Is "free" always a good thing?

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by hippy » Thu Jun 14, 2012 11:45 am
kdakin wrote:I have produced similar software for the .Net environment (theoretically executable with the help of Mono under Linux), but I am unlikely to make any serious money from it as everyone will want it for nothing.

I suspect everyone would like everything for nothing. I am sure the people you have already sold product to would also have preferred it to be given away for nothing but they were convinced of its worth so the market is there regardless of what people might like.

There are advocates and martyrs to the cause who believe things must be had for free or they will do without ( or will pirate to have but not pay ), but there are still plenty who will pay for things they believe are worth paying for.
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by ianWaring » Fri Jun 15, 2012 6:23 pm
Probably not always a good thing, but it depends on your perspective and the primary source of your income. If you want wide distribution or sampling of your code, and can get users that get to depend on your code to buy a support contract, you're in. That's the model Red Hat, SUSE, 10gen (as in MongoDB), MySQL and others use.

Others sell a base version of their product for free, but charge for proprietary enhancements. MySQL provide a commercial subscription with database modelling tools, another that allows a database to sit in shared memory between multiple processors (useful in mobile phone cell routing apps). Eucalyptus have versions of their cloud platform code that extend the capabilities of the open source version.

A third way is to be in another business but to contribute to open source that helps you provide the service you're delivering. Google make almost all their revenue by monetising signals about people's purchase intentions with an innovative, and largely self service, online advertising platform. They contribute a lot to open source projects. Facebook also. I still recall the day when Freeserve first started in the UK (I worked at Demon Internet at the time) and we found they were using throttled http (developed by a Demon employee) to run their web site. Nobody flinched; it's the open source way.

Whether you can get educational establishments to voluntarily become part of your business model or not is the key question. I'd venture to say that you can buy an awful lot of Raspberry Pi's for the usual cost of stock Microsoft software. And the skills students can attain with the wide choice of tools on any Linux distribution make the Raspberry Pi a very worthwhile effort for us all to support.
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by bitplane » Sun Jun 17, 2012 5:55 am
As a free software and free culture proponent, I believe that the artificial monopoly granted by copyright has created a greedy culture where people aspire to be rock-stars, paid perpetually by the rest of society for sitting on their backsides, as opposed to for doing an honest day's work.

It's this aspiration that drives the self-entitlement expressed in OP's post, which in turn drives a desire to exert violence over others if they dare to share, yes share, culture and tools with other human beings.

Whether necessary or not, copyright ought to be seen as a very artificial and often harmful weapon of subjugation rather than some glorious fundamental right.

Reducing its impact upon society through free culture is IMO a very good thing indeed. If free culture keeps on progressing then maybe at some point in the near future the creative industries can get back to doing real work for their patrons instead of scrambling to levy stealth taxes on the populace.
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by jamesh » Sun Jun 17, 2012 8:45 am
bitplane wrote:As a free software and free culture proponent, I believe that the artificial monopoly granted by copyright has created a greedy culture where people aspire to be rock-stars, paid perpetually by the rest of society for sitting on their backsides, as opposed to for doing an honest day's work.

It's this aspiration that drives the self-entitlement expressed in OP's post, which in turn drives a desire to exert violence over others if they dare to share, yes share, culture and tools with other human beings.

Whether necessary or not, copyright ought to be seen as a very artificial and often harmful weapon of subjugation rather than some glorious fundamental right.

Reducing its impact upon society through free culture is IMO a very good thing indeed. If free culture keeps on progressing then maybe at some point in the near future the creative industries can get back to doing real work for their patrons instead of scrambling to levy stealth taxes on the populace.


So, people are not allowed to benefit from their efforts? Let's say I spend a year, unpaid, writing some software. By your reckoning, when that software is released, I can get no recompense for the effort I put in? There is a big difference between software and music. In general, software expires - ie after time it becomes less useful. So people HAVE to get off their backsides and keep that software up to date, and again, they need paying. Music can be regarded as timeless. The good stuff doesn't fall behind the curve, it doesn't need upgrades.

Like it or not, there are lot of people in this playing, and they all need to earn money to survive. Too much free culture, and the number of jobs decreases.
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by rurwin » Sun Jun 17, 2012 9:38 am
But 95% of all jobs in software are writing bespoke code that is never going to be released outside the company it is written for.

