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Why Users Drop Open Source Apps For Proprietary Alternatives

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the have-you-tried-this-foxfire-thing dept.

Software 891

maximus1 writes "Hard as it may be to imagine, 'free' is not always the primary selling point to open source software. This article makes some interesting points about subtle ways Open Source projects might lose to the competition. Lack of features is a common answer you'd expect, but the author points out that complicated setup and configuration can be a real turn-off. Moreover, open source companies may not do enough to market major upgrades. If they did, they might lure back folks who tried and dumped the earlier, less polished version. This raises the question: what made you dump an open source app you were using? What could that project have done differently?"

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Stability (5, Interesting)

Ada_Rules (260218) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397205)

On the verge of dumping firefox after years of use. 3.5.2 was horrible. 3.5.3 crashed within the first 5 minutes of use. The #1 reason I would dump any SW product is stability. If it can't perform its intended function without crashing then nothing else matters. Lets just hope I don't need to switch to Chrome to get this to post.


Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29397223)

Madonna is the best! []

I made it through the wilderness
Somehow I made it through
Didn't know how lost I was
Until I found you

I was beat incomplete
I'd been had, I was sad and blue
But you made me feel
Yeah, you made me feel
Shiny and new


Like a virgin
Touched for the very first time
Like a virgin
When your heart beats
Next to mine

Gonna give you all my love, boy
My fear is fading fast
Been saving it all for you
'Cause only love can last

You're so fine and you're mine
Make me strong, yeah you make me bold
Oh your love thawed out
Yeah, your love thawed out
What was scared and cold

Re:Stability (1)

motorhead (82353) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397257)

You're right. It crashes, Pg-Dn returns to top left of page and the cursor arrow gets stuck. It's going downhill and becoming usable. I did the uninstall and reinstall tango without repairing it. Back to Opera for me.

Re:Stability (2, Informative)

Daimanta (1140543) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397275)

Using Firefox 3.5.3 and having no problems whatsoever. No crash in firefox happened that can't be attributed to adobe or flash in the last year.

Re:Stability (1, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397445)

Well I just upgraded from 2.x to Firefox 3.0, and if 3.5 really is unstable then I don't want it. FF3 never crashes, even when I'm running flash. If FF3 can go days without crashing, then FF3.5 should be able to do the same.

>>>"complicated setup and configuration can be a real turn-off."

This is why I stopped using Linux on my laptop. I couldn't get the darn thing to connect to Netscape ISP, and after frakking with it for several hours, I finally gave up and reinstalled Windows XP. I had it connected in just 5 minutes. There are advantages to proprietary software that "just works".

Besides is Linus really "free"? My time has value too (about $50/hour) and the hours I spent trying to connect to my ISP could have been spent earning overtime at work, buying Windoze for ~$120, and still having some cash leftover in my pocket. Sometimes it's worth handing-over the credit card to get plug-and-play software, rather than put-up with free software's constant need to "configure" everything.

Re:Stability (1, Redundant)

Quantumstate (1295210) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397531)

I find firefox 3.5 is perfectly stable. I in fact had a strange problem with hotmail and firefox 3 on linux where it would just crash after using hotmail within clicking about 5 links. So I find firefox 3.5 is more stable than 3 because I don't recall ever having it crash.

Re:Stability (1)

Eirenarch (1099517) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397543)

So it seems that the cost of proprietary software is not that high after all.

Re:Stability (1)

mockchoi (678525) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397279)

100% agreed. I think it's the slowest browser out there now, too.

Re:Stability (1)

wumpus188 (657540) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397301)

Especially on Mac.

Re:Stability (2, Informative)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397385)

On the verge of dumping firefox after years of use. 3.5.2 was horrible. 3.5.3 crashed within the first 5 minutes of use.

Firefox crashes? This is news to me.

*Glances at several windows with a god awful amount of tabs which have been open for.. days? weeks?*

You sure you've not got a foobared installation or messed up profile?

Re:Stability (1)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397579)

Fubar'ed profile or Java/Flash is quite likely. Every time I've ever had a recent release version of Firefox crash (been using it since v0.something) I've had a site open that is whitelisted in NoScript for Flash or using Java.

Another possibility is the cache, or more likely a corrupted SQLite index DB. I recently saw this with GMail borking for me on one PC and hanging the initial load screen, then offering to load without Labs (which I don't use) which worked fine. Trying to load the page using the "No Labs" URL had the same issue, yet basic HTML worked fine. After looking at corrupted cookies and rogue extensions, I flushed the cache which presumably also reset the DB and it's been fine ever since.

Open Source Browsers RIP? (3, Funny)

aoheno (645574) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397393)

Chrome is also open source so by this logic it will very likely suffer the same fate and be dumped. Rather than go back to IE I have decided to retire.

Re:Stability (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29397427)

The biggest problem I see if the lack of easy to use documentation, and then when a person asks for help they get the "Read the Fucken Manual " reply. Setup and configuration is the one area where Open Source software tends to lag. Everyone is so worried about getting iut to work they forget to let the users know how to get the most out of it. I believe documentation and easy to use instructions are as important as the software itself.

