April 9, 2008
Whenever the regular expression topic comes up, I unashamedly recommend the best tool on the market for parsing and building regular expressions -- RegexBuddy. But there's one tiny problem.
RegexBuddy costs money.
I've always encountered vague resistance when recommending commercial tools that I considered best of breed. The source of that resistance was spelled out for me by Henrik Sarvell in this comment he left on Rob Conery's blog:
Yes, I also have to brush up on the regex from time to time. We don't use software that costs money here, and last time I checked regexbuddy wasn't free.
People usually don't state their preferences this boldly. I, for one, applaud the honesty.
I've recommend Beyond Compare before; it's a fantastic file and directory comparison tool. It's not expensive, but it's not free, either. Which means many programmers I recommend it to will beg off and go install the free WinMerge comparison tool instead.
It's tempting to ascribe this to the "cult of no-pay", programmers and users who simply won't pay for software no matter how good it is, or how inexpensive it may be. These people used to be called pirates. Now they're open source enthusiasts.
(Update: This paragraph was intended to be tongue in cheek, but has been widely misinterpreted. Dan summarized my opinion in the comments: "in the past, if someone told you they used software and didn't pay for it, the only plausible interpretation was that they were a pirate, because all good PC software cost money. Now there's also good software available for free, so that assumption is no longer correct.")
But there's something else going on here, too: the free software alternatives keep getting better every year. Consider how immature Linux development tools were in 2000 compared to what's available today: Eclipse, Subversion, MySQL, Firefox. These tools either didn't exist, or have come astounding distances in closing the gap between their commercial counterparts in eight years.
PHP was dangerously close to a joke language in 2000, but you can barely go anywhere on the web today without running into something huge built on PHP. I could say the same thing about MySQL -- a toy database in 2000, but a totally credible free alternative to Oracle and SQL Server today for most uses. The competitive pressure of free products on commercial tools intensifies every year. It's relentless. And to be honest, I feel many of the commercial alternatives aren't evolving fast enough to stay ahead of their free competition.
The onus is on the commercial tool vendors to prove that they provide enough value to warrant spending money. In the case of Beyond Compare, the vendor has taken so long to ship version 3.x of their software that some of the free comparison tools have matched and even exceeded its feature set in the meantime -- as you can see in this amusingly titled comparison of file comparison tools. Resting on their laurels is a luxury they no longer have.
It's entirely possible for commercial development tools to survive alongside the strong, vibrant -- and now firmly established -- ecosystem of free tools. But it won't be easy, as Steven Frank points out in The First, The Free, and The Best:
A free program need not be glamorous or even completely bug-free. It can garner a respectable following simply by not costing anything.
I've seen many times people struggle and struggle on with a clunky freeware app just because they're not willing to pay $20 for a significantly better alternative. There's nothing wrong with that particular brand of masochism. People prioritize differently, and money is more valuable than time to a whole lot of people. It's Capitalism in action.
The people who are most tenacious about exclusively using freeware whenever possible are usually incredulous that anyone would buy a commercial product when a free alternative is available. I've heard many times, "how can you guys make a living when free command line file transfer clients are included with the OS?"
Beyond Compare was the best compare tool by far in 2005 -- an easy justification for spending thirty bucks on a compare tool. But no longer. They have to claw their way back to the top and become the best again in the face of endless free competition.
If you're neither first nor free, there is still a way to carve out a niche for yourself: have a better application than everyone else.
Quality is the third leg of the axis. A free app may not be worth what you paid if it doesn't work right, or works so clumsily that you have to re-read the help file every time you use it. The first app may be OK, but resting on its laurels of first-ness and not moving forward.
This phenomenon isn't limited to development software, although I think it's particularly vicious there due to the peculiarities of the audience: the type of people who would buy development tools are also exactly the same people who could potentially build them.
You may wonder how anything survives online in the face of free competition. Don MacAskill of SmugMug -- a pay photo sharing website -- offers this advice:
It turns out that people are happy to pay [for web photo sharing], and have been happy to pay for the last four years. The reason is that our pay service eliminates a lot of the baggage and a lot of headaches that at least some percentage of the population doesn't want. Quite of a few of the big brands have shut their free sites down. They shut them down without notice. It turns out that it's sort of like a death spiral. When you offer accounts for free, some garbage comes in with the good stuff. People will upload porn or whatever. So you end up hiring people to work at your company to filter out the bad stuff. I know Photobucket and Webshots and some of the other guys have an entire room full of people who, all they do all day is watch the photos that are coming in and say yes or no, this photo is OK or not.
But inevitably, some of the junk slips through, and then the people who are using your service who don't have any junk see their photos side by side with the junk, and get up set and leave. Or even worse yet, some of your advertisers (because if you're free you're likely ad supported) see their ad right next to something disgusting or that damages their brand or something like that. So they bail. So eventually, your customers and your advertisers tend to run away screaming. Or you're left with a demographic which isn't a very important demographic for advertisers, or who wouldn't be likely to upgrade. So it gets kind of nasty.
I knew Don from his days in the gaming industry at Ritual Entertainment. I finally got to meet him at last year's MIX conference, and I thoroughly enjoy reading his blog. It's a case study in how you can beat 'free' by understanding the weaknesses of your free competition.
It won't be easy for commercial software or subscription websites. If past history is any indication, beating the free alternatives is going to get progressively more difficult every year. Kevin Kelly offers eight generative qualities that are better than free. I'm not sure it has to be that complicated. Free is indeed a competitive advantage. But free is also a weakness: it is cheap, mass-produced, and the same for everyone. Don and Steven make a compelling argument that some people are willing to pay for a premium experience.
So the salient question, then, is this: do you understand what it takes to build the premium experience that trumps your free competition? And can you deliver it?
Posted by Jeff Atwood
Phillip has it exactly right.
The advantage Free Software (or "Open Source" Software) has over proprietary software has almost nothing to do with purchase price. Its unfettered access to the sources that makes it superior. The (typical) lack of an up-front purchase price is just a side-effect.
If something is behaving weirdly and the docs don't enlighten me, I can look under the hood and see what's really going on. I can't emphasise enough how important this is. I'm looking forward to an entire day of wrestling with WindRiver support about a 10 year old version of their OS today for just this reason.
Moreover, if the entity supporting your tool dies, goes out of business, or otherwise loses interest in the product, you are SOL if you don't have rights to the sources.
We have to support delivered systems for *decades* here. How many proprietary software vendors are going to be around for 20ish years, still supporting the same product? Pretty much none. We had one CASE tool vendor that got bought/merged 3 times in two years (now 10 years later the count is up to 5). We had revision control vendor who jacked their prices up too high for us, so now we can't access 3 years of our own product revision history any more. If we don't have full rights to the source code of a tool we depend on, its a guarantee of future pain.
