I went to a Linux User Group (LUG) on Tuesday evening and we had a really good speaker in the form of an MSP (I am really awful with names so sorry!!). One of the points he raised was that of vendor lock in, especially in schools where children are taught the software and skills the manufacturers want them to learn and nothing more.
This got me thinking. Should we be teaching kids things that the manufacturers want them to learn (eg Word, Excel etc) or rather to think outside the box and use whatever tools are available to them?
Personally I think the latter and there are some very good reasons for this. The first is that opensource skills are becoming increasingly desirable to businesses who are not looking for vendor lock in, especially in the enterprise.
Secondly in my experience if you work exclusively with one manufacturer (eg Microsoft) then you can’t give balanced advice when asked by a client. For example if you work solely with Microsoft software you will say they offer the best software, however their offering may not be suitable for your client or business. If you have knowledge of both opensource and Microsoft then you are able to offer a more balanced argument depending on the clients circumstances and what they are looking to achieve.
To illustrate this point I was asked by a potential client a couple of months back about installing a server. All they wanted was something to sync their files with Dropbox and sit quite happily in the corner with minimal of maintenance. I advised them that a Debian Linux server would fit the bill quite nicely. If I had gone down the Microsoft route it would have cost them more during installation (ie licences and more powerful hardware) and not given them any more functionality than the Linux server. The ongoing maintenance would have been higher too. If I had no experience with opensource then I could not have made this judgement. At this point I will say that opensource software does not always suit client requirements either and in these cases I would recommend Microsoft software instead.
Thirdly at the moment people with opensource experience are paid more than their Microsoft equivalents due to the fact they are seen as having better all round skills. From my experience I have met both good and bad Linux and Windows technicians so I guess this depends on the individual.
So over to you guys how important are opensource skills?
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