Users "Graduate" to Proprietary (5, Interesting)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397487)

I've lost count of the number of "casual" graphics designers to whom I have introduced to open source tools... they want to "do stuff," either within a web site or with their photos, but the name brand graphics tools are too expensive, so... they'll try anything, even something with a name as ridiculous and off-putting as "The Gimp." Then, once they become proficient, once they start to understand "layers" and "filters" and the like, they understand the required reading a bit better, and wonder what they are missing with the Adobe software. Well, they don't wonder, it's very clear: all the web and design magazines each month provide specialized step-by-step tutorials on how to do neat stuff with the popular tools, and never once mention open source beyond the "Annual Condescension" summary article about the "other" tools. These people take a stroll down the aisles at B&N and see tome after tome designed to help the Adobe user, and maybe -- in a particularly well-stocked store -- a copy of "Beginning GIMP, which just sounds icky. I've seen the same scenario play out with Audacity and Pro Tools: people learn how to edit with free Audacity, and then when they become savvy enough to realize what they are missing with the proprietary stuff -- either in the form of missing features or widespread community and commercial support -- they step up.

The pro creative tools have great "wannabe" appeal: working with Adobe and Pro Tools, the amateur wannabe artists feel like they're "more connected" to that professional world to which they aspire. Using the free open source tools just underscores -- in their mind -- that they are second tier. This is not to say that the open source tools are second-rate technically, just that -- in the eyes of the latte-infused graphics and sound editor pretenders -- they may not be quite as "fashionable."

Re:Stability (1)

Ash Vince (602485) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397501)

I always wonder how so many people have issues with firefox. For me it is far more stable than Chrome under windows. Under Linux I dont have any problems with it either. Are you sure it is not one of the addons you have installed bringing it down?

Re:Stability (1)

owlnation (858981) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397585)

I always wonder how so many people have issues with firefox.

Try it on a Mac. If you can get it to run without issue for more than 6 hours, then you deserve a medal.

But the fact that "so many" people do, in fact, have issues with Firefox is a question for Mozilla. Rather than add in yet more features, would their time not be better spent in stabilizing the core of the browser? Leave the features to add-ins.

Re:Stability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29397621)

I always wonder how so many people don't have any issues with Firefox. For me, the developers version of Chrome on Linux is far more stable than Firefox--and I have no addons or anything extra installed on Firefox.

I don't run Windows except in a VirtualBox on rare occasions when I don't have a good Linux solution at hand (games, primarily, and if it can't be run on WINE or XP in VirtualBox, I find I don't care; not to say others don't, just stating my own personal stance on my own computer and what I do with it), so can't say anything there.

Though, I do still use Firefox for flash websites--which lately has been only Hulu and YouTube or the like--but only because I have to (developers Chrome on Linux doesn't play nice with flash in my experience thus far... but it's in development and not stable yet, so really I expect worse than that being my only downside to it so far). I could complain forever about flash, but that's irrelevant.

Re:Stability (1)

bryan.copeland (1636229) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397511)

Safari user here ... but technically it's internals are webkit, which is open sourced...

Re:Stability (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397567)

That's your problem, my friend. Firefox is very stable. Let me say this: FLASH crashes like shit here. And it's FLASH that causes the most problems for Firefox users. Chrome prevents this by wrapping FLASH in a separate area that gets dumped with it, or something like that.

But Firefox runs very fine here. So first FIX YOUR COMPUTER, before complaining about software stability.

Typical PEBKAC. ^^

Support (4, Interesting)

garcia (6573) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397207)

The biggest reason is the fact that there weren't expensive support contracts available for purchase. Employee turnover always exists and generally only one or maybe two people knew how to operate any particular system in the places where I have worked. Expensive support contracts allowed for someone else to do deal w/the turnover problem and kept it out of the hands of the on-site departments.

Re:Support (4, Informative)

solanum (80810) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397319)

This is a reason that is always trotted out at times like this, but is it a myth? I've worked at a number of institutions and the place where I am currently at (note I don't work in IT), has over 6,000 employees and a very varied software set up for the various parts of the organisation. The only time, either here or at a previous job, I have ever heard of anyone receiving training in software use, or access to paid support from a vendor is when we recently went to SAP (funnily enough the training was useless).

It may be that all the training/support is provided to the IT department so they can support us I guess, but generally they only provide support for installation and desktop use, so I doubt it.

Of Course (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397441)

Of course it's a myth. Dozens of established IT companies will sell you a support contract for any software you can come up with. "Employee turnover blah blah one person knew how to operate any particular system" is MBA-speak for "We only use software that any idiot off the street can use because we refuse to pay a dollar more than what the Fed prints and the banks give us to hand out to the wage slaves and maintain full employment".

Re:Support (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397461)

Any place that I have worked, the IT department is understaffed, overworked, and operate at what the other departments feel is a sub-par level. Because of this, it's easier to train people in-house or bring in an external support contract to handle the problems. Obviously this isn't how it works everywhere but in the last three institutions I have worked at (in the last 7 years) that's what it's been like.


Continuity (3, Informative)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397521)

I use pylab and scipy as a replacement for Matlab. But it's really frustrating because sometimes you do an update and everything can bust because this or that lib won't compile with your current compiler or this or that dependency is not available or it wont work with X or aqua term or whatever.