In the end, its all about control. With Free Software, the user has control. With proprietary software, you are at the vendor's mercy. This is why I'm quite happy to choose a Free Software tool over a proprietary tool that may be bit nicer.
I agree with Martin Wallace about the licensing involved with $$$ software. I try to stick to free software for the obvious reasons, but I'm not a fan of a free/open-source OS. The one thing I want to work on my computer is the OS and I'm willing to pay for a copy of a working OS.
Are we really surprised that a guy who thinks concatenating a static string with a password before hashing counts as "salting" (http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/000949.html) would insinuate that OSS is piracy? This guy is a joke, move on to a competent blog people.
I work with 60 developers, and we regularly move machines (we do a lot of pairing and so on). This means the company would have to buy 60 licences of any software we need to use. It is exceedingly difficult to convince the people with the purse strings that it is worth them spending that kind of money, even if the productivity difference is large.
It is simply easier for me to find and use a bit of cr*ppy 'free' software than it is to go through the hassle of convincing people to let me have it.
Personally I've loved Araxis Merge for years, but have never had a commercial copy at work.
I agree that it's a good idea to use a free piece of software if the commercial alternatives are not better. However, I think refusing to use any software that's not free is a sign of unprofessionalism.
I think it's great, for example, that Firefox made Microsoft get off their asses on IE. However, Microsoft's improved IE a lot and that coupled with IE7Pro makes me go back to it, especially since Firefox 2 seems to get worse with every patch (I'm sure Firefox 3 will be butter)
But free stuff is not the answer really. You're trying to make money and you don't want to spend any? (I mean "you" generically, not "you" specifically Jeff) Sounds like someone who hasn't spent much time in the real world or is actively avoiding it as much as possible.
If the commercial version of a piece of software is affordable and has 15 features and the free version has 10, get the commercial version - those 5 features might be lifesavers. People buy PhotoShop at it's $600 cost because it makes money for them - no one seriously uses The GIMP because of dogma.
Yes, if the free stuff is better use it. Free stuff keeps getting better and better but you know what? Non-free stuff keeps getting better, too. Microsoft's development tools are best in breed, hands down, and they keep improving on them, too. Yes, if the free stuff surpasses the paid stuff by all means use it (see: WordPress vs. Moveable Type) but believing that you should always use free stuff no matter what is just foolish. OpenOffice is a joke compared to Microsoft Office. PHP is popular only if you look at the entire web, when you get to Fortune 500 companies, where most of the money is made, it's 80% IE and MS technologies. These companies didn't get rich by relying on a bunch of free stuff from geeks who like things to be complicated when it doesn't have to be.
I had been a Windows user for ages before I switched to Ubuntu recently. I never actively paid for Windows, as I got licenses from my university, my work place or with a new machine. So the decision to switch was not a financial one.
One of the things that I really like about OSS is that there is no vendor lock-in. Vista was crippled with DRM by Microsoft. I didn't allow me to do simple things that I did before with XP, like recording the Audio Stereo Output of my Sound card. Linux on the other hand would never limit your control of your computer.
For me its not a matter of a cost, but of freedom. I read about that freedom before but didn't really understand it before I really tried out Ubuntu and experienced the difference. In the future I will mainly support HW vendors with Open Source drivers, like ATI or Intel.
I would not hesitate to pay for Open Source Software if there was any that I needed ;)
But I know there is probably a contradiction in my views, being a SW developer myself and living of sales :)
@mschaef: That's because the GNOME project is a bit of a joke. I used to try to go the pure GNOME route in Fedora and Ubuntu, and it's really a buggy piece of software. Feature-wise, it doesn't have much on the Xfce desktop which runs faster and is more stable. I whole-heartedly recommend the excellent KDE desktop: Konqueror and all of the KDE core are extremely well-made and stable. Gnumeric shouldn't be giving you problems -- a study a couple years back found that it did better (more accurate) math than Excel or OpenOffice, which was copying Excel's bug.
Free software is about the code, not the price. Shame on you for equating open source enthusiasts with pirates.
Hmmm, interesting how slowly the number of IPs has grown. I wonder how many of these added domains are simply search engine fodder.
Yes, the rise of shared hosting too, but I'll bet the growth is exaggerated quite a bit by all the SEO guys.
Scott and Thomas are right about the threshold.
With increasing use of Software as a Service, I think we'll see more of the utility payment model, it's just not something that's seen widespread or uniform adoption yet. Personally, I would say we need a better payment system - firstly service-level guarantees on online services (which are worth paying for), and secondly a contribution threshold where the first X people pay for the software, and after that it's open-sourced and free.
I think people have to get used to paying for software, but it will only become a consistent model when flat-fee systems are introduced. Even if you pay in Whuffies.
No, seriously, PHP is still a joke language and MySQL still a toy database, these two are mostly the rise of mediocrity (and in PHP's case, the only good thing I ever found about it: it's completely and utterly trivial to deploy. Nothing else comes close).
@Masklinn: really? you must think all the people building large projects using either are complete idiots. let's see something large you built with your tools of choice. hmmm, i see Sun shelled out some cash to buy MySQL...must be that toy databases are good business...maybe you should create a mediocre toy database that Microsoft will buy!
@Jeff: right on! great post!
Nice troll on the 'pirates == open source' - Fuck you very much for that little gem of wisdom Jeff.
Man, it's like you're turning into a fat man-eating ex-paratrooper a little bit more each day.
I hope you don't regret that this karma will bite you in the ass when you come to launch your 'startup' thing - you're building up quite a 'paul graham without the money/brains' rep already...
There's also the time taken to justify the $30 to someone, organising the accounting and management, etc, when you just want to get some small task done. It's a small bit of money but businesses - for good reasons - want to control even small expenditures. There's a significant benefit in something that's easily obtained.
@Scruz: When it comes to a database enterprise solution, SQL Server will win the battle against MySQL. MySQL has come a long way and is definitely not a "toy" database, but would a fortune 500 company really want to put their data in the hands of MySQL? Probably not. I'd actually like to know the percentage of fortune 500 companies using open source software as a majority.
Jeff, when looking at commercial software competing with open-source software, it's important to realize that price is far from the only factor. The "four freedoms" (look for it at fsf.org) are at least as important. I don't want no-cost software if nobody but the vendor can modify it or even take over maintenance if the vendor disappears. The ability for users to contribute code to a project is vital -- even the users who don't contribute benefit from this. (Which is why "you can see the source but can't distribute modified versions" doesn't fly very far.)
There are certain niches where open-source software has a hard time being successful, particularly markets where none or few of the users are likely to be programmers. But if your commercial software has programmers as its users, then you're likely to have stiff open-source competition.
