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SOFTWARE CANNOT BE GIVEN AWAY!

In the microsoft writes linux thread one poster said

"I can volunteer my time. I am not arguing whether it is good or bad to give things away, just trying to point out that software, by its very nature, is able to be given away, for better or worse. I just think it's interesting that there is nothing which requires software to be commercial. "


Wrong, templates for software can be given away, but there is a difference between software for softwares sake and actual usefull software solutions. Yes we have oracle, access, excel ... but these in themselves are not software solutions to real world problems! You still need people to implement solutions, sometimes this means software from scratch, sometimes this means adding on to existing software, sometimes it means weaving together existing applications. But in every case people are needed.

We lament free software, and pre made solutions, this is ridiculous, most people in the constuction field would kill for free bulldozers, and we have them, but guess what bulldozers are useless to non-builders just as mysql,linux,a blank spreadsheet ... is useless  to a non techie who does not know how to use them!!!

IT people need to start thinking of existing software as building blocks to bigger and better things in a field of infinite possibilites rather than as competition ... yes the database has been made, now go build something usefull on top of that database.

I will give one quick example, my company, Farmers Insurance has a quoting application built on top of MS Access and Windows (3 layers up), but agents now want to use that  application for CRM purposes- birthday cards, tracking customer demographis etc ... We have a component, but there is always some need for information that is unmet! that is our job to meet it!

the artist formerly known as prince
Thursday, January 22, 2004

Tell me why, again, that I cannot volunteer more of my time to write an app on top of a free database I wrote? If you concede that I can create one building block for no money, than can I not create another?

Mike Swieton
Thursday, January 22, 2004

That's right.  As developers, I see "free" software as a boon to our job, not as competition.  I don't see "free" software as ever replacing commercial software.  The two will always co-exist.  There is room for both.  And even Microsoft admits this- they've referred to free software's place in the "ecosystem" before.

Free software isn't stealing anybody's lunch.  To some extent it's taken away some of the market for shink-wrapped commerical software packages.  But I think it's done far more good than bad overall.  The market for shink-wrapped software is nothing compared to the market for people who can make solutions out of, and on top of, existing software- whether that software is free, commerical, or a mix of both.

The availability of free and open software creates competition for commerical applications, forcing those applications to be better.  Do you think that Microsoft's IIS, Access, SQL, Office, and OSs themselves would be as good as they are now without Apache, MySQL, Postgres, OpenOffice, and Linux distros to worry about?

And look at consumer products that use free/open software as a base, like TIVO.  Without the ability to use Linux as a base, there's a very good chance TIVO would never have existed. 

I'm speaking as a Microsoft guy, here, by the way.  I've installed Linux a couple of times and played with it, but my skills and my paycheck depend on using Microsoft tools.  That's something that *I* think is in a better place because of free and/or open-source software.

John Rose
Thursday, January 22, 2004

Sorry, I missed the point altogether. Could you please summarize what you're trying to say.

T-90
Thursday, January 22, 2004

Sorry mike didn't mean to pick on you, and didn't actually mean to take that part of the quote,


What I did mean- You are certainly free, and able to create software for free, but you are not putting me out of a job doing it, as I am able to improve, complement, extend your software for money (or free).

the artist formerly known as prince
Thursday, January 22, 2004

Sorry t-90 no I cant

the artist formerly known as prince
Thursday, January 22, 2004

Because apart from commodity software, most software is highly specialised.

Free software authors usually do it for the fame (for example, to gain better employment). There is no point working on an application that is highly specialised, since it won't be well known. Also, being a specialised app, it would be worth selling because it wouldn't be in a highly competitive market.

Rhys Keepence
Thursday, January 22, 2004

"Tell me why, again, that I cannot volunteer more of my time to write an app on top of a free database I wrote? If you concede that I can create one building block for no money, than can I not create another?"
-----------------
Of course, there is nothing stopping anybody from doing this.  But not even the craziest open-source advocates suggest that it should be so... at least not to my knowledge.  Guys like RMS are not blind to the need for people to earn a living in the software world- they basically believe that, generally speaking, code one writes ought to be recycled back into the software ecosystem so that it can be used by and further improved upon by others. 