To give an example, none of the scientific programs I wrote to display my graphs work any more because none of the 3D graphics in pylab work anymore. instead you can use Mayavi (much better but more difficult), but to do an install of that cleanly is a nightmare. So you switch to the Enthought distro with all that built in. But then the ENthought distro doesn't have a fortran compiler so all the scientific add ons that depend on that or use F2PY are busted. And so on. Sure you can if you try get it all to work, but your old programs seldom work anymore.

Continuity is a huge headache with open source. If your time is worth anything then even something as overpriced as matlab starts to be attractive.

(the problem with matlab's pricing is that while it's not so absurd for single seats if it makes you more productive, once you have a large group then everyone needs a copy to be interactive even if they seldom use it: then it becomes prohibitively expensive.)

Ease of Use (5, Insightful)

illumastorm (172101) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397219)

For me it really wasn't about the lack of features. It was more on how easy it was to use as program. You have Feature X,Y, and Z on there, but if I have to navigate Menus A, B, C, and D to find that feature then I will not use that program.

Re:Ease of Use (2, Interesting)

moon3 (1530265) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397467)

Free software makes money by selling books, guides, manuals etc. Therefore the software must NOT be very intuitive or user friendly. This way people are forced to buy the book to help them out. Bloat, bad design, general difficulty to understand the thing are regarded as 'features' and pluses by high level in-the-money OSS priests.

Re:Ease of Use (1)

tius (455341) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397571)

Right... and just how many photoshop books can you count?

Maybe... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29397225)

It's because they suck? I tend to get rid of stuff that sucks. Maybe the fact that it's open source just doesn't enter into it? And wouldn't that be a good thing: to get graded on the merits, and not just "is it programmer-friendly" (which is all open source gets you)?

Really, it's unfair to throw everything that is open source into one big category for this. Open source software, taken as a whole, really has no chance of beating Sturgeon's Law. On the one hand, OpenOffice may seem okay to an Office user, but it looks bloated and messy to an iWork user. On the other hand, I don't see gcc as having any serious competition.

Maybe if open source programmers innovated more, and copied off of Microsoft and Apple less...?

Difficulty In Using (5, Insightful)

smpoole7 (1467717) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397227)

... is my key principle. I'm capable of RTM'ing and Googling to find answers, but especially as I get older, I don't have the time I used to. Just yesterday, I was struggling with an Open Source mail server. Having to read separate (and usually incomplete) (not to mention incomprehensible at times) documentation on each component, THEN figure out how it all played together ... just to be honest, I briefly (briefly!) considered telling Corporate that we needed to just bite the bullet and go with an Exchange Server with full support. Fortunately, I got this one working (again), and it's holding for now. But my #1 complaint is the lack of clear, easy-to-follow documentation. I love F/OSS -- I run Suse at home, and I've fallen head-over-heels for VirtualBox -- but this is my biggest complaint. We have a lot of brilliant coders working in F/OSS. We need to attract some equally-brilliant technical writers to donate time to explain how the stuff works in the real world.

Re:Difficulty In Using (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29397321)

We have a lot of brilliant coders working in F/OSS. We need to attract some equally-brilliant technical writers to donate time to explain how the stuff works in the real world.

Those brilliant coders might have to explain to the brilliant technical writers how some stuff works. Seeing as the "separate (and usually incomplete) (not to mention incomprehensible at times) documentation" is also somewhat out of date since they've been busy hacking away on the code instead of updating the documentation. I don't mean explaining basic stuff but esoteric things like exactly what effects various switches and options have, if any of them conflict with each other, and so on.

Re:Difficulty In Using (4, Insightful)

Static Sky (1439941) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397323)

Or at least we need those brilliant coders to take the ball that last 10 yards and not stop when the product hits the "functional" stage. Functional and usable are not the same thing.

Re:Difficulty In Using (2)

motorhead (82353) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397347)

I'd rather search for Open source / *NIX help. Looking for solutions with MS type products usually has all the "home hobbyist" / nitwit speculators and you have to sift through the useless crap.

Re:Difficulty In Using (2, Insightful)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397367)

We need to attract some equally-brilliant technical writers to donate time to explain how the stuff works in the real world.

I think a problem is that good technical writers don't have a tendency to donate work in their 'hobby time'.

Re:Difficulty In Using (1)

vandit2k6 (848077) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397459)

We need to attract some equally-brilliant technical writers to donate time to explain how the stuff works in the real world.

I think a problem is that good technical writers don't have a tendency to donate work in their 'hobby time'.

Very much disagree. Are you expecting people to work outside of the working hours?

Re:Difficulty In Using (2, Interesting)

Kjella (173770) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397589)

Very much disagree. Are you expecting people to work outside of the working hours?

Not sure at what you're getting at here, maybe you got caught up too much in the word "work". Many coders code outside their working hours, few technical writers write documentation. Apart from some high-profile projects like the Linux kernel, also at work time is spent making stuff work, not making comprehensive technical write-ups about things. The result is that the code-to-documentation ratio is much higher, and unlike closed source they don't have the cash to hire someone to do all those boring parts nobody's volunteering for. Usually the documentation ends up being what someone wrote after messing around with it in order to make it work, but usually that refers only to what he was trying to do and he's not assigned to keep that documentation current.

Re:Difficulty In Using (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29397405)

I can completely agree with smpool7. He is telling you about the corporate side of it. Let me tell you about the personall, home situation side of this story.