I'll also back up those who mentioned licensing hassles; the difficulties of per-user or per-machine or per-cpu licensing far outweigh the financial burden of purchasing software wherever I've worked. And license-management servers have been a great of of problems as well.
Nice troll on the 'pirates == open source' - Fuck you very much for that little gem of wisdom Jeff.
@Will: He made the comment as a matter of general impression not as a fact. Simma down.
@Daniel: "Vista was crippled with DRM by Microsoft."
Eh? You're not parroting the Peter Gutmann FUD, or the baseless rumours about Explorer's file copy slowness being due to DRM (which was so easily disproved if you thought about it for five seconds and realised there would be no point enforcing DRM only in file copies done by Explorer), I hope.
There seems to be a bit of a problem with your logic. You compared "open source enthusiast" to pirates. Actually, you said they are one in the same. Really? Pirates stole things that were expensive. Open Source Enthusiast use FREE, OPEN SOFTWARE. Perhaps you should read up on logical fallacies, specifically false analogies. Here's a link to help you educate yourself a bit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logical_fallacies
Arron Chapman: "A quick google for PHP returns 9,770,000,000 pages, same search for asp (and aspx) returns 4,520,000,000... Damn thats double."
So? Do the same search, but replace PHP with VB6, and asp/aspx with C/C++. You'll find way more hits for VB6. Does that mean it's better than C/C++? Of course not. VB6 is more popular because hobbyists (non-professional programmers) find it easy to use. Perhaps that's why PHP is so popular as well? Mom, Pop, and various script kiddies find it easier to use, whereas asp/aspx require more skills and aren't as wide spread.
Does this post have something to do with a new pay service you are working on to provide guidance and best practices to developers?
What I really hate is commercial software that has no OSS alternative, or even cheap alternative, because then you are usually left with a half-working way overpriced app.
"pirates == open source" BTW, nice stereo type.
I program on linux, and in general use mostly free tools. Some of my art programs cost money, but I've been very picky and overall have been very happy with them.
That said, the vaunted "Support" of most commercial offerings isn't. Oh the horror stories I could tell about $500,000+ licenses with 'enterprise' support where people on the end of the line knew less than we did about it. MS support especially.
The biggest reason for "free" software is that there is no licensing issues.
I am a Configuration Manager and when we have commercial software, I have to track licensing. Some programs are licensed per machine. You replace the machine, and you need a new license. That means paperwork. Have a 100 people in a group, and you need a full time person filling out the license changing paperwork. Software licensed per user account is almost just as bad. Every time one person leaves, and another comes, I've got to change the licensing info.
Then there's licenses like Perforce that allow people to download, but only will grant x number of accounts. Not too bad, except I'm not usually told when people leave, only when we need new accounts. I run out of license, and then I have to determine who's gone and who's still around.
Then, there's figuring out how many licenses you really need. I get into arguments all the time with various departments. Why do I need 140 licenses when there are only 130 developers? (Because our consultants also need access to it too). Why are we ordering 20 more licenses. Didn't we purchase 100 three months ago? (We hired another 20 developers.) Why didn't we originally order 120 license? (I did, but then management decided that we didn't need that many.)
And, that doesn't even cover vendor issues where I am suppose to order from a particular vendor instead of directly from the company. Most of the time, the vendor doesn't stock development or non-Microsoft software, and I'll have to work out a special deal. Then, there's management questions. Why are we getting X which costs $1000 per user instead of Y which costs only $950 per user? Can you cost justify the purchase?
One time, we decided upon Perforce as our version control system. We ordered the licenses and waited over three months while our vendor and our purchasing department tried to figure out what to do. Everyday, I would call purchasing, get the latest Purchase Order number, call the vendor, ask why the purchase didn't go through, call purchasing and get the information the vendor wants, call the vendor and give them the info. Call Perforce and get their status, call the vendor and tell them what Perforce told me.
Later on, our IT department decided to change all the licensing used in Perforce in order to centralize it. Another 3 months of hell as we argued and bickered about the details. I like Perforce a lot, but by that time, I wished we simply decided upon Subversion just because it is free and open source.
That's why we use 7zip instead of WinZip or PSpad instead of TextPad. It's not these are superior programs. It's simply easier to use the fre stuff than to deal with the licensing issues.
@really? you must think all the people building large projects using either are complete idiots. let's see something large you built with your tools of choice. hmmm, i see Sun shelled out some cash to buy MySQL...must be that toy databases are good business...maybe you should create a mediocre toy database that Microsoft will buy!
I think all the people building large projects with MySQL either don't have the cash to buy MS SQL or they're being shortsighted, yes. No one in their right mind will put mission critical stuff on MySQL. No bank in their right mind will run on MySQL.
And just because Sun bought them doesn't make them good business - this is the same Sun that came out with Java so that hardware is irrelevant, and they also make hardware. Also they come out with Solaris for free, but it runs on x86 as well which they don't make. Sun isn't the best decision maker.
I used to be an IC also, but now work for company. We're kinda big, but still always focused on the bottom line (we build software, so maybe that's why :) ).
What's also interesting is that, lest we forget, open source might be monetarily "free", but all of it's covered by some form of license (unless it's truly "freeware" which means nobody holds any license to and it is truly in the public domain unencumbered by any restrictions). To that end I can name off the top of my head several commercial hw products using embedded Linux, yet blatantly violating the terms of its license. Believe me, there's one in particular I'd *love* to expose, but I don't feel like poking a hornets' nest. Is that piracy too? Yes, because it's two sides of the same coin: breaching an intellectual property usage contract.
Damien Guard: "For a team of 30 developers spending $900+ on licenses for something that's a bit better than free alternatives and rarely used is difficult to justify."
1 - 4 users: $30 each
5 - 9 users: $17 each
10 - 49 users: $13 each
50 - 99 users: $7 each
100 - 199 users: $5 each
unlimited: $1000 per site
Don't you hate it when people make blanket statements without checking the facts first? :-) Or when they overlook obviously common things like multiple license discounts and/or site licenses?
I am a bit of a free software fanatic, but I ponied up $30 for BeyondCOmpare several years ago because it really was/is better than the free alternatives (for my needs and tastes). My company has subsequently purchased a site license, but I use it at home too. They actually have very generous bulk/site/world licensing options. In the spirit of shareware, they have a fully-functional free 30 day trial.
My other favorite tool that I was willing to pay for over the many free alternatives was editPlus it's built in FTP client and plugin architecture. as well as macro support make this 'basic editor' capable of performing like a lightweight
this blog is getting too big/popular for comments to be enabled
maybe you should create a mediocre toy database that Microsoft will buy!
Microsoft already has a mediocre toy database.
I stopped reading after:
These people used to be called pirates. Now they're open source enthusiasts.
Get a clue.
