Steve Jenson's blog

Pay to Play or Play and Can't Pay Your Rent?

Pay to Play or Play and Can't Pay Your Rent?

Lately the topic of Free vs. Pay software has been coming up a lot.

Who has the right to decide when my software should be freed to the public.

Compliments as commodities: non-optimized compilers and runtimes, non-attractive debuggers.

I never want to again program in another language where the only runtime is closed. That seems like a waste of my time. That's the primary reason I don't seriously prgoram in REBOL. What if RTI, the company behind REBOL, goes tits up. What if Carl Sassenrath dies? What am I supposed to do with a ton of newly worthless source code? I suppose at that point I could write my own compiler or a transformer to another language without fear of legal repercussion (I hope) but that seems less than ideal. Not that Carl Sassenrath passing away is ideal. Sorry for the grim example.

It's the difference between taking the bus, owning an old jalopy, and driving a Lexus.

As an independant developer, I sometimes worry that my lunch is going to get eaten by a bunch of college kids with nothing better to do but I know that the ball is always in my court to write better software, regardless. They're just another kind of competitor. One place Open Source has somewhat failed is in the usability arena. Have _you_ used OpenOffice? Postgres is just as powerful as SQL Server but less than useful to the non-expert user. While discussing persistence issues, the E project decided to bundle a simple persistence library that does the basic stuff in a reasonably efficient manner but if a customer wanted better, they would be able to purchase Tyler Close's drop-in solution for a decent fee. Chris Cummer writes software and after a few years gives away it's source under the GPL and only continues support for older customers.

I would really hate to see the software industry turned into a service industry giving away all of it's good to the commons. Honestly, what we do is a difficult skill to acquire, and doing it well takes years of experience. We're not fast order cooks, we're architects and doctors. Let's not end up in that sort of situation

In the end, I don't think legislation like the recent bill to keep all non-open-source software out of the California government office will help more than hurt. Frankly, I wouldn't want to saddle all our gov't employees with a Linux desktop. I don't even recommend it to my mom yet. I think more sensible legislation is keeping companies convicted of crimes, such as anti-trust violations, from peddling their wares to the gov't. They're really what we're trying to protect against, bullying companies who keep competitors from reading their file formats. The 500 lb rabid gorilla.

# — 01 September, 2002