In the early days when I did not have the money to purchase software I used opensource.
By using it I learned a lot and eventually became a UNIX administrator (with some additional learning and stuff). And when it works it usually does a great job. But now I got older, make more money, have a family, I simply do not have the time to delve into a program or piece of software and make it work. That is why I go back to purchasing a license and simply use it.

The big difference between opensource (and I am talking linux and the software that runs on it, because that is what it means to me!) and purchased software is that I get a clear webshop where I can order the latest product. There is a very short manual with it, which basically tells me to click setup, or drag it to applications (OSX fan anyone?). After that it simply works, no hassle, no problems. When I use open source, I have to click setup and then usually I get into an interface which just ............. (And yes, there are exceptions!)

Main thing is: When I buy/pick a new piece of software:
1. I must be able to just use it. No inch thick manuals
2. When I have a problem, who can I call to solve it for me.
3. I must be able to easily find it the software. (no version Just version 1 or 2 or 3 and then I download and use it on a customer oriented website and not a technical one.
4. It needs to be interoperable, meaning, when I create a document, file, whatever, my friends, family must be able to work with it.

All in all: Opensource has it's advantages, we all know them, and I most definitly support them, but when I get older, have less time, i just want a product that works, and I am willing to pay for it........... and that is a very sad conclusion.


Re:Difficulty In Using (4, Informative)

Teckla (630646) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397449)

... is my key principle. I'm capable of RTM'ing and Googling to find answers, but especially as I get older, I don't have the time I used to.

Amen to that.

Not long ago, I was struggling getting vino/vnc to work under Ubuntu Linux (desktop edition). I spent hours Googling and trying to juggle conflicting and just plain wrong information. Eventually, I discovered the culprit was that IPv6 was enabled on Ubuntu by default.

First, I was stunned Ubuntu would be misguided enough to enable IPv6 in their desktop distro by default, when less than 1% of ISPs support it, and most consumer networking equipment either doesn't support it or doesn't have it enabled by default.

Second, I was stunned vino/vnc would fail to accept connections if IPv6 was enabled but my networking gear didn't support it. I literally could not VNC into my Ubuntu desktop machine unless I disabled IPv6 on the Ubuntu machine, even if all my IPv4 firewall and tunnel settings were correct.

Third, I was stunned that the solution (which was remarkably hard to discover) was to hand edit some weird blacklist file so that I could blacklist IPv6. Nope, no GUI option to just frakking disable IPv6, at least not that I could find.

After struggling with this for hours...finally getting it to work...and then enjoying the slow-as-molasses solution that VNC is, I started to think that paying $100 or $200 for Windows and just clicking a few checkboxes to enable Remote Desktop was looking pretty damn good. (And Remote Desktop performance is way better, too.)

I'll continue to use Linux, of course, but FOSS in general has a long ways to go.

Now I look forward to someone telling me what a complete dummy I am for having such difficulty setting up remote access on Linux.

A shocker.... (1)

Junta (36770) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397593)

Windows also enables IPv6 by default. For any well written app, one of two things should happen in the face of IPv6 if an IPv4 identity also exists:
-The app hasn't gone to the new IPv6 capable APIs, in which case, it will only work on IPv4
-The app has used the new APIs, and used them correctly such that it is agnostic as to whether IPv6 or IPv4.
I've never seen a problem like you describe, so I would be interesting if you have a link to a discussion on it so I could understand how the software messed up here.

Incidentally, I agree that VNC is tortuously slow. That's why I use NX. My gripe there is that FreeNX has not been a solid, quality project, but I'm hoping that Google's attention in 'NeatX' will turn that around.

Re:Difficulty In Using (1)

arcade (16638) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397615)

You've got a point, but I've got a troubleshooting tips for you to avoid such situations in the future.

When a network application doesn't work .. the first thing I would do is to use tcpdump (or ethereal/wireshark) to see whether the packets arrive properly. If they do, 'lsof' or 'netstat' to check whether something listens on the port the packet is destined for.. and finally 'strace' to see if the receiving application actually receives anything.

With those tools in your new and now probably improved toolset - it gets way, way easier to debug almost any kind of problem :-)


Re:Difficulty In Using (1)

kent_eh (543303) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397573)

So did you post your configuration solution anywhere so that others may find it more easily in the futura?
Maybe on the project's WIKI? Or even an e-mail to the documentation maintainer?

Has anyone here done that?

Not trying to bust your balls, but maybe we have to look in the mirror for a solution to the documentation problem.

Clean (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29397237)

I dumped openoffice (which I used for years on linux and windows) for Apple's iWork on my mac. Faster, cleaner, and produced cleaner documents... I have since purchased 2 versions ... 08 and 09...

Re:Clean (1)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397351)

I dumped openoffice (which I used for years on linux and windows) for Apple's iWork on my mac. Faster, cleaner, and produced cleaner documents... I have since purchased 2 versions ... 08 and 09...

I bought Staroffice, was more polished and had better font support, dictionaries than, faster and produced cleaner documents.

Re:Clean (1)

bryan.copeland (1636229) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397469)

I also had tried star office (not much difference) ... iWork still beat it...

Tversity vs Windows Media Center (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29397245)

For me I use Windows Media Center because its simple to setup. Simple for my family to use and for myself its simpler to find support for. I don't care to jump through hoops and have to jump through hoops to get a system configured, remote configured and if there is a issue while I am away finding someone who can support it is easier with windows..

