I was just reading my morning blogs and email, and an internal email on this topic (Preparing for daylight saving time changes in 2007) got me thinking about YOUR software, especially those of you who are using "free" software. Who is working on the update to your operating system and software?
Earlier this month, Outlook 2007 woke up, obtained the update and warned me that it wanted to chew on my calendar for a while to fix any future appointments that I might have created before the update. I watched it happily update ~160 future appointments (which took a little while on my anemic Tablet PC) and then reported success. Maybe I'm just a basically happy person, but it was good feeling to not have that one more thing to worry about.
It's nice to know that I can forget about Daylight Saving Time again until Vista reminds me the next morning that it reset the clocks for me while I was sleeping... Can you?
For Microsoft products that's great. The argument though is, what about all those closed source applications that are from companies that either went out of business or who no longer support the application? With open source you or the community can make the changes.
Great question, Michael. Obviously, some people will continue to buy software from smaller vendors that are more at risk for going out of business AND it seems unlikely that we could ever legally require source code escrow against that sad day for any business (you're not even guaranteed this with a FOSS product)... so what SHOULD people do? They're not going to stop using software, so...
Are you suggesting that everybody should become a software developer?! We can't even get enough kids to enroll in computer science programs in the U.S. to meet the demand. Most people stuggle with the math required to balance a checkbook... and I'm starting to see more and more allegedly "free" products charging support fees, doing fundraising and still claiming that they're "not advertising." Labor costs money, and fundamentally software requires nothing but labor.
What do non-developers do when all the geeks lose interest in some random FOSS product and nobody else is maintaining it? Aren't there more abandoned FOSS products out there than out of business ISVs?
What do non-developers do when the FOSS crew of their favorite product stops supporting X, Y or Z feature and the only answer you can get from "the community" (if you can get any answer at all as a n00b user) is "Sorry, if you don't like it, here's the source code. Fix it yourself!" That's like telling somebody to go become a doctor so that he heal himself... I still remember that stinging answer the first time I built a Linux machine in ~1992 and the distribution I was using (I forget if it was Slackware or Red Hat) had no support for my ethernet NIC. The goofiest answer I could've imagined from "the community" was to go write my own device driver for an ethernet card that already had manufacturer-produced Windows drivers just so that I could use their "free" operating system.
Heck, I'm angry right now at a huge printer manufacturer who shall remain nameless because they refuse to produce a Vista driver for my laser printer (that's ~3 years old and still works great). I write software for a living and it's very unlikely that I will write my own driver... [Given a choice about what to do with my free time, I'd rather Chutes and Ladders with my kids or play Gears of War after they go to bed than write a device driver.] I'm more likely to junk the printer, boycott the vendor henceforth and just buy a new printer from a more reliable vendor that partners better with my operating system vendor of choice.
To use a probably less than appropriate analogy, choosing to rely on an open source product that is maintained by people who don't have any direct accountability to you (even if it's just a $5 shareware fee) is like relying on a public defender to represent you in court! You'd only do that if you couldn't (or chose not to) afford a better attorney.
IMNSHO, you always get what you pay for. ;-) YMMV.
Ah... the joys of living in Arizona, where we don't need to save daylight. We've got plenty of it!
Yeah, I grew up (mostly) in Indiana where we didn't do it, either, which is probably why DST still fascinates me. The Hoosiers finally gave into peer pressure recently and started doing it (mostly)... I guess when The Fed starts taking away highway funds from AZ (rhymes with the Wizard?) and other dollars under the guise of saving the earth and saving energy (it was an energy savings bill that started this whole thing for 2007), then Arizona will finally quit pretending to be maverick Tejanos and get in line for their own daylight savings. Heh.
It's not just the smaller vendors, if you noticed I mentioned losing support for software. For example Windows NT will NOT be getting updated for the 2007 DST changes (http://www.microsoft.com/windows/timezone/dst2007.mspx). The only way to update this is to use the tzedit utility, which is the same method the FOSS users would have to use (being that NT et al is POSIX compliant and TimeZone editing is part of POSIX). However, the real issue here isn't Operating Systems. It's application developers. If everyone used the standard OS provided time functions, this wouldn't be an issue, for anyone. But we have companies like Java and Oracle (both Closed Source) that have decided to implement their own time functions, so now THEY have to be updated. Good thing Oracle is still in business uh?
I never suggested everyone become a software developer, and of course some free products charge for support. The program is free, the support is not; it's TWO separate products. You've seemed to want to turn this into some debate about FOSS vs. Closed Source that was never my intention (though your post was baiting), I was simply pointing out an argument that could be made. I make my living as a C#/.NET developer for a Fortune 500 company and our stuff is closed source, so believe me closed source (and Microsoft) is NOT the evil empire to me. However I don't discount the value of open source for some things. If someone does not have the time, desire, or infrastructure to continue supporting a product or no intention to, then open source makes sense.
The beauty of community based development is that only the best of the best get widely adopted, your argument about abandoned FOSS products vs. business ISVs really isn't fair. The barrier of entry to be a business ISV is MUCH higher then to start a FOSS project. However, most of the products that get into the hands of non-geeks (Firefox, GAIM, etc) have already gone though an intense period of adoption by a large community; effectively the market dictates what products deserve to be continued. The thought of "all the geeks" abandoning say Firefox...is awfully slim.
I also see you still hold a grudge against Linux from 1992....you do realize that in 1992 Linux was barely an operating system? It was first released in 1991, how many "non-geeks" were using Linux a year after Linus dropped it on an ftp server (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Linux)? I dare say the percentage of users who COULD write their own device drivers was much higher then today. Today we have manufacturers SUPPLYING Linux drivers.
The point is that with closed source products you are dependent on ONE entity, if that one entity decides to not support their product any more (you paid good money for that printer, how accountable are they to YOU really?) or doesn't exist any more, you are SOL. With open source you have the CHOICE, you can HIRE a software developer to make the changes for you if you have to. I think the better analogy would be to imagine having being given the choice between a car whose hood and gas cap are welded shut, with a promise from the manufacturer that they will fix any problems you have and will keep you filled with gas. Or a car that you can fix yourself and fill up yourself. Now eventually you'll probably need a mechanic, but you won't always need the manufacturer.
And how much did those people who are still using Windows NT pay? ;) Being too far on either side of the closed source / open source debate does a disservice to our industry, both have their place.
Bah, I meant to link this somewhere in my post, good read: http://blogs.tedneward.com/2007/01/06/Interop+Briefs+Check+Your+Politics+At+The+Door.aspx
Manual Trackback: http://michaeldotnet.blogspot.com/2007/01/programming-promises.html
Michael.NET, apparently inspired by my "Check Your Politics At The Door" post, and equally