Linux laptops, revisited (can any sleep like my PowerBook does?)

Levi Pearson levi at cold.org
Mon Jan 21 20:36:59 MST 2008


"Doran L. Barton" <fozz at iodynamics.com> writes:

> He postulated that software, by itself is worthless. As evidence of
> this, he observed what happens to the price of a particular piece of
> software after the computer that produces it goes out of business.
> The answer: bargain bin or trash.

Clearly software by itself is worthless.  It needs that computer to
run on. :) I guess you meant 'company' here, though.

That aside, I don't think that the reasoning behind that is completely
solid.  It's rare that a company owning a piece of software that's
selling well goes out of business and leaves that software without
support.  Another company will typicall buy the rights to the software
and continue to support it.  The exceptions to this that I've seen
tend to be the kind of software that stales quickly anyway, such as
games.

Anyway, why would these companies be going out of business anyway if
people wanted to pay the asking price for the software?  I'm sure some
of the loss of value comes from lack of support, but I think that
mostly it's the other way around.

> So, Raymond asked, why do people willingly fork over money for software?
> The answer: Because there is at least the illusion that the company
> producing the software *supports* the software. Raymond goes on to say
> that, in reality, you're not buying the software as much as paying for the
> support of the software. This makes Microsoft's "call your reseller"
> or pay by-the-minute telephone support options seem even more like
> rape... like gang rape, maybe.

I pay for software because it does something that I want it to
accomplish.  Maybe Raymond has different motivations, but I think most
people buy it because it performs a certain function.  Businesses tend
to want support, but business software rarely end up in bargain bins,
precisely because those support contracts are a valuable asset!  

> If you buy into these rules of the software industry, it stands to reason
> that open source software can certainly be a profitable venture for a
> company to go into because they can sell support options while giving the
> software and its source code away for free. Since Raymond wrote this, many
> companies have proven this to be true. 

Software, hardware, and support used to be sold as a package.
Software typically came with the source code, though you didn't get
the right to resell modifications.  It stands to reason that the same
model would work on commodity hardware.  I think (and hope) that
restricting access to the source is a temporary abberation in the
history of software, but I support the right of software creators to
do it if they wish.

>
> This was just a thought that came into my head while I was reading this
> stuff. 

> I don't know why anyone brought up religion. If anything, some of these
> arguments are "ideological" and not religious at all. Please, get it right.

There is rational ideology, and ideology based on faith or feelings.
The latter is characteristic of religion.  I guess another option
would be ideology based on flawed reasoning, but in any case, the
fervor of the adherents of this particular ideology resembles that of
religious adherents, so it is at least metaphorically religious.

                --Levi



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