I am sure some people won't agree with me but some people just don't want to worry about these things and just want it quick, easy and simple and feel more comfortable with windows than Linux.

Readable version (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29397247)

Fonts (3, Insightful)

wigaloo (897600) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397251)

This raises the question: what made you dump an open source app you were using?

Fonts. The default fonts for OpenOffice look awful. With Pages (word processor on my Mac), my documents look beautiful with no fuss. I don't require a thousand different features, either.

I've dumped Linux (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29397253)

I've dumped Linux (used Slackware, Gentoo and Suse since 1995), on desktop for OS X 3 years ago. What these projects could do differently? Honestly, I even don't know where to start...
Still using CentOS on servers though.

Why? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29397261)

Shit Documentation, Poor UI design, Meaningless Support and Instability

Really? (5, Interesting)

DewDude (537374) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397267)

Maybe I'm entirely different than most people. I used to use a bunch of propritary applications...Office, AIM, Yahoo, mIRC....I switched to the open-source alternatives and I never looked back. For me, it was being able to jump between Ubuntu and Windows while maintaining the same "feel" as the other apps. Market major upgrades are lame. How many times does someone make a major upgrade that's really just more annoying features....didn't AOL just "upgrade" ICQ to use the same rendering engine as AIM Triton...quite honestly, AIM Triton was enough to make me switch to Pidgin full time. Obviously the windows people will stick with the applications that they're used to.

Pro tip (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29397431)

Maybe you'd like proprietary software more if, like the author of TFA, you were paid to sell it. Read on page two [] where the author promotes DropBox over a free alternative, providing a referral link as she does so. If you look on the DropBox website, you will find an affiliate program [] paying out up to US$50 for each referred subscription.

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29397559)

These are toy applications, trivial.

We deploy enterprise applications that cost $20M to purchase and $30M to deploy. Annual support costs are over $1M and we run 70+ servers to keep our mobile workforce tasked appropriately. Some of those servers were $3M each.

There is no OSS or FOSS or FLOSS that does what this system does. The old manual systems required 2,000 office workers to manage. The new systems require about 30 full time application, systems and network people each making 2x what the old office worker did. Additionally, the improved efficiency in dispatching let us retire 3,000 of the mobile workers and cover the same installations and trouble tickets over the same geographic areas. That number of workers was scheduled to retire anyway.

The system paid for itself in less than 2 years. This is how profitable businesses work. You work to improve efficiency, to make more profit and charge the highest rate possible to the customers, whatever they are willing to pay. The deployment years were difficult with 3 people having heart attacks and all of us had very long hours, weeks, months with little rest. I did get a nice plaque at the end, which was nice. Oh, and my house was paid off.

Sounds good (0, Troll)

Joebert (946227) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397269)

Open source sounds good at first. It's really like one of those stories where someone sells their soul to the Devil in the end though.

Lack of OEM Support (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29397277)

Very few, if any, OEMs provide Linux drivers with their products. That left me scrambling to find drivers on the internet for some of my equipment. Some of my older stuff I was never able to get working. I'm not a kid anymore. I don't have the time to go on a scavenger hunt or learn how to build kernels. Don't get me wrong. I really appreciate the open source effort. I stuck with Ubuntu for two years. But I'm now back to proprietary software.

Why surprising? (5, Insightful)

GF678 (1453005) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397287)

Hard as it may be to imagine, 'free' is not always the primary selling point to open source software.

Why is it hard to imagine? People will pay money for something if it saves them time, or is simply more pleasant to use. It's software after all - free isn't the best drawcard if the software is crap to begin with, and goodness-knows there's a ton of crap open source software out there.

Re:Why surprising? (1)

bryan.copeland (1636229) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397345)

I agree completely ... I have even bought commercial versions of good open source programs... I have no problem "rewarding" good code with money...

Documentation and .... (2, Interesting)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397303)

First of all, I second the above posts about the lack of decent documentation - if there's any at all.

Second, at least with business programs, it's obvious that a programmer designed them them. GNUCash is the worst thing a business can use for their accounting software. They took a home checkbook program, added a couple of other accounts and considered it done. If you're running a business, just shell out the money for Quickbooks, MS Accounting, or Moneyworks.

Lastly, some development tools - yikes! Comparing gtk+ with Qt, Qt has wonderful documentation, the build environment was easy to set up and the integration with eclipse was great (I wish for a Netbeans integration one day but that was easy to set up too). It took me a few hours to get gtk+ build environment set up correctly where Netbeans could actually compile and link something. A make file would just be a nightmare!

Re:Documentation and .... (1)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397329)

If you're running a business, just shell out the money for Quickbooks, MS Accounting, or Moneyworks.

Am I the only person who found those quite bad too?

Re:Documentation and .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29397513)

No, you're not. Besides the general suckage of most accounting programs, I've yet to find an one that has some sort of API to allow integration with other systems (for example, to generate invoice from entries in a ticketing system) or that allows multiple simultaneous users. I have trouble believing I run the only small business with more than one location that needs to do accounting entries, or with a desire to automate certain types of invoicing.

Re:Documentation and .... (2, Interesting)

GaryOlson (737642) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397555)

All of these programs, and the accounting field in general, is having to evolve from a paper centric data architecture embedded in their mindset over the last few centuries. Most of the software works within the transferring operations and methods from paper to electronic mindspace. I have to have a beer or three available when the spouse talks about the sheer ignorance in major Fortune 500 company as accounting types fubar spreadsheets, Oracle, etc just to make the paper process more effective.

