Consumer misconception of value in free/open source software.

Forum: LXer Meta ForumTotal Replies: 3
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Jul 20, 2010
3:32 AM EDT
Warning: This rambling may be a very boring and a waste of time. Don't blame me I haven't warned you.

I have met many Windows users who need a cost effective method to achieve some simple tasks. They tried the myriad of junk sharewares downloaded from "free sites", I think people who grew up using Windows knows what I mean, these simply gave the Windows users a bad impression of what good free software is. As a result they turned to pirating these expensive retail softwares which are ridden with trojans. When I'm asked to fix their computer and I offered to install free softwares for them to, they refused saying free stuff are junk. Then I had to try to explain to them about open source softwares and how they can be quality stuff, but that's very hard to do and time consuming, the users could careless anyway.

So instead of seeking for quality open source products, through the exposure and trials of using these junk sharewares, users will begin thinking "only" very expensive retail software = quality. I can see how this mentality result in a slower adaptation of open source by consumers. Some people have said that its not commercially viable to be advertising free products.

Now please note I am talking about opensource itself, not selling of a "brand" such as Google through its free services aided by ads, or Droid phones produce by large cellphone companies. I'm wondering if this open source ideology really take off or opensource don't necessary needs to dominate and always remain a niche for those who recognize its benefits, I am beginning to concede to the latter idea. Now if you say these ideology things are bullcrap, well.. the fetish for high price and stylish Apple products is philosophical and it sells (however I could be wrong and maybe that appealing to peers and opposite sex is a practical need in modern society, therefore buying Apple products = practical and pragmatic [but I digress]). The same doesn't seem to work for open source softwares because it isn't an object of desire or a brand. Perfect example to illustrate my point is, on time I was helping a Windows user to familiarize himself with linux and he asked where can he get "linux warez".

As you can see, I am don't really have a point in all this. Of course, I forgot to define what the value of open source actually is. Actually I'm three hours past snooze time. THE END.

Jul 20, 2010
10:52 AM EDT
People already assume that if something is expensive, it must be "worth more".

Don't sweat it. It's human nature.

Jul 21, 2010
8:08 AM EDT
Quoting:People already assume that if something is expensive, it must be "worth more"

The problem is, always whenever I assume a cheap version of something is just as good as the expensive, I eventually found out I was wrong.The more expensive ones are better. Usually this goes for physical devices in which the choice of material plays a role.

This goes for all kind of electronic devices which contain capacitors, cheap ones tend to leak over time. But it also goes for screw drivers and hammers. Once when I used a cheap hammer to hit a nail, the nail made a hole in the hammer! As I found out yesterday, it also goes for electric water boilers. The nylon of the lid was designend in such a manner you couldn't service it to clean the spring-mechanism without damaging the plastic. It goes for printed T-shirts, underwear, music instruments and what have you: if they're better, they're more expensive.

However, software seems to be an exception. I used software in the past which had a price of - if I recall correctly - over ten thousand dollar for one license. Before I had used it, I told an old teacher of me about the name of it and I was going to use it. From his reply, I understood it was considered 'really advanced' software considered 'mid- to high range'. Boy, was I disappointed after I found out how often it crashed, how totally disconnected and unintuitive the GUI was, how slow it was from time to time, and the lack of support to write simple scripts to interact with the software. I worked with a $500-or-so competitor which I found much better, though it had less functionality I have to confess.


About them Windows users: Yeah, I recall, I was one of them.

Whenever you have a problem, you normally can't fix it in some configuration file, so you have to hunt for some 'tool'. In Windows, everything is solved by 'tools'. If you don't want to pay for these limited tools, you go for freeware tools. Lots of these closed source freeware tools however, are pretty crappy. Sometimes they come with an advertizing platform, they install junk-bars in the browser and may contain spyware and key-loggers. Normally, these come with 10 pages of advertizing how life-saving and leading-to-world-peace this part of free-30day-trial software is, even though it only provides one limited almost infinitesimal small functionality - though the program is still 10MB and has a large GUI anyway, and for a tiny bit more functionality, you have to pay. It's understandable Windows users equate 'free' to 'bad', given the heavy pollution of the Windows-ecosystem with free/crapware. Windows lacks a repository, so the only trustworthy method to assess a piece of freeware, is to see if there's some kind of star-rating / voting system.

If you want to deal with CD-images in Windows, there are 10 different formats, and for all of them you have to buy a proprietary crappy program which converts only one proprietary format to an ISO. Pure hell, that is. From time to time as a Linux user, you encounter these formats too. Of course, a Linux user refuses to buy MagicISO, though I have to admit I tried using it with Wine. But it's crippleware with stupid limitations, like 'you can't handle images over 300MB with the free version', how stupid is that? Best of all, of course it doesn't deal with the formats created by its competitor PowerISO. In my opinion, this topic is one of the biggest screwups in the Windows eco-system.

But one of the greatest advantages of Linux (almost never mentioned) is its collection of 'a2b' tools. Like bin2iso, uif2iso, img2iso and so on, plus Linux out of the box is able to mount ISO's without having to download / crack Daemon tools. After I found out about GPL a2b tools, I remember one of my biggest "Eureka!" moments of understanding why life with Linux is easier than life with Windows. Apart from that, thank God Linux uses standards like the ISO file format and gzip / bzip / xz, which always have free implementations which don't try to lock you in to some kind of proprietary program.

Nowadays, I recently found out all these "a2b" tools for Linux were bundled in some 20kb program. You give one command to install the program, and you're done. It works, no license keys, visiting immediately followed by a 'full system scan' to clean spyware, limited time trials and BDO-deamon scans after every piece of software you install.

Compare that to the Windows ecosystem, where, if you want to handle all those file formats, apart from having to pay over $200, you'd spend several hours to make everything work and waste lots of harddisk space.

This seems like an untold story, it's not often I see this kind of information when people discuss Windows vs. Linux. But to me, this is important, because I think almost every Windows desktop-administrator knows about the time waist that is dealing with all those proprietary formats in Windows, and cracking / paying for the trial versions and such.

Jul 21, 2010
1:26 PM EDT
This will ramble a little, too, because I can't be too specific.

I worked for a tech company, that had a really good first product. It was cross-platform (Linux, Solaris, Windows 98) and a single-seat license was US$50. We made a few sales, but not enough to sustain the company while the economy was tanking. I got laid off.

Four years later, and they had changed their strategy. The same basic product, but with the Windows-native version replaced by a setup based on interoperability programs. The AIX and HP-UX versions were in development. The price of all versions was jacked up to US$5,000 per node. That got the attention of some IT big-shots in certain media conglomerates, who tested our product and then listed it with their internal recommendations.

The number of sales didn't really go up, but the profit per sale definitely did.

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