IMO, safety and "reliability" are, by far, the most important issues
in making a car purchase. You don't want to die (unnecessarily)
in it. And, you want it to *start* every time you ask it to!
I've watched people take the "penny wise, pound foolish" approach
to purchases over the years and the consequences of those short-sighted
[I recall colleagues who bought "off brand (PC) clones" in the mid 80's
hoping to save a few bucks. And, the countless hours they lost when
things didn't quite work as they had hoped (hence the rice of the "100%
I was a consultant back then and I built a 6 PC dBaseII data system that had
paralegals entering data abstracts on 4 machines nearly around the clock on
XT clones. Periodically I would sneaker net the abstracted data onto two AT
clones daily for searching. Couldn't have done it without the price break
the clones provided and didn't have any trouble running dBaseII and Wordstar
on those machines.
I had considerable help from VF associates and owner Tom Von Flandern and
his sons. (DC area computer geeks of the time probably know the name.) They
lived, breathed and ate clones and stocked what they thought were the most
reliable equipment. I spent 10's of thousands of dollars there. The only
dud I bought was a Tulin 40MB drive that crapped out very shortly after
purchase. Then, the company managed to go bankrupt while "servicing" my
I also managed to get a stack of new PC Jr half height 360K drives with an
IBM logo on the front to install in the machines I used in the abstracting
project. Since the only logo visible was "IBM" no one in a multi-hundred
employee law firm knew that they were clones.
I'll agree that the more esoteric the application, the more likely
compatibility problems would arise but I rarely saw them. I had legit IBMs
on site, but clones could be had for considerably less than the real thing.
After a while, I *preferred* clones because I could select what motherboard
I wanted from a selection of suppliers that also made boards for the Big
Boys. I ended up mostly with Asus motherboards in my machines because they
seemed the most reliable but I've used Tyan, Gigabyte, MSI and many more.
I am not sure that the PC revolution would have been as remarkable as it was
without the clones. They enabled a lot more people access to personal
computing than an IBM-only world would have.
Those are relatively "mainstream" applications. You weren't drawing
schematics, designing circuit boards, or creating molds for injection
I didn't run "IBM-badged" hardware. OTOH, I didn't run "Peoples' Computer
Factory #2733" UNBADGED machines. When my friends were paying ~2K for
a machine, I was paying 8K. But, I never called anyone at 3AM complaining
that a $3K CAD program "was misbehaving". Or, that my "discount" disk
drive's geometry wasn't supported in the machine's BIOS, etc. Or, my
(UN*X) coprocessor card was incompatible with the DOS driver it loaded
"under" the UN*X OS for "hardware services".
As someone said in a movie once, "A man's got to know his limitations."
Would I try to run a leading edge graphics program on a clone? Probably
not, but I also saw plenty of people with legit IBM's and MACs go through
some serious tsuris trying to get things to work. The SW of that period had
extensive "complexity" issues exacerbated by a rapidly evolving HW base.
I had more problems with programs that used copy protection (like Lotus)
that required key disks or that secret sectors be written to the hard disk.
those programs invariably caused serious backup problems.
I believe that CopyLok or some such nonsense actually caused several of the
software companies that used that or similar technologies to go under.
People learned what happened to Copy-locked programs after the first system
restore and shopped elsewhere. I believe Borland began eating Lotus' lunch
over the copy-protection issue. There's poetic justice in a convoluted
scheme to protect against software copying that ignored real-world
consequences to users bringing a whole software company to its knees.
A dongle is livable. Something like Superlok that demands a file be written
in a non-standard way, not so much. I recall we came in on two Mondays in a
row with the entire network locked up because the backup had failed due to
Lotus' copy protection failing verification.
Plans to replace Lotus with Excel were soon underway and it was gone by the
next accounting cycle with only a few die hards having Lotus still on their
desktops. When tech inquiries to Lotus made it clear they weren't going to
work with us on the subject of failed restores we chose another option.
There are still plenty of industrial programs that use dongles, but very few
that I know of that use deliberately corrupted media. (Ducks in fear that
I will now learn about all the software that still uses corrupt media to
protect their IP).
DVD video relies on this heavily.