It all comes down to one single issue: HOW MUCH IS YOUR LIVELIHOOD WORTH TO YOU?
I buy software products, operating systems, books journals, pay for extras when it comes to connectivity, and travel to events to meet with peers. All of that costs money, but its truly an investment. An investment that should always be your top priority.
You and your career.
Your employer should not be the number one investor in your future; you should be!
FYI, Webshots is now owned by American Greetings Corporation, the people who make the "Happy Birthday" type cards you can send by snail mail. I would not be surprised if content is more closely scrutinized and controlled.
It's tempting to ascribe this to the "cult of no-pay", programmers and users who simply won't pay for software no matter how good it is, or how inexpensive it may be.
Er, there's a difference between "won't pay for software" and "won't use software that costs money" that you appear to have overlooked. One's only about getting owt for nowt; the other's a moral choice. The "pirates" are still around - and they never were (or only incidentally) "open source enthusiasts".
Jeff, do you truly see no distinction between the two camps, or were you just being uncharacteristically thoughtless?
It is not "free vs commercial", your own example of MySQL is both.
It can be either "no pay vs for pay" or it can be "open vs closed source".
The "gratis only" camp is a bit silly, if you are a professional any time saved should be well worth the price of the software. But not entirely, I work in research and education, and I prefer to only depend on "gratis" software, simply so money should no be what prevent a poor third world from building on our work. We do pay for non-essential software though.
A preference for open source software usually come from experience, when you have been burned too many times from a closed software whose "business vision" no longer match what you are going, you start looking seriously at the licenses of the software you use, and whether they tie you to a single vendor or not.
With regard to "mass produced vs. targeted software", you have the best chance in the later camp if you are in the "open source but willing to pay" camp, as you can pay someone to customize a product just for you.
Which also leads to what I believe is the best long strategy for a programming career: Extend open source software to the needs of your clients.
Even though the "Open Source Movement" is relatively recent, free software always existed, way before the commercial software industry was created, as a matter of fact. So to call people that didn't buy software pirates is plain rude and uninformed. I didn't buy software in the 80's, but it's because I could find everything I wanted in BBS, or I would type code printed in software enthusiast magazines, or whatever.
But you have to know that, you're not that ignorant about software history. Are you adopting John C. Dvorak's "controversy == page views == money" strategy lately?
Pirates don't pay for software, but people that don't pay for software are not necessarily pirates, that logic 101.
nah, you just retarded like most OSS zealot tripping over something that's really nothing. you are probably one of those slashdot tard who never read the entire article before shooting out his mouth. Your alias should be JustAnotherOSSRetard.
I think the competition is also increasing each year because people are rebelling against software rot. Many applications (especially of the utility variety) get the majority of the useful features in the first 3-4 revisions. After that software vendors start piling on niceties that slow the app down and make it more difficult to use without adding much value.
Besides having the right price, most free or open source alternatives are appealing to me because they often load faster and are easier to use than mature commercial alternatives because they are not burdened with so many extra features that I don't need.
Last night I spent 3 hours looking for "free version/equivalent" of $25 pay software.
Stupid, eh? I wasn't even going to be the one buying it.
mschaef: "The OSS debate is highly charged, since it touches on core values: the ability to make a living, the ability to share information with others, and the ability to contribute back to society in various ways."
Yeah, right. "Contribute back to society".
Show me any OSS project that has provided as much contribution back to society as MS and Bill Gates have with their charitable contributions, made with money they earned *selling* software. IBM makes pretty large charitable donations, too, as do most of the other larger *commercial* software makers.
Let's see... What's the FSF's record of charitable donations? Three software licenses for something that's already open source? How about Apache? What's their charitable record? How many starving children in Africa does Ubuntu feed?
The drivel about OSS "giving back to society" is just that - drivel.
The problems with Open Source is that:
- most of it is crap. There are exceptions, like Apache (although I don't think it's *all that*, it works as you'd expect it to) and Firefox, etc. Unfortunately, they are *exceptions*. Don't believe me? Look at the source.
- there's no support. Sure, report a bug. If you're lucky, someone with the knowledge and free time (because the OSS stuff is a sideline; they have a real job too, because they like food at mealtimes and a roof over their heads when they go to sleep) will feel sorry for you and fix it. Chances are, though, they won't, at least not quickly enough to resolve your problem.
- too many are abandoned. Just look at all of the inactive projects at SourceForge. What if one of those is something that you've decided on to handle some valuable functionality for your business, because they've announced exactly the feature that you need. So you set up to use it, become dependent on it, and then realize that no activity has occurred and it's dead. Now you start scrambling around to find something else, but it now *has* to be free, because the money you should have spent on the commercial product in the beginning has now gone to other things (because, of course, you had a FREE version coming!).
There are just too many negatives and not enough positives about most OSS to depend on them. The paid for alternatives, while not perfect either, at least have an incentive to continue to be supported and enhanced; after all, they want money.
I'm a Beyond Compare user; have been since version 1 was released. I've paid for every upgrade that's been made available. Why? Because it's a good product, and does what I need it to do. I want Scooter Software to keep maintaining and improving it. Besides, I'm a Delphi guy myself, and I don't mind helping keep a Delphi shop working. g
@Jon: Right on the money. Well spoken.
I think those who reacted badly to that statement never understood what Jeff actually meant. You need to read it again carefully without the rush of blood in your heads.
Not for a second I understood he is suggesting the open-source users are former pirates. I understood former pirates are now open-source enthusiasts because they can use a software tool for free and legally now. If you give a well paid job to a former convict he/she would stop stealing but does it mean anyone with a well paid job was a former convict, got it?
The benefits of free as in beer, and particulary free as speech are overwhelming in many ways, and you know it.
If I found a tool that could save me hundreds of work hours, but costs 10$, i'd have to:
1) ask my boss for permission
2) insert the bill into a bad company economy system
3) find the codes it belongs too...
if it were more expensive, i'd have to look for competitors... argue why, and make not-programmers understand why it would really shave so much time.
If it's free, I can skip the buracray.
If it's free (and if it ever had a decent user base) I know I can find it for many years into the future. Right now I'm struggling to find ways to offer service on 8 year old plcs where the software used to program them are discontinued.
If it's free, it has a much bigger user base, and I can usually find instant support through a google search.
If it's free, people are more helpfull providing bug reports, giving me often less buggy software.
If it's free (as in speech), somewhere there is a man annoyed by a missing feature and adds it for me to use.
If it's free, I can always have the latest and greatest of that software.
If it's free, I don't (generally) have to worry about me breaking the EULA.
... closed software have to be brilliant to beat all this.