This results in better software for everybody because people spend less time reinventing the wheel, and more time creating SOLUTIONS.  At a time when the U.S. is hemmoraging jobs overseas due to the higher costs of labor  in our own country, I think that the ability to use free/open source software as building blocks for our solutions is one of the few things which actually helps to level the playing field when I'm competing against some guy overseas who can do my job for 1/3 of the money.

John Rose
Thursday, January 22, 2004

BTW - My first paragraph was in response to Mike :)

Rhys Keepence
Thursday, January 22, 2004

"Yes we have oracle, access, excel ... but these in themselves are not software solutions to real world problems!"

We also have ie, word and powerpoint, which ARE solutions to real world problems (web browsing, word processing and presentations respectively).

So some software falls into your category, and some doesn't. I appreciate your point, but you've gone a bit too far to the other extreame. The best way to combat a strawman argument against open source is not to respond with your own strawman about the nature of software. ;)

Sum Dum Gai
Thursday, January 22, 2004

"SOFTWARE CANNOT BE GIVEN AWAY!"

It already is.


Thursday, January 22, 2004

The ugky stench of desperation...

Nicky
Thursday, January 22, 2004

Saying about having software which is real world problems solution and contrary just a base for solution you probably mean difference between applications and platforms.

Joel has a good article somethere about it. Doesn't suprise that some package may be an application and the platform at the same time (MS Word for text editing VS MS Word with VB for Applications)

Vlad Gudim
Thursday, January 22, 2004

"Guys like RMS are not blind to the need for people to earn a living in the software world"

No, people like that just think sofware development should not be financed by making products people are willing to pay for, but rather by razing a tax that you have to pay, wether you want to or not.

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, January 22, 2004

"At a time when the U.S. is hemmoraging jobs overseas due to the higher costs of labor  in our own country, I think that the ability to use free/open source software as building blocks for our solutions is one of the few things which actually helps to level the playing field when I'm competing against some guy overseas who can do my job for 1/3 of the money."

Are you saying that if we write free software the overseas developers won't use it?

Or if they do use it, is it a give and take thing or just one way? Is a lot of innovative open source and free software being developed in India and China right now? Or is most free and open source software being developed in other areas?

Confused
Thursday, January 22, 2004

"people like that just think sofware development should not be financed by making products people are willing to pay for, but rather by razing a tax that you have to pay, wether you want to or not"

A software tax is coming? Damn this is worse than when I had to pay for that stupid "artwork" with the piss in the jar. I certainly don't want the government forcing me to pay for software I have no use for.

This really sucks. Got any references? I want to write my congressman.

Confused
Thursday, January 22, 2004

From the GNU Manifesto ( http://www.gnu.org/gnu/manifesto.html )

Under: "Programmers need to make a living somehow"

"...
All sorts of development can be funded with a Software Tax:
Suppose everyone who buys a computer has to pay x percent of the price as a software tax. The government gives this to an agency like the NSF to spend on software development.
But if the computer buyer makes a donation to software development himself, he can take a credit against the tax. He can donate to the project of his own choosing--often, chosen because he hopes to use the results when it is done. He can take a credit for any amount of donation up to the total tax he had to pay.
The total tax rate could be decided by a vote of the payers of the tax, weighted according to the amount they will be taxed on. ..."

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, January 22, 2004

Quotes like that support the theory that Stallman is too extreme, to put it kindly.

christopher baus (www.baus.net)
Thursday, January 22, 2004

Perfectly reasonable; you can disagree but thee are plenty of other examples; road tax in the UK or the television license for example.

The argument in favour is the same as the argument for free health care. That the equivalent amount of care under a government funded scheme costs two-thirds or less of the equivalent cost funded privately, or by a labyrinthine insurance system.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, January 22, 2004

I don't know what the television license is, but if it is what I think it is (tax paid to program providers -- BBC?), I am not in favor of it. 

What if I hate the BBC and don't watch any of it.  I am forced to pay for something I don't want, while lining some bureaucrats' pockets. 

My guess is by the time that government is done divvying up the money I will make less than a developer overseas. 

"Hmm let's see, innovative network security product. How about a whole $500USD." 

Thanks, but I'll let the free market decide what my software is worth. 

Don't get me wrong I use OpenSource software (use not develop) all the time, but I think Stallman is a fruit loop who has the misguided belief that all programmers should live in an office  paid for by MIT. 

christopher baus (www.baus.net)
Thursday, January 22, 2004

I suspect the idea of a software tax came around when hardware was a lot more expensive.

