software, attackers have the source available to look for vulnerabilities. To examine that argument (and it's reverse), lets look at some numbers first. As of September 17, 2000, according to Bugtraq, here are the total number of vulnerabilities for some leading operating systems:

OS 1997 1998 1999 2000
Debian GNU/Linux 2 2 30 20
Red Hat Linux 5 10 40 41
Windows NT/2000 4 7 99 85
List compiled by David A. Wheeler

Note that some vulnerabilities are more important than others.

If the argument that open source is less secure is true, then Windows must be extremely insecure because even with the "advantage" of closed source, people still have no trouble finding problems more problems in Windows than Linux. If the argument that open source is more secure than closed source, the above numbers seem to present strong proof. Either way, the numbers show from a vulnerability standpoint, Windows is much less secure than Linux.

This is not, however, the full picture. Another item to look at is how quickly fixes, or patches, for the vulnerabilities are available. Usually (open-source is occasionally an exception) you can't fix the vulnerability until the vendor issues a fix. So, how responsive are the vendors to security issues? Here is a comparison between Redhat and Microsoft for 1999.

Microsoft Redhat
Total Days of Cracker Access 982 348
Total Advisories 61 31
Average Days of Cracker Access per advisory 11.23 16.10
List compiled by David A. Wheeler

Note the number of advisories (each one includes a patch) differs from the number of vulnerabilities in the table above. This is not a mistake. Sometimes vendors issue an advisory (and patch) that addresses multiple vulnerabilities. Again, open source is more secure, with fewer patches (easier on the administrator), and the average number of days a cracker could have taken advantage of the vulnerabilities also is lower with open source. Again, the argument that closed source is more secure seems to go down in flames again.

As a footnote to this story, at least twice Microsoft has released patches that didn't fix the hole they claimed. Further, some Microsoft patches introduced more problems then they fixed (NT SP2 for instance). Microsoft sometimes also recommends that patches only be applied where there is trouble, not as a preventative measure. If you can't trust the patch, how likely are you to install it? How much insecurity does this add?

Vendor Threats

Most people don't think of their software suppliers as a threat, but that doesn't mean they can't be. This requires a little explanation. Without software, your computers don't work. If your computers don't work, your business can function properly, if at all! If your vendor doesn't support you, or worse, damages you, that vendor is a threat to your business and your bottom line.

How do vendors threaten you? Well, for starters they can deliver buggy software. There was a case in Washington state where a software bug cost a company $9 million. In another case, software to control radiation machines in a hospital was buggy and quite literally fried people to death.

Ok, your thinking if this happens you can sue your vendor. This is most likely a lost cause. When's the last time anyone sued successfully Microsoft because their software didn't work? The lawsuit in the $9 million dollar error above was thrown out. Every read your license agreement? Basically, it disclaims any warranties and "eliminates" your right to sue. Here is a quote from one Microsoft EULA "is provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Microsoft disclaims all warranties, either express or implied, including the warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose. In no event shall Microsoft Corporation or its suppliers be liable for any damages whatsoever including direct, indirect, incidental, consequential, loss of business profits or special damages, even if Microsoft Corporation or its suppliers have been advised of the possibility of such damages."

Another way vendors threaten you is to cut off support for older versions. From a Microsoft Security Bulletin concerning a vulnerability in Powerpoint: "Previous versions are no longer supported, and may or may not be affected by these vulnerabilities." Thus if you are using an older version of closed source software (such as any Microsoft software) and are happy with it, tough! The vendor's answer is to upgrade or put up with the bugs/security problems. Upgrading can be expensive and disruptive, and there's no guarantee you won't be trading one bug for a new set of bugs.

With open source programs, you have the source code so you could fix the problem yourself if your vendor won't. And since you also have the source code to next version (and the bug fix), fixing that bug will be much easier. If you want to upgrade, it's available for free. There is still some labor cost involved, but that is usually minimal compared to closed source software. In addition, upgrading is usually relatively painless. When upgrading to from Linux 2.2.x to Linux 2.4.x, all your old programs will still work. When upgrading to Samba 2.2 from Samba 2.0, the configuration is automatically migrated too for example.

Vendors can also threaten your business in other ways. For instance, here is a section from the license for Windows Media Player: "...Microsoft may provide security related updates to the OS Components that will be automatically downloaded onto your computer. These security related updates may disable your ability to copy and/or play Secure Content and use other software on your computer." How good does it make you feel that Microsoft has the ability to disable any software on your computer that they want without telling you?

Vendors (especially Microsoft) also threaten you by what's know as vendor lock-in. They lock up your data to make it extremely expensive to switch to a different vendor. Incompatible formats are just one means to do this. Once your data is locked up, they can demand more of you ($$$), knowing that it is cheaper to give in than to say no.

Since Linux is open source, figuring out the file formats is very easy. You have the source code. You can't be locked in open source software. If one vendor starts getting unreasonable, you can easily switch to a different one. The Linux vendors know that, so they must be more responsive to your needs than Microsoft or they go out of business.

Another threat to your business is software audits. Some of Microsoft's licensing agreements include the right to demand an audit. Microsoft can come in, and force you, at any time without warning, to present proof you own all your software on their schedule. If you balk, then they can sue, and revoke your right to use their software. This auditing is not a theoretical threat, but a very real one! See:

The last article said it best when it said, "The only way to be free of risk is to be completely free of Microsoft products." The fourth article said something similar, "5. Former Microsoft-only shop now installing Linux and Apache." Remember, Microsoft is a for profit company. Their profit, not yours. If their goals and your goals happen to match, great! If not, tough!

This audit threat simply does not exist with Linux and most other open source software. You do what you want with it. If you want to take a Redhat CD, and install the software on 100 computers, that's legal. If you want to make copies and sell the GPL software on the street, that's legal too!

That one key benefit is what makes open source a superior, essential choice for individuals and corporations: control. When you choose open source, you retain control of the essential software functions that your business relies upon. No vendor can tell you when to upgrade. No vendor can shut you down by failing to fix bugs or security holes. No vendor can lock you into a strategic direction that has everything to do with the vendor's well-being and nothing to do with yours. If you have the code, you have the power to protect yourself and make your own decisions. Given an open-source alternative, why would anyone choose closed-source proprietary software?

Freedom: Linux vs. Windows

Linux is about freedom; freedom that Windows lacks. "Free software" refers to the users' freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. More precisely, it refers to four kinds of freedom, for the users of the software:

  1. The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.
  2. The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs . Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
  3. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor.
  4. The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

Maybe you like having some for profit company telling you want you can and can't do with the software you paid so much for. I don't. That's one of the reasons I use Linux.