Ages ago, floppy "key disks" were "marginalized" -- so that their contents
were not *reliably* read. The verification software simply tried to read
them several times. If it got consistent results, it knew this was a
forged copy. If the data changed "mysteriously", it knew that this was
a genuine medium that was deliberately "flakey".
You have to show some sympathy for (pure) software vendors -- folks that
don't ALSO sell a piece of hardware that their software uses/runs on.
I always chuckle when I hear folks wanting "free" -- yet also wanting
to be *paid* for THEIR work efforts! The Other Guy is always OVERPAID;
but never oneself! :>
I note the large numbers of folks who run FOSS and suspect that many of
them do so simply because it is "Free". They simply don't want to
have to PAY for these "products" and will "settle" for things that
are inferior, lack any sort of support, etc. JUST to avoid paying
for them! They also seem to be the sorts of folks who don't value their
If you could have a "free" car but had to spend an hour running around
pushing levers, adjusting settings, mixing fuel, etc. just to get
an hour's worth of use out of it, would you? Knowing that you'll
have to do the same thing *tomorrow* for an hour's use at that time?
Would you use a "free" cellphone (exclusively) if the chances of getting
signal were 50% at any given time?
How much time would you be willing to post comments on user forums
HOPING to find a GENUINE solution to the problem you are having
trying to get your FOSS spreadsheet program to calculate your
income tax bracket before you could file your tax return?
How many times will you tolerate downloading and installing updates
in the *hope* that something that you are having problems with gets fixed?
How much RISK do you run that those updates don't BREAK something
else? Or, change its behavior in a way that sends you scurrying back to
those same forums asking how you NOW perform the task that you previously
KNEW how to perform?
Someone has to pay for the efforts of those developers. Just like
someone has to pay for the doctor who treats/cures your malady, the
accountant who balances your books, the farmer who grows your food, etc.
So, why is software considered different? Free to steal -- if not
And was cracked a long, long time ago by a 16 year old kid. Also, I don't
run my business from DVDs so there's a bit of a structural difference
between the two.
The fact that Excel (unprotected) buried 123 tells us something about
people's tolerance for copy-protected software that could fail them at the
worst time possible - after a network crash. We bought licenses for every
seat but even so, we could NOT afford to spend the inordinate amount of time
we did trying to restore 123 from a tape backup of the HD.
They also punched physical holes in the disks to accomplish much the same
Well, it's not really *that* bad using freeware. People also realized that
the marginal cost to the manufacturer of SW box # 2 is very much not the
same as tangible property.
It's like when they closed Napster and the CD industry collapsed. They were
so paranoid about copying they ignored what Napster did for them. I used it
all the time to find music to listen to - and then to buy - because I
couldn't stand the chatter of commercial radio stations.
I didn't start buying music again until Napster had basically forced the
industry into a la carte sales of songs. Eventually even the RIAA had to
give up on its campaign of suing grandmothers for thousands of dollars
because their grandkids set up Napster on the computer.
Just the other day I had to help a person convert a Region 2 DVD into one
she could play. She had no idea that the world has been carved up into DVD
regions that don't support one another.
I also have some issues with supporting companies like Disney who managed to
change the copyright laws to their liking at the expense of the very concept
of copyrighting. Mickey's copyright *should* have ended long ago but Disney
*bought* Senator Hollings (aka Senator Disney) and he spearheaded changing
the copyright laws to favor Disney and not the general public.
When Lexmark tried to use the DMCA to prevent people from refilling printer
cartridges any sympathy I might have had for the big guys evaporated.
If the chances of freeware working were only 50% I'd agree with that
analogy, but it's not. It's more difficult to use, but not by that large a
Probably as much as I might spend finding out how to do what I need to do
with a paid software program. I got one of the new 50 dollar Kindle Fire
tablets and the documentation is atrocious - and I own it fair and square.
Paying for something is no guarantee of good (or any) support.
That's MS, Apple and any company that has to publish updates. They've all
failed at one time or another.
The rule of computing for a very long time has been; "The Upgrade Giveth and
the Upgrade Taketh Away." It's usually a crapshoot as to what comes and
Again, that's Windows, Apple and even Unix when a new version or a bugfix is
required. Why did MS change "Find" to "Search?" Perhaps we'll never know
but changing 'happy' to 'glad' just for the sake of changing something has
been going on for a long time - way before the PC revolution.