I have to repeat there is nothing extreme about the idea. Whether it is the best way of a government funidng public use software, and whether the government is doing it is another matter.

With regard to TV licenses you can at least choose not to have a TV. With ad-sponsored TV you get to pay even if you never watch anything (and of course with satellite TV filling the airtime with ads you get to be shafted twice over, as you're actually paying to watch them!)

Stephen Jones
Thursday, January 22, 2004

I don't support a software tax either, but the argument that you wouldn't use it is a bad one.

There is hardly a public service used by everyone, some people don't have children to school, or cars to drive or whatever so if that argument was taken to the worst case scenario, there would be not public services at all.

And anyway, if there was such a software tax there would hardly be any other kind of software, so, yes, you would use it.

Andres
Thursday, January 22, 2004

Re: using government supplied services.

If the government taxed me and supplied housing in return, I would use it, even though if I had my money back and, to borrow a quote from Friedman, was "free to choose," I probably wouldn't choose the housing option that the government provided. 

I can choose to not buy a TV, or I can choose to only watch DVD with out commercials.  I still don't support the government taxing me to provide a service I don't want.  Give me my money back, and I decide what to do with it myself, thank you very much.

Although, while I might be a fiscal conservative, I will still vote against the Republican war machine this year, but that is another story altogether ; )

christopher baus (www.baus.net)
Thursday, January 22, 2004

From the GNU Manifesto  "Programmers need to make a living somehow"

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, the pursuit of Happiness and Free Software.


I cry every time I collect a paycheck.

m
Thursday, January 22, 2004

I am totally an ardent capitalist.

Part of that means dealing with competition in all its forms.

Competitors are free to charge as they please for their products.

Sometimes the price is Zero. £0.00!

Deal with it.

while you are at it, ask MS how much they were charging for IE when they were competing against Netscape.

Tapiwa
Thursday, January 22, 2004

Actually I'd love to see taxes "razed". :)

sgf
Thursday, January 22, 2004

Well, you can see the quality of television programming provided when people choose what to pay for themselves.


Thursday, January 22, 2004

For information

The TV licence, which is received by the BBC, is about a £100 / year / household and pays for 2 analogue TV channels, 6 (ish) digital TV channels, 5 (ish) analogue national radio stations, some digital radio stations, god knows how many local radio stations and the biggest bloody website in the country.  You need a TV licence to run a TV - but any TVs in the house are covered.

Parliament sets the cost of the licence fee, but has little control on the BBC otherwise.  The government can order the BBC not to transmit something, but can't stop them telling everybody that it's been stopped.  The BBC has a royal charter which requires it to "inform, educate and entertain".

Personally I don't think the case transfers to software, but it seems to work for telly.

A cynic writes
Thursday, January 22, 2004

Sum Dum Gai

powerpoint, still needs people to create presentations, word still enables managers, students, secretaries, and I can't begin to tell you how many software jobs the web browser has created.

the artist formerly known as prince
Thursday, January 22, 2004

"I certainly don't want the government forcing me to pay for software I have no use for.

This really sucks. Got any references? I want to write my congressman."

Well, the tax has been around for awhile, but all revenues are collected by Microsoft.  The federal government looked into this a couple of years ago, but decided there wasn't any problem.

Jim Rankin
Thursday, January 22, 2004

I'd really like to see a Music Tax / Music License in the UK whereby the BBC would commision music and buy the rights to copy music in the UK for which we'd pay a monthly licence fee.

benefits -

i) it would cost less per person
ii) it would deliver more money to the music industry
iii) it would vastly increase the amount of music people could legitimate copy and listen to.
iv) it would eliminate the waste and inneficiency inherent in a market economy way of funding music production and distribution.
v) there would be less advertising


Similarly for books/films and any easily reproducable IP. Including software.

Knowledge Maker
Thursday, January 22, 2004

Do you think the government would really pay to produce what people want to hear/see/read? Are you that naive?

The Soviet Union tried all of this and look where they are now...

The free market works and if some poor schmuck wants to write software and give it away, it's up to him. He shouldn't go around looking for a government handout.

Sheesh!

pdq
Thursday, January 22, 2004

Knowledge maker,

except then the BBC would decide what gets published ather than the people, and that is BAD!!!!!!!!!

but, if there was a small tax to allow more access to instruments, practice sapce that would be good

the artist formerly known as prince
Thursday, January 22, 2004

Ok I'm going to take the bait here...