It's just all the interesting jobs that will go.

In order to make money from F/LOSS it seems to me that you would have to attach yourself to a popular project, for example gcc. Creating your own project is what we all want to do, but the initial user-base would not support any paid-for work for a number of years, if ever.

In a public domain world, we would all be working at jobs that we don't want, and still only be doing the fun stuff in our free time.

But in a public domain world, there would not seem to be any requirement to release source-code. That is a very important requirement. I do not care about being able to share movies or the latest game, I don't care about sticking it to the man; I want to be able to debug a third-party library if I need to, or be able to interface to a card I've bought at the register level and not to be forced to write real-time software over a COM interface.
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by jamesh » Sun Jun 17, 2012 10:32 am
Whist that would seem to be a utopian view, the problem I see if the cost involved for companies forced to release source code, vs the number of people who would actually be able to do something with that source code. The number of people who would be capable of fixing a driver, vs the number of people who actually use the driver is vanishingly small. Look at the USB driver on the Raspi - all the source code is available, but no-one can figure out how the hell it works (including some mainline kdevs) To get that code in a state where people could fix it would require a lot of work (and cost) to the manufacturer, who have already adhered to the GPL....and also releasing HW specs which as well all know HW people are loath to do.
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by andyl » Sun Jun 17, 2012 12:29 pm
rurwin wrote:In order to make money from F/LOSS it seems to me that you would have to attach yourself to a popular project, for example gcc. Creating your own project is what we all want to do, but the initial user-base would not support any paid-for work for a number of years, if ever.


Well that depends what you mean by "make money".
That there are many projects which have gone from zero to making a reasonable amount for their originator seems to be a valid objection to that particular point. However I would agree that it would be a tad foolhardy to drop your day-job in order to concentrate entirely on a new pet-project which you hope will give you a living.
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by bitplane » Sun Jun 17, 2012 3:37 pm
jamesh wrote:So, people are not allowed to benefit from their efforts? Let's say I spend a year, unpaid, writing some software.


That's not what I said. That would be the case in an ideal world though as I see no reason for binaries to be covered by copyright at all, when copyright eventually expires on the first compiled binary humanity will gain nothing from it.

jamesh wrote:By your reckoning, when that software is released, I can get no recompense for the effort I put in?

You've invested this effort for the purpose of developing intellectual property. A much more honest way to do things would be to invest the effort for money paid directly by someone who needs your services, or to not release the software until you've been adequately compensated (ala Kickstarter)

jamesh wrote:There is a big difference between software and music. In general, software expires - ie after time it becomes less useful. So people HAVE to get off their backsides and keep that software up to date, and again, they need paying. Music can be regarded as timeless. The good stuff doesn't fall behind the curve, it doesn't need upgrades.

Your idea of "the good stuff" is entirely subjective, as a cultural product of people, all music reflects the zeitgeist in which it was made. From J.S. Bach to The Sex Pistols to the latest Bollywood soundtrack, music very much exists in specific points in space and time, like software. I could argue that the best software doesn't need to be rewritten, maintained or tweaked to meet current fashions and I'd be wrong (does anyone use TeX?), just like the music industry is wrong in trumpeting the virtues of wheel-reinventing.
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by rurwin » Sun Jun 17, 2012 3:50 pm
does anyone use TeX?
Yes; huge numbers of people. Anyone in fact that wants their book to look good and isn't willing or able to give the job to a professional typesetter -- who will either be using TeX or something costing tens of thousands of pounds, but not Word or Publisher... or OpenOffice, which I imagine were the applications you were thinking replaced TeX.

Your idea of "the good stuff" is entirely subjective, as a cultural product of people, all music reflects the zeitgeist in which it was made. From J.S. Bach to The Sex Pistols to the latest Bollywood soundtrack, music very much exists in specific points in space and time


Again, no. The best music encompasses both the temporal zeitgeist and the eternal verities. Why else are we still listening to Bach or Beethoven? Why do wanabees in music shops still play Smoke on The Water or Stairway to Heaven?