Software is perceived differently than all of the above (right or wrong)
because it's IP, not tangible property and not work confined to one client
> So, why is software considered different? Free to steal -- if not
Stealing a piece of software is not the same as stealing a tangible good
like a truck fill of vegetables. Steal from the farmer and he's out real
time and money that it will take to regrow that crop. Steal from a SW and
the physical damages are the incremental cost involved with making another
With Free/Shareware it's the cost of disk storage space and perhaps not even
that with CNET and other places that will take on the distribution cost. I
am not trying to justify the theft, only to answer your question as to why
people think it's OK to rip off software. People just don't see IP the same
way as tangible property.
No, Excel buried Lotus because MS marketed/bundled it far more
aggressively. Why did MSWord bury WordPerfect? Was it because
WP had some onerous licensing terms/technology? Why did MS C
bury Borland's offerings? etc.
Should software vendor set price of each copy to recover his total
costs for developing said product? Offer a deep discount to buyer #2
and let first adopters pay for all the development??
I interviewed with a company that sold "distilled water" prepackaged
for their instrument -- at prices that rivaled what you'd pay for a
vintage wine! How is a little bottle of water justified at an outrageous
price (to help defray development costs for the "toilet paper dispenser")
but software that tries to control *its* users is considered "outrageous"?
Maybe for "plain jane" applications (office/productivity suites).
But, have you compared the features and quality of those "modern"
FOSS offerings with *paid* offerings from 20 years past? Let
alone trying to factor in the effects that hardware advances
have GIFTED to the current FOSS offerings (try running some of
these programs on 20 year old hardware for a REAL eye opener!)
Because the market your fishing in has been driven by bottom feeders.
No one *wants* to pay for support -- so what vendor would devote
resources *to* support? If you *charge* for support, then users
grumble. So, you set up a web portal and HOPE users can get enough
support from their peers that they will continue to use your product;
even if that means they only use a small fraction of what is possible!
I was building 3D CAD models some 20+ years ago (AutoCAD v11 w/ AME).
I can recall having a problem with the package (some $3K as an *upgrade*)
and having a fix in my hands within days.
We'll ignore the fact that there were no FOSS 3D CAD offerings "back then".
If I had a similar problem with a FOSS product *today*, it would probably
be weeks for someone to "take an interest" in my particular problem,
devote some time researching it and then days or weeks for someone
to decide it was worth *fixing*!
Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on *my* project. What do I tell *my*
client? "The FREE software that I'm using doesn't work correctly.
I'm hoping someone will step up and offer me a solution sometime soon.
I realize *you* have market constraints that are pressuring you for a
product offering but there's nothing *I* can do to speed things up..."
[And, hope I don't get slapped with a suit charging me for failing
to meet my contractual obligations -- and wanting me to pay the costs
for them to hire someone else to provide those results!]
And the same is true of FOSS software. Download a newer version of <whatever>
and you discover that a whole slew of dependencies get dragged into that
effort. Not that they *need* to be but no one has spent the time to make
the upgrade as painless as possible: "just grab it all" (and worry
about the changes/bugs that you've now inheritted, later!)
Of course! And the FOSS community is no better than the COTS vendors.
"Update often" is a *mantra* of the FOSS community. A reflection that
there is very little formal testing going on -- no one's "business"
(reputation) is at stake.
But the FOSS world is just as guilty. No one takes ownership of a
(FOSS) "product" and thinks about it from the consumer's point of view.
Instead, its wide-eyed "look at this neat feature I added!" ("Mommy,
I made a poops!")
No, that's not true. Let *everyone* steal from that developer and it
doesn't matter how many incremental copies he makes -- no one is
BUYING those copies! What's to stop EVERYONE from "taking a freebie"
instead of paying for it? Look at how few "shareware" (voluntary
payments) companies/developers are "successful". Are any of them
publicly traded? Any have net positive cash flows? :>
So, they shouldn't see their own *labors* as having value, right? After
all, the time you spend digging a ditch or balancing someone's books
or diagnosing someone's medical problems aren't TANGIBLE things. So,
why would you expect folks to PAY for those things? Make me a bowl
out of a sheet of copper and I'll pay you for the bowl. Balance my
corporate books and what do I have to show (tangibly) for the effort?