> Well, you can see the quality of television programming provided when people choose what to pay for themselves.

We've tried this.  It is called totalitarianism.  I don't prefer it myself.  What no more "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy?"  I'm sure we could find a reason why the government wouldn't pay for this show, but in the US it is one of the biggest hits of the year.

> "I certainly don't want the government forcing me to pay for software I have no use for.

> This really sucks. Got any references? I want to write my congressman."

> Well, the tax has been around for awhile, but all revenues are collected by Microsoft.  The federal government looked into this a couple of years ago, but decided there wasn't any problem.

I'm not sure there is a problem.  If Linux isn't everything you want, the Mac should be most of it.  In one post we have complaints about free software, in the next complaints about the costs of Microsoft software.  I think there are a lot options  there.

> The TV licence, which is received by the BBC, is about a £100 / year / household

Does this really pay for all said programming, or is the BBC further subsidized by other taxes?

I still hate the idea.  I have a TV.  I don't have cable.  I use it only to watch DVDs, and soon to be a monitor for my MP3 player.  Why should I have to pay a tax?

We shouldn't prevent people from wanting to work of give something away for free. 

christopher baus (www.baus.net)
Thursday, January 22, 2004

>Knowledge maker,
>except then the BBC would decide what gets published >ather than the people, and that is BAD!!!!!!!!!


I agree with you there - but this depends on the mechanism - what if people and companies were free to produce and distribute what ever they wanted under such a licence but could only claim from the license fund it if it proved popular?

>Do you think the government would really pay to produce >what people want to hear/see/read? Are you that naive?

I am naive. This is true...but this is a model that works - public service broadcasting in the UK is fantastic. The US makes some excellent entertainment television. I don't think the Soviets had BBC TV - maybe that's why it went so badly wrong.

>The free market works

It does - but it has inefficiencies - having massive amounts of software/music/films that people want to use but can't afford is a waste - it doesn't make communism better, but recognise waste where you see it.

Knowledge Maker
Thursday, January 22, 2004

The BBC does indeed work. While the US produces decent entertainment, its documentary, news and current affairs programmes are terrible. And I resent that everytime I buy a Coke (or a computer) some fraction of that money has gone to make Friends, or Entertainment Tonight or some such, and I have to choice in the matter.

Seriously, I wonder how it would work if we applied that to computers? We could put a small levy on every piece of hardware, and use to ti fund basic software development that would then be available free to everyone. You'd write a stable, usable operating system (use Linux as a base if you like) and a basic word processor, browser, and then expand into a spreadsheet or image processor. Where the investment went would be guided by how many peoiple downloaded each application. Worth a thought.

David Clayworth
Thursday, January 22, 2004

"its documentary ... are terrible"

Obviously you have never seen American Chopper! :)

m
Thursday, January 22, 2004

or crock hunter

The Artist Formerly Known as Prince
Thursday, January 22, 2004

"powerpoint, still needs people to create presentations, word still enables managers, students, secretaries, and I can't begin to tell you how many software jobs the web browser has created."

That's a silly argument. By your view, a TV isn't a finished product, because you still need a broadcaster to make some shows and beam them into your living room.

You can break everything down like that though. The can opener isn't a complete product, because it's useless without cans to open. Soap isn't a complete product because you need water to wash with. Need I go on?

Yes, everything is interdependent in this world. But some products directly require developers (like the database systems mentioned by the original post), where as others may require extra developers, but are perfectly usable for non-development tasks out of the box (like word).

Sum Dum Gai
Thursday, January 22, 2004

Word is, unless you need to automate some task via VBA, but you are right some products are more complete than others.

the artist formerly known as prince
Thursday, January 22, 2004

"> Well, you can see the quality of television programming provided when people choose what to pay for themselves.

We've tried this."

Who's this "we"?

"It is called totalitarianism."

Oh good grief.

"What no more "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy?"

Preferably not.

"I'm sure we could find a reason why the government wouldn't pay for this show, but in the US it is one of the biggest hits of the year."

And is utter drivel. Which pretty much sums up the quality of much private TV. There are some good shows but they are very few and far between. We have 30-odd channels at home, and the chances of finding anything decent on during "peak" viewing time are very slim. Imported dubbed American drivel or home produced copied American format drivel. Soemtimes, if we are very lucky, we get home produced copied British format drivel.