"These people used to be called pirates. Now they're open source enthusiasts"
I think those who reacted badly to that statement never understood what Jeff actually meant. You need to read it again carefully without the rush of blood in your heads. Not for a second I understood he is suggesting the open-source users are former pirates. I understood former pirates are now open-source enthusiasts because they can use a software tool for free and legally now. If you give a well paid job to a former convict he/she would stop stealing but does it mean anyone with a well paid job was a former convict, got it?
As soon as I find out a piece of software is proprietary, it loses appeal for several reasons. Deployment is probably restricted -- I'm supposed to maybe purchase multiple licenses for multiple machines and platforms. I can't (legally) just send it to my friends to play with right away -- they have to go buy it too, or at least share their email and personal info with yet another harvester of their demographic info. If it breaks, in many cases I'm not allowed to fix or even try to fix it, if I actually had read the EULA I clicked through when I installed it. No, I have to depend on the vendor to support me. If the company decides to focus on other products, or gets bought or sold, or goes out of business, I'm screwed. I have to pay for upgrades to stay current -- and if I don't, that piece of software I once might have paid a premium for loses value every day, until the point where it becomes incompatible or obsolete.
And even if I found a valuable piece of software worth going through all this trouble... if I Google for it, I get flooded with dodgy "software reseller" sites to the point where its hard to tell the good stuff from total crapware that feeds on noobs.
Sure, some of these problems apply to open-source as well, and there is commercial software that clearly offers value above the issues I describe above. The point is, the bar is higher. If they don't rise above those issues, they're not worth the trouble, even if the monetary cost is low. Open source does not require this up-front gambling with making a purchase decision or sharing your personal data in most cases. You can gauge the vitality and politics of its user and developer community out in the open on mailing lists, and you learn to quickly differentiate the valuable projects from the crap. And if there really is a bug or missing feature critical to your business, you could actually go and develop exactly what you need, or go sponsor development of it.
The bottom line is, the bar has been raised. Ten years ago, you had to pay to do lots of things that are now freely available commodities, this trend will only continue, and we can all benefit.
"It's tempting to ascribe this to the "cult of no-pay", programmers and users who simply won't pay for software no matter how good it is, or how inexpensive it may be. These people used to be called pirates. Now they're open source enthusiasts."
"Pirates" still exist, and they're still folks who use software without respecting the license (and licensing fee) of that software. I know more than I can count on both hands; the pirates of yesterday didn't all become the open source enthusiasts of today; many are still pirates.
Most open source enthusiasts, on the other hand, may not pay for software no matter how good it is, but then they don't use that software. Instead, they use an alternative program which is under a license that allows them to do so without cost.
Pirates can be open source enthusiasts, and open source enthusiasts can be pirates, but a blanket statement that one is now the other or synonymous with the other just doesn't stick.
@Leo: I was referring to my example with recording the stereo output. I searched for a few hours for a solution and couldn't find one. Maybe saying "they did this on purpose to make copying harder" was overhasty but it was the feeling I got.
But even if I was wrong in this case I think its a bad thing if the OS hides stuff from the user. All DRM is based on closed source secrets. A perfect symbiosis between content manufacturers and companies like Microsoft and Apple and nearly impossible for us to break out from.
Wah wah wah! You're an OSS developer who can write tight, scalable, original, uncompromising code in 12 different programming languages but you're too scared of your boss or the scary purchasing system to try to get a $30 purchase order approved, even if it saves you dozens of hours?
This is cult-speak, not debate. Free as in zero as in brain cells.
I really don't understand the FOSS movement. How is anybody supposed to eat if all the software is f@#4^ing free. THERE REALLY ISN'T ANY SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCH.
the thing i hate most about capitalism is that it attacks the very idea of free culture and works to destroy it.
i don't want to steal your software, i just want to be left, the fcuk, alone. your capitalist culture sucks cos it enables stupidty, monopoly and fascism. free culture rocks cos it promtoes intelligence, autonomy and personal liberty.
you could give me everything in the world, but everything isn't enough cos the best feeling in the world is taking care of myself, without you interfering in my life, you worthless parasites.
Capitialism isn't perfect but it allows people the freedom to disagree with their government and other people. The same can't be said for Communism or Socialism though. Those governments have always actively worked to crush anyone who disagrees with them.
I'll support you on that claim Masklinn; MySql is still a toy. PostgreSQL kicks its ass and is also free and open source. One could argue it is more free with better licensing. It supports more and is more ANSI-SQL compliant.
While I've done plenty of PHP programming, currently I program in C# for ASP.NET. Visual Studio is a great IDE and there is a free version too. The .NET platform is full of features and is easy to use. It lacks in linux, bsd etc support but the Mono project is coming along.
[quote]I really don't understand the FOSS movement. How is anybody supposed to eat if all the software is f@#4^ing free.[/quote]
Ask everybody who works for Red Hat or Novell or Spikesource or Interface 21 (or whatever they're called now) or the SugarCRM folks, etc.
It's important to understand that the word "free" in English has multiple meanings... one more closely corresponds to "gratis" or "without charge" and the other is closer to "libre" which is about freedom, not charge. IOW, understand the difference between "free as in speech" and "free as in beer," it's a critical distinction.
RHEL is "free software" but is actually quite expensive and Red Hat make good money selling it.
I do prefer free over pay for, but sometimes pay for is enough to get me to buy it. I do use Windows just because I like to play video games every once in a while and also I develop for .net. I'm not pro-linux nor am I pro-windows. What works best for me is what I use.
"it's particularly vicious"
Actually, I'd say it's particularly _virtuous_, since it encourages everyone to produce more, provide more and benefit more.
A lot of points regarding "free software" are completely missed. For example, by the time you search for it, find it, blog/talk/proselytize about it, you could have easily shelled out the $30 for a RegExBuddy or $40 for a BeyondCompare and save much time and effort.
In addition, and by way of example, I use Wireshark extensively not because it's free, but because it does what no other similar product can (i.e., for me it's the best, but being free has nothing to do with it). If a better product should surface but it's not free, I'll weigh the options based on ROI.
Lastly, nothing (repeat: NOTHING) is free, monetarily or otherwise. Something always and must come at the expense of something else, a.k.a., the law of conversation of energy.
Subversion, just recently commented about in this blog, has a diff tool included. It works as neatly and nicely as BeyondCompare (for me anyway).
And there *is* a difference between being an open-source fan and a pirate. Pirates will "steal" the software while open-source users will copy the software according to the license, which happens to usually include the right to copy software for free.
As for lack of personalization, most open source licenses will allow you to make any modifications as you will.
A pirate, for example, will "steal" a Windows copy, and can never be an open-source fan unless he understands how to use it, which is not always so intuitive. (For example, chooses the wrong Linux distro, the one that is not as plug and play-ish or command-line only, and has no idea how to use it.)