A much more honest way to do things would be to invest the effort for money paid directly by someone who needs your services
Well that's one way to make sure almost no software gets written, and that the stuff that does get written is specified by end-users with no idea of elegant design... And that no-one ever works on a job they enjoy.
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by bitplane » Mon Jun 18, 2012 1:55 am
rurwin wrote:
does anyone use TeX?
Yes; huge numbers of people. Anyone in fact that wants their book to look good and isn't willing or able to give the job to a professional typesetter -- who will either be using TeX or something costing tens of thousands of pounds, but not Word or Publisher... or OpenOffice, which I imagine were the applications you were thinking replaced TeX.

My point was that people now use LaTeX rather than raw TeX.

rurwin wrote:Why else are we still listening to Bach or Beethoven? Why do wanabees in music shops still play Smoke on The Water or Stairway to Heaven?

Well, I'm not still listening to Bach at least, he may well have been a musical genius but clever fuges don't make nice listening to my untrained ear. Beethoven is still popular because modern classical music retains a similar style, the same applies to rock music too.
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by jamesh » Mon Jun 18, 2012 8:35 am
bitplane wrote:
jamesh wrote:So, people are not allowed to benefit from their efforts? Let's say I spend a year, unpaid, writing some software.


That's not what I said. That would be the case in an ideal world though as I see no reason for binaries to be covered by copyright at all, when copyright eventually expires on the first compiled binary humanity will gain nothing from it.

jamesh wrote:By your reckoning, when that software is released, I can get no recompense for the effort I put in?

You've invested this effort for the purpose of developing intellectual property. A much more honest way to do things would be to invest the effort for money paid directly by someone who needs your services, or to not release the software until you've been adequately compensated (ala Kickstarter)

No, not really. The world works by people doing work up front then selling the results. Cars for example - designed and built, then you buy them. I see no reason why the same shouldn't apply to software.
In your model, each car would be custom designed for each customer. Which does happen, but they cost 100 times more than the mass produced article.
bitplane wrote:
jamesh wrote:There is a big difference between software and music. In general, software expires - ie after time it becomes less useful. So people HAVE to get off their backsides and keep that software up to date, and again, they need paying. Music can be regarded as timeless. The good stuff doesn't fall behind the curve, it doesn't need upgrades.

Your idea of "the good stuff" is entirely subjective, as a cultural product of people, all music reflects the zeitgeist in which it was made. From J.S. Bach to The Sex Pistols to the latest Bollywood soundtrack, music very much exists in specific points in space and time, like software. I could argue that the best software doesn't need to be rewritten, maintained or tweaked to meet current fashions and I'd be wrong (does anyone use TeX?), just like the music industry is wrong in trumpeting the virtues of wheel-reinventing.


Beatles. Rolling Stones. Beethoven. Handel. I could go on, but you should get the point.

Some software doesn't need updating, granted, but its few and far between. How about adding that extra file format that people have started using, or that new technology that people have started using....
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by Mike Lake » Wed Aug 08, 2012 11:24 am
I have not mentioned anything for a long time then I found this well thought out article by a software developer who hits the nail spot on (as far as I am concerned.)

http://mattgemmell.com/2012/07/23/closed-for-business/
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by tufty » Wed Aug 08, 2012 12:06 pm
Unfortunately, matt has entirely missed the point on this one. He's seeing something red and assuming it's a london transport double-decker bus.

His argument is this:
- Android is rife with piracy [true]
- Android is an open system [sorta kinda true]
- Therefore open source systems will always be rife with piracy.

Piracy happens on closed source platforms; the only reason piracy is rife on android is that there's nothing stopping people doing it, it's easy, almost easier than going through the market (android market is painful to use). It's nothing to do with 'openness', it's to do with a (one of many) braindead decision made by google in the design of android.

One might just as (or maybe /more/) reasonably (and with one's tinfoil hat firmly on) surmise that the reason in-app-advertising is the only way of making money on android is due to the fact it's an os designed and pushed by a company whose revenue comes almost exclusively from advertising.

Sure, android is a pig's arse as far as selling apps goes. But that only shows that android itself is fundamentally broken as far as selling apps goes, and nothing else. Ironically enough, I'm postng this from an android device, and believe me, it's fundamentally broken in more ways than just selling apps...

If matt is right, though, what are we to make of the reports that >60% of the apps on the iOS store have made zero downloads, for example?
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