"> The TV licence, which is received by the BBC, is about a £100 / year / household

Does this really pay for all said programming, or is the BBC further subsidized by other taxes?"

It pays for enough quality programming that they can sell it to other countries, which brings in revenue, which...


Friday, January 23, 2004

Most industries had to be denationalized because they where burocratic to the extreme and could not be moved with a hot poker into providing any innovation or cost reduction. the very few examples there are around of decently operating state owned utilities only got out the rot under severe treath of denationalisation and strong private competition, and mostly only in preparation of a privitazation.
Here some of you are proposing "nationalization" of an industry that is operating incredibly well (so well in facxt that most seem to have taken the incredible advances in technology over the last 20 years, the widespread availability and the massive industry that has sprung up around it for granted).
My guess is IBM's prediction of a world market of about 5 computers (or was it 10?) was in a state-provided-computing scenario. They could have been right.

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, January 23, 2004

Good Lord. Yes, just consider how wonderful the British railway companies are.


Friday, January 23, 2004

I didn't say every privatization was a success story, did I?
British Rail is generally taken as the poster child for how to really set up a privatization for disaster.

Now even if every privitization was a disaster, that still would be no excuse for trying to nationalize a fantastic private sector success story.

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, January 23, 2004

mmm...since we seemed to have wandered off into nationalisation...there is an overhead (granted) of bureacracy in a nationalised industry - however there is a similar overhead of sales, marketing and accounting in a free-market industry.  The relative cost of the overhead should be looked at on a case by case basis.

A more compelling arguement is that of rationing.  It's possible to consider money as a very flexible form of rationing.  In a free-market industry services are distributed on the basis of wealth, where nationalised goods *can* be disributed on the basis of need.  What's appropriate would depend on the industry, rather than political dogma.

Again, I don't feel that software is an appropriate industry for a tax-driven environment.  It needs the flexibility that the free market requires.  But if someone wants to give it away from a charitable impulse good luck to them.

A cynic writes
Friday, January 23, 2004

"What's appropriate would depend on the industry, rather than political dogma."

Naturally. But don't tell the politicians.


Friday, January 23, 2004

Giving away a piece software does, in fact, eliminate programming  jobs if there was a commercial market for that class of software and buyers will accept the free product as a substitute.  There can be no debate on that issue.  However, so far most of the free software has been mediocre and incomplete, and the momentum of mindshare is considerable, so the effect has been rather smaller than it could be.  There's no great surprise that the most vocal proponents of open-source software, Stallman, Raymond, O'Reilly, are not salaried programmers facing harm by this threat.  (O'Reilly would lose the most if every programming job vanished, but he's already made his fortune from us.)

TIVO, absent Linux, would have been built on VxWorks, which is excellent and easily cheap enough to keep TIVO profitable.  TIVO exists not at all because Linux exists, but because the world holds hundreds of millions of braindead TV-watchers with enough disposable income to want such a device.

Open-source has its virtues.  The openness of it is more important than the free price.  By having basic technologies like operating systems as open-source, we're less likely to have to suffer vendor's secretive or totalitarian antics, such as trying to decide for us what we can and cannot do with the products we have bought from them.  If the software is open, we can easily remove any such controls.

One thing the open-source people don't seem to do well is differentiate between giving software to corporations, and giving software to their fellow humans.  The latter case might be a gift of *capacity* to someone who may have no such means otherwise.  Think Gimp, an artist's tool available to people who can't afford Phototshop.  That's virtue.  The former case is nearly always ultimately a gift of *cash* to organizations that have that cash and would otherwise be spending it on a commercial product.  That's not virtue.

Now the decision of what to write rarely stems from consideration of the ramifications of that gift.  As a programmer, I am intimately familiar with the forces at play, and one very common tendency I know is to see a piece of software and think "hell, I could write something like that in a couple months".  Further, for those few that truly have the capacity to deliver on such an urge, the thrill of building is their greatest reward.  So it takes no great virtue to give it away, if giving it away lets them see it used without all the messiness of business gobbldeegook.  So while the giving is not virtue, it's also not malice.

What we have is complexity at play, nature plain and simple.  But when we know a little about nature, we may often bend it a bit or adapt.

veal
Friday, January 23, 2004

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