How does this apply to TFA? Any OSS which understands how personal finance is moving from paper based to EFT for all transactions and provides an application which really works in EFT space will succeed. The commercial accounting applications will stay stuck in the mode of supporting paper based accounting for at least another decade. The people and business education have to be upgraded -- and that will take a generation [25 years].

Someone has to take the responisibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29397313)

As for the product our company is working on (A large scale telecom sytem) there are tedious procedures taking months for involving open source in the project. I believe the reason for this is that, if you use open source software, and the system crashes because of a bug in it, there is no-one to blame.

Of course, if a company would offer a product that is built on open source but taking all responsibility for support and stability, this would be as good as "closed source" software.

So companies are primarily looking for the cheapest alternative as usual, where the requirements are support, stability, etc. Pure open source cannot cope with these requirements so in itself it is useless.

Lack of Ctl-D to "Fill Down" in OO Calc (3, Insightful)

Yoda2 (522522) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397325)

Drives me nuts. Try each new version of Calc, no easy "fill down" & its back to Excel. Other than that I use open source apps whenever possible.

Lack of user-testing (3, Insightful)

mauddib~ (126018) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397333)

It seems the developers have no concern whatsoever to test their new user-interfaces with users who will actually use their software. This causes miscommunication between the developer and the user-base, in turn leading to an alienation of both groups. It is paramount to learn to speak the language of the user, or the boat we want to sail will never land on a coast.

Besides this, I find the lack of clear and uniform documentation a big mishap in modern linux systems.

So, my complaint list:

1. Lack of user-testing
2. Incomplete, incomprehensible, multi-format documentation.
3. Lack of quality control (eg. automated testing)
4. Unannounced drop of support on certain projects.
5. A plethora of linux distributions makes it difficult to choose.
6. Too many configuration formats.
7. The UNIX framework is not mature anymore and because of its design flaws, responds horribly to new demands.
8. Too many different programming languages make it difficult for new talent to drop in or to integrate different approaches.
9. KISS principle is broken too many times.
10. Featuritis (

Re:Lack of user-testing (5, Insightful)

dissy (172727) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397465)

So, my complaint list:

1. Lack of user-testing
2. Incomplete, incomprehensible, multi-format documentation.
3. Lack of quality control (eg. automated testing)
4. Unannounced drop of support on certain projects.
5. A plethora of linux distributions makes it difficult to choose.
6. Too many configuration formats.
7. The UNIX framework is not mature anymore and because of its design flaws, responds horribly to new demands.
8. Too many different programming languages make it difficult for new talent to drop in or to integrate different approaches.
9. KISS principle is broken too many times.
10. Featuritis (

Ironically (Other than #5 and #7 needing rewording) that is the exact list of complaints I have against most of the commercial software packages I have to work with!

If you replace the word 'linux distro' with 'windows release' in #5, and replace 'unix' with the list of 20 frameworks used in windows for #7, then it is an exact match.

Re:Lack of user-testing (1)

mauddib~ (126018) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397575)

Oh, yes, #7 needs rewording. I meant: the UNIX framework is losing its leverage with new demands in computer engineering. Sorry, I'm not dutch.

I agree completely that these flaws are not shared with other commercial approaches. However, it is clear that many commercial approaches are paying attention (and experts) to solve the problems stated above (with or without success). With OSS, I'm not so sure this is actually the case.

Also, although this is the wrong place to put this comment, I would like to stress the possibility of vandalism/sabotage of certain corporations on OSS.

Re:Lack of user-testing (1)

weicco (645927) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397539)

Setup package! Setup package! Setup package!

Software without setup package is out of the question, at least for me. I once tried to use open source based software X. It had bunch of files zipped together and the largest file was a fricking GPL license file. I don't want to create shortcuts and stuff myself. I expect the setup package to do that for me.

Then there's the quality. Don't get me wrong. The actual software can be of high quality and do what it is expected to do. But everything else is crap. This is okay for command line tools which have built-in help, I would say, but if the software is more complicated than that it needs a good help file and a nice looking, easy to use, GUI. And no, single .txt file and GUI that looks like it's ripped from NT4.1 won't do.

After that, if the program delivers what it promises, it's insignificant to me if it's open source or not. I just want to do .. well, what I want to do :)


Re:Lack of user-testing (1)

wumpus188 (657540) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397551)

The UNIX framework is not mature anymore

Now that, that I can agree with. Life only begins at 40.

Re:Lack of user-testing (1)

mauddib~ (126018) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397607)

Sorry, this is what I meant: Product Life Cycle []

User interface (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29397341)

The main reason I don't like the GIMP is that on OS X, it has a really horrible user interface.

GNOME and Konqueror (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29397343)

I dumped GNOME for KDE because GNOME cannot line up the goddamn icons on its desktop to save its life.
Then I installed Firefox on KDE because Konqueror doesn't seem to have auto-scrolling, it crashes a lot (Most of the KDE 4.2 stuff crashes regularly, actually), and Ctrl-Enter opens a new tab, when I expect it to open a URL in the current tab.