To everybody that are saying that Jeff meant to say anything else but what he said: grow up. He had a lot of time to make himself clear and he didn't. Look, I can also say what others were thinking: he was just trolling to attract clicks. This blog has became a click whore for quite a time with increasingly uninformed articles while sounding more and more as the oracle. I found much more interesting the comment by Philip Hofstetter (that sounds like a real experienced pro) than the article by Jeff. But Philip's tone doesn't sell. It's better to adopt the cockery and the bold attitude. Even if you often say bullshit, you won't lose.
What will happen to open source development after the commercial software, whose research and designs they simply steal and clone, goes under?
"Yeah, right. 'Contribute back to society."'
I wasn't specifically referring to OSS contributing to society,
as I was referring to software authors, in general, contributing
to society. Both sets of contributions do admittedly contribute
in different ways, which is part of the point. For my reaction to
Jeff's Pirates/OSS users remark, I've been accused of getting
defensive and reading things into his comment that weren't
there. Thank you for the demonstration that this can happen on
either side of the debate.
"Show me any OSS project that has provided as much contribution
back to society as MS and Bill Gates have with their charitable
I'm not saying those aren't valuable, but there is a definite
commercial self-interest involved. The contributions started in
ernest around the time Microsoft came under its heavist fire from
government regulatory bodies. This is also about the time
Microsoft went from a non-entity on Capitol hill to a very active
supporter of the government lobby.
You can also see this in their windows licensing. They had very
little interest in serving the third world with their product,
until OLPC went after the market with open source software. This
now has Microsoft rushing to market with a version of Windows XP
targeting a platform that Gates once very vocally derided. "Get a
real computer", if I remember correctly.
The work they've done is indeed enormous, but it is essential to
view it in its context.
"Let's see... What's the FSF's record of charitable donations? "
I'm not sure I view the FSF as a donor, but rather an aggregator
of donations of time and effort made by individual developers.
"The problems with Open Source is that:
- most of it is crap."
I don't think that's limited to OSS. Most software, in general, is crap.
"- there's no support."
My experience that commercial support isn't too snappy. I've
spent a fair amount of time working with vendors who can't answer
questions on their software and aren't able or willing to fix
issues in the time frame that's useful. In the case of
deprecated softare, something like Visual BASIC 6, the situation
is worse. Not only is support unavailble, the product is
discontinued, leaving the only eventuality an expensive port (on
my dime) to another platform.
"Sure, report a bug. If you're lucky, someone with the knowledge
and free time (because the OSS stuff is a sideline;"
Much is also commercially supported. You mentioned IBM, please
see their contributions to Eclipse, and LInux, among
others. There are also products and niches within spaces too
small to support commercial development. Given a choice between
a hobby developer and no software at all, I at least want the
choice of an OSS alternative.
"- too many are abandoned. "
See VB6 and Windows XP, among many others. Abandonment is not
unique to OSS. The ability to take on support after the original
authors abandon a project, is unique to OSS
"There are just too many negatives and not enough positives about
most OSS to depend on them."
We see this differently. It's not that I will only use OSS, but
rather that I'm not willing to write off all software that's
licensed under OSS, a priori. Some of it is quite nice.
"Closed source is a licensing scam, more or less unique to the world of software. Most other stuff you buy you actually own, and you are free to resell it, take it apart, change it, fix it, learn from it, whatever. I'll pay for software, I won't pay to get screwed (unless you're a hooker).
Linking the desire for freedom with piracy is pretty typical for the utter contempt some software makers have for their users. Never thought you would be one of them."
Again, a lot of Pirates became OSS enthusiasts when they realised they could get what they wanted without breaking the law. THIS IS NOT A CONTROVERSIAL ISSUE, this is what happened.
And it's not as bad as the standard contempt shown for OSS enthusiasts to anyone who doesn't want to spend time and energy attempting to fix their software, for the reward of, in many cases, being told they're doing it wrong.
"Flatly, if you need a tool to build a regular expression, you are in the wrong job."
You are wasting time and doing a worse job for the purpose of ego-stroking. Well done sir.
Excellent. Although a lot of people out there (this includes me) would rather download a free, open-source program, there are definitely real reasons to buy payed software. For one thing, paid software almost always comes with support in one form or another.
I don't pay for software because I can't. I don't have a credit card, I'm not willing to poke my dad every time I want some paid program, and free software (as in price, not as in the FSF fucked up and preached definition) works good enough.
And yes, sometimes I do pirate. But it's like with music. I'll stop pirating when they give me a decent way to get it legally (afaik there is only one online music store in Argentina, ubbi msica, and it *sucks*).
First they insult you. You criticize them. Then they insult you some more.
End conclusion: the guy don't know how to write besides others things... Perhaps some of the posters should write the posts for him. :)
I stopped reading after:
These people used to be called pirates. Now they're open source enthusiasts.
Yeah, I'd have to say that was badly-worded at best.
In fact, I argue the opposite is true. Proprietary software users engage in far more "piracy" (as defined by their vendors) than Free Software users do. A lot of it is even unintentional. But even malicious "pirates" are going to be using proprietary software. What use is the GPL to someone who ignores license restrictions anyway?
Really though, you'd be hard pressed to find someone who regularly uses computers and has *never* violated a license (even by accident). We are *all* former "pirates". So I'd suggest that singling out one group of us to tar with "the P word" is just a really Bad Idea.
It would be fair to say that those folks who just can't abide by restrictive software used to have no choice but break the law, and now they have a choice. I suspect (hope) that's what he was trying to get at.
I've read through a hundred plus comments, and am surprised that no one mentioned the legal aspect. The last corporation I worked for ABSOLUTELY FORBID open-source software for accountability reasons. They could not sue if something went wrong. I've talked with a few friends, and they tell the same story. So there is still a market for major companies to license software with a warranty in case you lose a few million using it.
A commercial program that is superior to a freeware alternative often has little chance of attracting users. Why? Well, because most users only need so many features. I took a quick look at the websites of Beyond Compare and for WinMerge. If I wanted a comparison tool, I'd probably go for WinMerge because it has the basic functionality I need. I don't need 100 features when I'm just going to use 10.
This is why many people choose Deepburner over Nero Burning Rom and why some people still stay with Internet Explorer 6, rather than switching to IE7 or Firefox and even these alternatives are free, too! If it's got what you need, why get something else?
I'm sure if someone made a Resharper-Free that implemented 10% of the features the commercial Resharper has, it'd be just as popular or even more-so than its costly counterpart. And that's just 10%
@o.s. "The same can't be said for Communism or Socialism though. Those governments have always actively worked to crush anyone who disagrees with them."
I very much doubt you know what Socialism is if you're saying things like that. So many people think "Commie == Socialist == BAD!!" without knowing what any of them are or how they are different from each other. Sigh.
Socialism does not crush those who disagree any more than any other way of running things.
