The InfoSec Blog
20Aug/10

Open source and commercial support

In a discussion of Open Source vs Closed Source/Commercial ...

Voice 1: Maybe because they're not customers? (in the paying for a service sense)
Voice 2: Well, I don't understand that model. I expect to pay for code that someone writes because otherwise I cannot expect someone to stand by the stuff when it doesn't work.

Ironically I've never found that to be the case.

The stuff I pay for, cable service, hosting; and the stuff I use that someone else pays for (i.e the people I work for), commercial hardware, software and service; are the other way round to what you might think.

The support sucks!

I know more about networking and the applications I run at my hosting service than the ISP support group; When I do have a problem they can't help me. The same holds when I have a technical problem with software
or equipment at work. I don't think of myself as a techie, but I do work though problems in a logical manner, read the manuals, work the examples and experiment.

(And often find the examples in the manuals do not work!)

When it doesn't work the stuff I pay for doesn't get support.
The response us more usually that I'm told to pay for an upgrade.
Often this means I have to pay for upgrading a lot of other stuff as well.

OpenSource software is different. If I have a problem and ask on the appropriate forum I get a lot of useful support. I often get to talk to the authors. Which makes a nice change fro the way the the corporate - pay for - world isolates them from the customer base.

I'm not rabidly pro-FOSS. I don't preach and blog about this, write essays and books about it. I don't demand that my employers adopt FOSS.

Perhaps because I do actually come into contact with the FOSS coders I see them as having a different attitude to commercial ones. I don't think this is an absolute, I don't paint everyone this way, but I think
that FOSS coders take a lot of PERSONAL pride in their work an in its quality. I'm not saying that all commercial software is driven by the marketeers who come along and say "its the end of the month, ship it
regardless", though I have worked in such places.  Yes, that kind of attitude does not foster "pride in work". Its one reason so many people go off to work for themselves or for companies where they are respected.
As many others writng on the subject say: "respect causes respect in kind". Politeness is part of respect. Listening (politely) and respecting other people's diversity is polite.

I think a simple, absolute division that maps "four legs good, two legs bad" into the software world is overly simplistic. It doesn't matter if that division is between FOSS and commercial software or between different software products.

Perhaps its because we no longer fight over which end of the egg you crack open, no longer fight over the colour of your skin (as if you can tell over the 'Net), over which branch of a religion you follow, we have
to find something equally trivial and meaningless to scream and shout about.

Posted by antonaylward

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