Security (2, Interesting)

LaughingCoder (914424) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397349)

The last time I dropped a FOSS application was because it had a security hole you could drive a truck through. I learned the hard way by being hacked. Suspecting this application, I spent a few hours crawling through the source and found it severely compromised. Fixing it would have taken way more time than it was worth given the readily available closed source alternatives.

Re:Security (1, Insightful)

SomeKDEUser (1243392) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397415)

Which might be also compromised, except you can't know. So you are really saying that you don't actually care about the security, you just don't want to know...

This is the least convincing argument for dropping an open source tool ever: there is a bug. You can fix it. You don't want to. *So* you go for closed source, which might or might not have the *same* problem, which you *cannot* solve.

Sir, I admire your amazing logic.

Re:Security (5, Interesting)

LaughingCoder (914424) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397463)

First, it was not a bug ... it was a design flaw that was spread throughout the whole source tree. The code was awful, beyond repair. If it were a simple bug I would have just fixed it.

Second, you conveniently ignore the fact that I was hacked through this hole. So, that means the breach is known and actively being exploited.

Sure, the new application I chose *may* have a security hole as well, but the one I dropped *did* have a hole (and a big one I might add). Which would you choose given that knowledge? No, my logic is completely sound. It is yours that is suspect, perhaps influenced by ideology.

Re:Security (2, Insightful)

s4m7 (519684) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397479)

just curious, did you at least report the bug and see if there was any response from the maintainers?

Re:Security (2, Interesting)

LaughingCoder (914424) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397537)

Actually, (mea culpa) I did not. However I just went to their site and found that the most recent version (dated October, 2008) fixed a "security vulnerability". The release prior to that fixed a different "security vulnerability". I don't know if either of these addressed the hole that cost me a day of system recoveries. Frankly, the closed source application I have been using for the past 2 years (which was also free, by the way) has served me well and so I have moved on.

Yes there are time when.... (1)

rapete4 (726563) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397353)

You know, there are times when one needs to use a non-open source application when an FOSS solution just does not work. For me, I needed a scanner solution that just worked and Viewsonic was the only thing that I could find that met my needs and worked reliable. Linux and Open Source means choices not religion.

Only non free software I uses... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29397365)

I use Skype because it doesn't seem Jingle is ready on Jabber yet (what Google uses for Google Talk). I'll switch as soon as possible.

unrar-nonfree because the free version had trouble unpacking something, probably won't stop using this since unraring stuff on linux sucks enough as it is.

flashplugin-nonfree I have because I needed it for my bank (it's not as bad as it sounds, I don't need it for regular bank stuff, only to get a one time virtual card number so I can order stuff over the internet and decide the max amount they can charge).

EAC in Wine as it's the best cd ripper out there, though I wish it was free software and I'm hoping for a replacement.

That's pretty much it. I do run a few old games in Wine and DosBox every once in a while but nothing I couldn't be without. Just a bit of nostalgia.

Re:Only non free software I uses... (1)

profplump (309017) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397535)

Couldn't we just distribute an open-source virus to Windows users who are RARing things in the first place? I have trouble coming up with any good reason to use RAR anymore, and I know from experience that a high proportion of usage is totally inappropriate (segmenting torrent files, for example).

GUIs only: regressions, stability, low standards (2, Insightful)

a09bdb811a (1453409) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397377)

If it's open source and *doesn't* have a GUI, it's probably fantastic. My email, programming, backups, version control etc. is all open source and I wouldn't have it any other way.

But as soon as you add a GUI and plug in a monitor, the quality drops away and things start to get iffy. What happened with KDE4, for example, was unacceptable. You can't just dump everything and expect users to accomodate that.

And stability. A lot of open source apps are fantastic but they have rough edges - little bugs and issues. The way media managers like Rhythmbox and Amarok handle an iPod, for example: sometimes I get weird errors about mounting the iPod, or it doesn't behave properly when there's no free space left, and other little issues. They may not be show stoppers, but they're enough to give you a bad impression. The quality just isn't quite there.

And you know what the worst part is? This isn't getting any better. Open source GUIs are about the same quality now as they were a decade ago. Sure they're more capable, but all the rough edges are still there and don't seem to be going away. I've been using desktop Linux since Redhat 5.2 and I can honestly say the standards and general incompleteness, relative to the competition, are about the same today as they were back then.

I still use Linux on my desktop but I'm tempted to buy a Mac next time and use it as a front-end, while keeping all the 'real' stuff on a Linux box. But I don't want to manage two computers if I can help it. Ho hum.

Re:GUIs only: regressions, stability, low standard (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397481)

Rhythmbox and Amarok may not be good iPod managers, but it isn't their fault that managing an iPod is shitastic.

I mean, dragging files to the player, why would anyone ever want to do something so obscure, lets use a proprietary database and make sure to try and encrypt it.

Works both ways (2, Insightful)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397387)

I've dumped proprietary applications for the same reasons people dump open source alternatives.

And there's also the price of a lot of proprietary applications, it's often not worth the improvements I gain.

Evolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29397389)

I use outlook (through virtualbox) instead of Evolution to connect to the Exchange servers at my work. Its actually a huge pain, but MAPI support is seriously flawed.