Tim: "They could not sue if something went wrong"
Good luck suing a software vendor when something goes wrong. Maybe a large corp can leverage their buying power to get free licensing or compensation, but commercial software companies are notorious for their lack of liability. Its part of practically every licensing agreement in existence.
@Greg: Absolutely, and that was kind-of the point that I failed to make;
For example, by the time you search for it, find it, blog/talk/proselytize about it, you could have easily shelled out the $30 for a RegExBuddy or $40 for a BeyondCompare and save much time and effort.
I write software for a living, for my own business. Self-employed. An army of just 1. Believe me, nobody wants to spend money needlessly *less* than I do. It's really coming directly out of my pocket, off of my bottom-line, food-on-my-table etc.
But I'll drop $30 on Beyond Compare (or whatever) and move on to the next problem. If Scooter go under in the future (heaven forbid that they should) and I find myself suddenly needing a file compare program and also somehow my copy of BC has *stopped* working, then I'll worry about the cost of finding and buying that program again there and then. Right now, I'm thinking about today, tomorrow and maybe the next 12 months. I'm not worrying about the potential long-term lock-in cost of buying a utility program, because that lock-in cost is not going to bite me in the next year or so; as a small businessman, that's the only period of time I'm really focussing on. Who knows where I'll be in 2 years time?
While I accept for many others this isn't the case, for me it's absolutely simple; I can hit Google, find the 'popular solution', make a relatively quick, semi-informed choice, buy the tool, do the job and move on to the next problem. It's not even so much the time involved in finding the open-source alternatives, or asking people for recommendations - it's the simple fact that the cost of these things is usually truly insignificant. If BC was a $300 purchase, then it would warrant some consideration. If it was a $3000 purchase, I'd naturally research it and look for ways to either justify the cost (or find alternatives). But at $30, it's a buy, use move on thing.
To me, so much stuff changes in the real world on a day by day basis, that worrying about whether a utility tool vendor is going to be around in a couple of years time is just a waste of my time.
I understand why other people want the ability to get inside the source code, but am *I* ever really going to get inside that source code? Pretty damn unlikely. So having the source code is a comfort, but in reality that's all it is - it's very unlikely that I would take-up a chunk of source code (probably developed in a tool I'm not familiar with) and try to fix, or adapt something in the future. Probably better to simply swallow the cost and find another supplier/vendor.
Though, like I said, I appreciate that we get all sorts of developers here from all walks of life and from following the often heated comments above, clearly I'm in the minority!
PHP is the Visual Basic 6 of the UNIX world. It's broken, kludged up garbage for lowest-common-denominator programmers. But it's dirt-simple to start with, so it's become ubiquitous garbage.
By the way, I pay for open source software all the time, but It's because I tried the software and found it useful. Not all open source people are like that guy.
I saw here and there reasonings in the form "We pay to get beers, there is no free beers". Hum, I think reality is a bit more complex... Some open-source hardware designs examples :
* High-quality servomotor : http://www.openservo.com
* 3d printers : http://fabathome.org
* Telescopes : most of the designs are available
Those open-source designs are made by people that needed it, and are already well paid enough to share those designs.
In the same way, it's quite reasonable to think about free printings of beer production device, with variations to get Mexican or Belgian taste. Then you get real free beer... Of course you have to pay to build the beer production device, to get the ingredients, the electricity. It's the same with free software : even you get them for free, you still have to learn to use them, to have a computer... They don't kill the economy, they are not non-sense. Just an other way to do business, which tend to lower the individual profit, but raise the global profit, because of the knowledge sharing.
I agree with most of the topic, but many things that I can argue with. the first is that "free" definitely does not mean "the same for all". "free" means equal right to compete, to create fair competitive market
Yeah, I also suggest www.omfica.org
I found many answers to the discussed topic there. Now I see that it is possible to rise individual benefits, intangible to some extent, but benefits, from egalitarian point of view!!!
"It's tempting to ascribe this to the "cult of no-pay", programmers and users who simply won't pay for software no matter how good it is, or how inexpensive it may be. These people used to be called pirates. Now they're open source enthusiasts."
If you take your head out of your butt and read the sentence in context, you will notice it says "these people" referring to people who won't pay for software no matter the cost, from the sentence less than a line away. He isn't stating OSS enthusiast == pirate. Some of you really need to work on your reading comprehension skills or perhaps you just like trolling.
For every OSS advocate who won't use a commercial product, there are still two Windows developers who won't use Linux or anything that smacks of it because it's "a toy."
At one development job I had another programmer essentially wrote his own string processing library from scratch in C because he didn't trust regular expressions (since they were associated in his mind with Unix, Berkeley, free software, etc.---all lumped together as "noncommercial" and therefore crap).
"A commercial program that is superior to a freeware alternative often has little chance of attracting users. Why? Well, because most users only need so many features. I took a quick look at the websites of Beyond Compare and for WinMerge. If I wanted a comparison tool, I'd probably go for WinMerge because it has the basic functionality I need. I don't need 100 features when I'm just going to use 10."
But a lot of people need to be able to access that functionality easily and clearly, and that's where a lot of OS software falls apart. Which is ironic, because it's exponentially easier to make less functionality easily accessible.
That said, that is an OSS strength. "Less functionality, but it's the stuff you ACTUALLY use."
I would buy more of this little tools if I could put them in my basket at amazon because on most sites the payment processing is clumsy.
"Why does every discussion have to be messy when it touches OSS?"
Where do you stop though? If I bought the 'best' tool for the job for every little thing that I need to do on my computer I would be forking out a small fortune.
"MySQL (is) still a toy database"
I suppose if you were running a _huge_ database then it might start to struggle... but the majority of the millions of databases out there _aren't_ huge - for them it is an excellent choice.
If you need some weeding done in your garden, do you hire the world's leading landscape gardener, or do you do it yourself? Answer: you do it yourself, and save thousands of pounds (or dollars) in the process. The landscape gardener may well do a better job, but for what it's worth, the difference is negligible. It's a simple case of using the right tool for the job.
@mix lagua No, we are not all linux enthusiats, i find linux is the biggest piece of crap which was aver developed.
@Trevor: "If a project is earning money there's no reason it will become abandonware."
Not necessarily true. Public corporations with multiple products have a legal obligation to maximize return for their shareholders, which is not necessarily the same as maximizing the return from a single product. My first commercial project out of school suffered this fate. Our group was profitable, but we didn't align with the strategic interests of the company. We were disbanded and the resources redeployed to where they were more likely to be useful to the corporation as a whole.
VB6, I've said it before in this thread, is another example of a profitible product that was discontinued by the vendor.