Back in the day I used Borland's OWL IDE. At the time it was arguable
better than MFC. Gates had deeper pockets however. Borland did piss me
off when they bought the BRIEF programming editor and effectively buried it.
I sorely miss Brief. Unfortunately, modern machines appear to be
far too fast for it to run effectively. I can recall trying to
run it on a 25MHz (!) 386 and the mere act of *touching* an
arrow key would instantly scroll past the end/edge of the
Paradox was another "class above" compared to "Abcess". In
the technology world, quality rarely wins.
How often do you draw schematics, design FPGA's, layout circuit boards,
design mechanical enclosures/injection molds, draw architectural
floorplans, publish "camera ready" documents, done any symbolic math
processing, etc.? (these being some of the things I've done in the last
I use FOSS tools to write software and build software systems (gdb,
gcc, eclipse, etc.). And, for some "commodity utilities" (mail,
news, www, etc.) But, beyond that, everything is COTS software.
I'd rather spend the money and have a tool that does what I *need*
and *want* than have to struggle with a tool that *aspires* to
do so "when it grows up" -- and having to "settle" for its
current state of completion.
A neighbor gave me a bicycle. I can get around town with it. It
would cost me NOTHING in terms of gas, licensing, insurance, etc.
Yet, I prefer to spend money driving a *car* -- so I can get where
I want to go without making *that* a separate chore unto itself!
[Don't get me wrong, I am a huge proponent of FOSS! Every line of code
that I'm writing, every schematic diagram, PCB layout, mold assembly,
etc. are all destined to be released unencumbered -- not even with the
obligations like the GPL imposes! I just don't think FOSS is ready for
prime time, on the whole. There's no sense of ownership/pride in it
as a "product" (PostgreSQL seems to be a notable exception)]
Not relevant to my use of FOSS. Remember, I said that FOSS software does
everything that *I* need, it was not a blanket statement saying FOSS was
suitable for anyone else. My own usage, aside from general desktop, would
be primarily servers of various types, network management and diagnostic
utilities, rescuing data from dead PCs or corrupt filesystems, etc.
(Basically for me FOSS is a Swiss army knife of capabilities for EDP work.)
Anyone else's mileage may vary.
Roger Blake (Change "invalid" to "com" for email. Google Groups killfiled.)
Exactly. Returning to my bicycle analogy, that bicycle MAY be a good
solution for someone else -- someone who doesn't need to travel as far
or who doesn't care how much time is spent on "the journey", etc.
On my NetBSD/FreeBSD machines, I don't even run a "desktop" -- just
a lightweight window manager (twm, uwm, etc.) over a bare root window.
No need for file managers, office suites, etc. (all of that sort of
stuff happens in the Windows world).
I rely on core services (NTP, FTP, HTTPd, POP/IMAP, NNTP, DNS, etc.)
provided by the (FOSS) OS -- I wouldn't even *try* to set up IS
The things on which I rely on FOSS are primarily things that I am
prepared/committed to maintain on my own -- without having to risk
being *dragged* into some newer release of a COTS product *just* to
get some particular bug fixed (I can find and fix the bugs myself;
something that COTS software won't let me do!).
My primary use for a GUI is to run multiple xterms. :) I've been working
mainly with Linux in recent years but may go back to BSD ("real Unix")
since I don't care much for the idea of the new systemd init system
taking over as much as it does.
Roger Blake (Change "invalid" to "com" for email. Google Groups killfiled.)
Exactly. I have simple .twmrc's that let me call up an Xterm, xcursor,
etc. with mouse buttons on the root window (along with windowops).
Cut and paste text from one window to another, etc. (of course,
"other window" may be a client running on an entirely different
host from first window)
I have several X terminal appliances (diskless) that I can use to
access clients running on the NetBSD/FreeBSD/Solaris/etc. hosts.
Even my Windows machines have X servers so I don't have to
physically move to a different workstation to access those
From a "text console" (i.e., X not running), I use hotkeys to
switch between virtual TTY's so I have several "screens" that
I can be working in (helpful when troubleshooting a system).
I arrange for each to have a different color scheme so I
can just remember where I was based on the color of the text/display
(instead of having to remember which VTY to select).
