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July 31st, 2006

The Microsoft vs. Open Source Argument

It’s a boring argument, and essentially a pointless one. Pro Microsoft folks feel that if you’re getting open source software, it’s not equal in quality and there’s no one to call for support. Open source people feel that Microsoft is gouging customers eyes out with ridiculous licensing fees.

I’m on a Windows machine using some M$ software (more out of necessity than choice) but also use an awful lot of independently developed software and I rely on open source software for most any web project I’m involved in. I think the biggest flaw is in the argument of those that claim there’s no support with open source software.

The way I figure it, if I have a problem with my piece of open source software, I’ll Google for a solution, search a collaborative knowledge base, or ask a question in a discussion forum. If I have a problem with a Microsoft product, I’ll Google for a solution, search their not-so-open knowledge base, or ask a question in a discussion forum. I’ve never once called Microsoft with a software question. Come to think of it, I’ve never called any company with a question about their software. I’ve e-mailed a few times, but only with those that develop small shareware apps or open source software. When was the last time you called Microsoft, really?

The only real argument I can see for the Microsoft model is that, yeah, developers do deserve to get paid for their work. But there’s certainly a less evil way to do it.

Posted in Technology

FROM: Terry M.
DATE: Monday July 31, 2006 -- 7:01:22 pm
Both Windows and Linux, and their general applications, are in such widespread deployment, that you have to be doing something truly bleeding edge to not be able to find the answer through Google. I have been shocked by finding answers to problems, which ended up being due to extremely specific configurations or to conflicts between various obscure combinations of applications, but through the internet someone, somewhere has documented it - and found the solution. Even if it only affects one in a million, just the sheer number of users means many others have run into it. It's almost tough to see where Microsoft (or Red Hat) can make money from support, since there is so much general knowledge readily accessible, but my guess is that it is mostly 'consulting' type work to get their products to work in specific corporate set ups, and training.

In my little corner of the universe (Engineering/Design Automation), software support is indeed critical, however. Companies pump tons of money into developing new algorithms to solve very specific problems, and the applications are used by no more than a few thousand individuals, and there are all these expensive support contracts thrown around, and the users are in constant contact with the developers. I would imagine this is the case for many kinds of specialized, 'professional' type software including other completely different areas engineering, all sorts of science and math apps, mining, oil drilling (supposedly one of the most advanced and computerized industries), transportation (also supposedly very advanced), health care, and specialized media production (e.g. special effects, 3D rendering, etc.) software, and who knows what other areas specialized software exists in. In most cases there is little motivation for the open source community to go after these.

FROM: jk
DATE: Tuesday August 1, 2006 -- 9:59:28 am
pssssst.....happy august!!

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