@Alan: "Why have you decided to become an open-source developer? ... Don't you know you are contributing many small companies to be closed down and leave many developers jobless"
The other side to this question is why should these small companies necessarily be able to make money selling something that's apparently pretty well known how to create? OSS, almost by definition, isn't rocket science or even very innovative, so unless your commercial entity can add value over that, you probably _should_ have trouble selling your product.
Chill out people. Have a (possibly free) beer. :-)
Why does every discussion have to be messy when it touches OSS? Let's be a bit more pragmatic here. Computer everything that runs on it are just tools. I don't care if a tool is free or not. All I care about is its merit function, ie. what I get (money, productivity, satisfaction etc.) minus what I have to give (money, time, energy etc.), within legal limit that is. That's why I use both to my advantage.
On the production side, I'm coding commercial software, but I'm giving a serious thought about pursuing another business model using OSS too.
I don't mind doing both. I don't mind at all.
For me its not about free as in cost, its about the freedom as in freedom of choice. Companies that create software for sale should be allowed to do so without being marginalized, same for us that choose to use "free software". The free as in cost, is just a side effect of the sharing culture of OSS, but in some way we all contribute either by way of writing directly the software or somewhere else in the stack. Some folk Beta test others promote and some help out with "tech support" by way of mailing lists. others writer to refute FUD and diatribe.
Join the revolution and give something away.
@Paulus: "Why does every discussion have to be messy when it touches OSS?"
It's not necessarily bad if it's messy, just messy. Constructive debate on the relative merits of OSS and Closed Source is a good thing, and as important as the software itself, if not moreso.
@Jonas: 'Free! "I don't think that word means what you think it means."'
Here's a word you don't seem to know the meaning of: Homonym. :-)
@ mschaef: 'VB6, I've said it before in this thread, is another example of a profitible product that was discontinued by the vendor.' 'See VB6 and Windows XP, among many others. Abandonment is not unique to OSS.'
VB6 and XP are pretty terrible examples of "discontiuned" products. What are VB.Net and Vista?
They spend alot of time trying to differiate "free" as in $$$/beer
vs "free" as in freedom; but they miss the definition used here.
Jeff was purely looking thru the lens of "free" as $$$ when
That is exactly the point though! When Jeff concentrates on the up-front purchase of Free Software, like that's all it has going for it, he totally misapprehends the situation. That's *not* why people use it so much.
The rest of the article was about trying to make your proprietary software good enough to compete against Free Software. If you don't really understand the appeal of your competition, you fail Sun Tsu's first imperitive of war: knowing your enemy.
Hard not to read this with cynical eyes, after yesterday's unfortunate post calling OSS enthusiasts ex-pirates.
Still, congratulations, 5000 is no small money. I wish more of the .NET developer supported (hell, at least understood) what the open source movement is about.
@Leo Davidson: "VB6 and XP are pretty terrible examples of "discontiuned" products. What are VB.Net and Vista?"
Have you ever tried to port between VB6 and VB.Net? There are porting tools and superficial similarities, but they are really quite different languages. Among many other differences, VB.Net now defaults to requiring explicit variable declarations. This can be turned off, but the semantics you get from doing so are different than in VB6. A port to VB.Net is effectively a complete rewrite, and that assumes you can find .Net equivalents to any third party components you were using in VB6.
So, effectively speaking, there is still a product called Visual Basic, but it's close to the same as being a totally different. This also applies to VBA too. VBA is falling increasingly into the same category as the old pre-excel-5 macro language. It's still supported, but unchanging, in favor of Microsoft's current corporate strategy, which is .Net based automation.
The XP/Vista scenario is similar. I've worked for several Fortune 500 clients recently that are still on Windows 2000, much less XP or Vista. You can argue that they should stay with the times and upgrade, but when you have 200,000 seats to upgrade, this is a costly thing to do, both in terms of time and in money. For companies that large, you can probably get special treatement from Microsoft, but the same issues apply at any scale, including companies small enough not to appear on Microsoft's radar. They're still faced with the cost of an upgrade, and no compelling reason to upgrade, aside from the fact that Microsoft wants them to. Which, of course, they do, since it means more money towards the Microsoft top line.
All of these examples have one thing in common: an initial investment in Microsoft (Closed Source) technology, followed by Microsoft making decisions in their own interest, decisions that force their clients to pay more money to upgrade. If there were really compelling reasons (ie: it'll make me more profitable) to go from 2000 to Vista or VB6 to .Net, then maybe it'd make sense to upgrade. However, for the 99% of the world that doesn't care about the relative merits of strong typing, explicit variable declarations, and GDI, GDI+, and WPF, all of these upgrades are just a tedious and expensive pain in the ass. OSS, by virtue of the fact that it's open, at least provides an alternative to continually having to pay Microsoft, just because they feel like you owe them.
I totally get this. I love Ultra-Edit for it's column editing, but use Crimson Edit because it's free. I have no idea why I spent several hours scouring for a free text editor with Ultra-Edit's column editing feature to come up with nothing. (I still believe something exists)
BTW, The best free diff tool is SourceGear's Diffmerge. ;)
A great alternative for regex testing is expresso, its free and it rocks:)
Also winmerge is a very good app, every time I get a new version of it they have added something cool.
I find it amusing that developers who make software for a living are the stingiest about paying for it. I guess, in some way working in a business numbs you to the value of the product or service you are offering. I suppose the farm worker who picks apples for a living probably couldn't stomach the idea of paying for an apple either since he is surrounded by them all day.
@JohnFX: "I find it amusing that developers who make software for a living are the stingiest about paying for it. "
Developers are just the sort of people who best recognize how transient most software is, which I'm sure diminishes perceived value.
"Please, let's not associate software freedom with the act of attacking ships.
The goals of the free software movement are to create software that anyone can run, study, modify and distribute, including their own modified versions. The real opportunity for making money with free software comes from providing training and support services, as well as custom development. Plenty of companies are making a lot of money this way."
Run, study, and modify? maybe. Distribute? now you are talking about free as in beer. Because the freedom to distribute would essentially put a closed source vendor out of business.
The word "piracy" has been re-defined. Why can't people just accept it?
"Software that does not give the user freedom is this way is uncooperative and unhelpful to those wishing to live in a free society."
You mean like 1% of the population? Most people and businesses do not care about the fact that they can bring their software for updates to anyone (which doesn't work very well when you aren't so tech savvy).
The general population wants to buy software, not have to touch the code, and get support from the people that sold it to them.
"The Free Software Foundation is one such organisation that seeks to educate the public about the issues of software freedom."
They are a zealous foundation that seeks to push their neo-socialistic agenda on the Internet population. It has little to do with freedom.
These problem tormented me for a long time and I finally succeeded to crystallize all my thought into a single post on my blog.
I tried to explain the consequences of open source for a coder and for a company.
Basically it might turn up to be bad for developers (read geeks) and good for a company