I had this capability in the mid 80's with an OpusV system:
could even switch to a DOS session from within UN*X alongside
UN*X consoles. On my Solaris hosts, a Chimera lets me run
DOS/Windows in a Solaris window -- e.g., Doom under Solaris/SPARC!
Linux typifies what's wrong with FOSS (IMO) -- too much tinkering
just for the sake of tinkering. With the MIPS available on today's
*cheap* hardware, all that effort should be spent making things
more *reliable* and robust -- instead of RE-bugging systems with
features that "sound cool".
It's no different than MS's "arbitrary" changes to Windows -- each
of which adds back in some of the same old bugs/vulnerabilities
that they tried to remove from previous versions.
And it does for me, too, although I do use a lot of commercial software as
well. Whatever does the job well at the lowest cost to me. I am sure most
programmers have the same sort of utility CD/DVD that I have containing all
the FOSS that's been of use - WireShark, Hexedit, VNC, VLC, WinZip, SANDRA,
MemTest and many, many more.
Lotus had a well-established lead over MS and they blew it. I remember
those times quite well. The two largest PC user groups took up the cause
against copy protection. Then companies like mine scraped it off their
servers as soon as it became obvious how much more complicated "protected"
software made the restoration process. Our user group came to blows over
whether to call for a boycott of Lotus. As you can imagine, the user groups
had plenty of SW authors who believed in copy protection as well as plenty
of end users that didn't.
Word Perfect was slow coming up with a Windows 9X version when the market
was moving like wildfire. In the world of keep or die WP chose death. Same
I don't know how to counter the attitudes concerning IP. But I know that's
how people think, despite all the admonitions on every DVD we watch not to
engage in piracy.
Outrageous is selling printer cartridges that could *easily* be opened and
refilled and using the non-reverse engineering clauses of the DCMA to
"brick" the cartridge once it's run out of ink.
But the same can be said of commercial software. SW writers would be
foolish not to incorporate the latest hardware advances in their design.
Amazon's actually pretty good at supporting their products. Apparently
they've got other issues, among them writing good documentation. Another is
not really knowing their market, i.e. their cell phone offering that dropped
like a stone.
I've gotten a lot better support from FOSS authors than I have from
commercial SW vendors. If you're talking to the original coder you're going
to get the inside track. If you call some big SW house you're getting a
foreign national who's reading from a script.
For every example like that I can find a dozen where end users were left
hanging with a promise that "we'll look into it in the NEXT version." Hell,
MS NEVER fixed a bug in Word that disables the cut and paste keys in the
file picker dialog. It's been in every version of Word since it came out.
It's a niche market and a very complicated one to serve. I wouldn't expect
FOSS developers to jump on that sort of SW until well after the big boys had
even defined the market.
That's not my experience. I got to know a lot of home automation software
AND hardware designers quite well and some of them would have a fix for a
problem I found within a day or so, particularly if it was something that
might effect a lot of users. Getting to talk an actual coder at MS is far
less likely. Infinitesimally less likely.
If you picked the wrong tools for the job, that's on you. But a developer
that can cut costs by using FOSS *successfully* has serious advantage over
someone who pays 10 or 100 times as much for commercial software. Irfanview
has served my photo needs for quite some time. Hexedit, Winamp, DVD-Shrink,
VLC and lots of other FOSS programs have served me quite well over the
years. But when it came time to publish a newsletter professionally, I
turned to a very expensive (but industry standard) DTP package.
So if things are the same for FOSS and COTS how does that prove anything?
Agreed. So why bring it up as a liability for using FOSS when COTS suffers
the same problems? It proves nothing other than software has bugs that need
Updating means they are responding to bugs that people find. That's a good
thing. How many times have security analysts had to go public with an
exploit they found in COTS SW because the vendor appeared unwilling to patch
But it's SO MUCH CHEAPER! If I can produce a program to do X with fewer
costs than my competitor, I can make more money. That's a good thing. For
Disagree, quite strongly. How does a COTS "team" take any better ownership
than a guy like Irfan whose name IS his products?
Yeow, you really have a thing for FOSS writers that's pretty hostile. Some
of the best software I have ever seen came from 17 year old FOSS developers.
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