One thing that devs could do though, which would help, is to try and have a quicker fix for major bugs. For example, in MAPI (and it might just be with the outdated Exchange servers my work uses) I was unable to reply to emails because evolution didn't parse the senders email correctly. There is a fix out there, upstream somewhere. Launchpad says the issue has been fixed. But I won't see updated package files until who knows when. I've tried recompiling from source, but thats a big challenge. Recompiling the most recent version of the MAPI plugin requires a lot of newer dev libraries across the board and I never was able to get it to work. I've also seen the patch code for the fix and its not complicated. So I guess I wish someone would implement it in an older version and make the packages available.

Sales Calls (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29397395)

I used to work at a very large worldwide telecom provider. You know the name whether you are in the USA or Russia or India or Japan or 200 other countries.

When we needed a new tool, we would "ask around" with our existing vendors. These vendors would either recommend the top 3 very well known apps or quickly partner with an up-and-coming vendor or lastly, but only if there wasn't a way to make money, suggest some open source tool. OpenNMS could have been used internally, but there was too much money on the line, so we have a mix of commerial apps - Netcool being one of them.

Why? Sales calls. Software costs money even when it is free. Time, effort, maintenance and other FUD concerns. Unless the free version is basically bug free and has proven commercial support, we can't consider it. Further, we'll never consider it unless someone knocks on the right door at the right instance. The "support" costs are simply too difficult to overcome for completely free tools. Generally, we pay someone else to install these applications too, so expert installation and support are required. If there isn't a sale person selling all of this, we won't bother looking at it. We aren't in the software business - even though we invented UNIX. We aren't in the computer business, even though we run 60K+ servers.

We do use free software - lots of it, but only the extremely high profile projects make it into critical systems with internal support alone. Oddly, spending $500 on some small, never-heard-of-it-before tool was easier than using a FLOSS alternative because, if you paid for it, then it was assumed that support would be provided. In reality, that small company would usually be an ex-employee who retired, but left their software running. It was so poorly written that only that person could maintain it. At the first new feature request, the cost became $50K + 15%/yr support. A nice extra retirement income when added to the pension. Not bad for 5 days of work/yr.

I now work at a small company. We avoid commercial software beyond what we **must** have. Our production servers DO NOT RUN on Windows-whatever-the-name-is-today. We do have a few Windows development servers, but only because customers demand it.

Written in Java (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29397399)

The worst language ever invented for mass-production software. I want all the hours I lost waiting for the app to load, and waiting for a keypress to echo on the screen because the app likes to visit the swap file every fifteen seconds.

Several reasons ... (4, Insightful)

MacTO (1161105) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397403)

Many of the reasons leveled at open source can also be leveled at commercial software. I've seen more than my fair share of commercial applications that lack features, have critical bugs, and are definitely hard to use. While some of these problems may be surmounted by purchasing additional software or employing the services of a consultant, that is rarely an option for non-revenue generating organizations (never mind most individual users).

So why do people drop it? Lack of familiarity is one big reason. If you're a Linux user who does specialized stuff with your system, try figuring out how to do that stuff in Windows. Can't find it in the UI or configuration files? No problem. Just read the documentation. Wow. What language does Microsoft write their documentation in? While it may not be quite as bad as another language, the jargon of the Windows world is definitely different from the jargon of the Linux world. This adds time and frustration to the process of learning a new technology. So if you're familiar with Linux, you'll probably stick to Linux. If you're familiar with Windows, you'll probably stick to Windows. Feel free to substitute Linux with your favorite open source application and Windows with your favorite commercial application. By in large, this barrier will still exist.

If that issues exists for technical people, imagine how hard it is for non-technical people to deal with similar problems. A function that is found in a different place or that works in a slightly different manner will cause a neophyte user to throw up their arms in frustration, call the product shit, and head directly back to Word. Many people are completely unwilling to adapt to change in a domain that does not interest them. (I've talked to some of these people, and intellectually they realize that is just different and that it would serve all of their needs. But emotionally they view it as a vastly inferior product.)

Sometimes bundling is a reason for adopting commercial products. I'm not talking about the bundling of software that you see with commercial vendors (e.g. the various Adobe suites). Rather I'm talking about the resources that are bundled with that software. When you download the Gimp or Inkscape, you get just the Gimp or just Inkscape. When you buy something like the CorelDRAW Graphics Suite, you get fonts and clipart that you can use in your projects. When you buy the Microsoft Office Suite you get clipart and templates. Looking at my Linux setup, I have only one or two graphic fonts and no clipart to speak of. Even though I have the standard DTP and graphics software installed under it. Now I don't mind that. Actually I prefer it that way. Yet I can guarantee you that the run of the mill user will throw up their arms in frustration because they expect that stuff.

And the list could go on.

Engineers (1)

TheRealFixer (552803) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397419)

A lot of the issues with OSS are the result of engineers being totally in charge of the direction of a product. Engineers tend to assume everyone else has, or at least should have, the same level of knowledge that they do. They don't have issues with tracking down oddball dependencies or navigating through cryptic and often counter-intuitive config files, so why should anyone else?

Commercial software companies, on the other hand, have teams of people to counterbalance the engineers. Marketing people to research how people want to use the product. Usability experts to make sure the product is actually accessible to the majority of people. OSS, for most projects, don't really have that. Just engineers doing what they do best, but without anyone to bring them down into the real world a little.

Mortgage on my house (4, Interesting)

TheMidget (512188) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397433)

With a huge mortgage on my house, and the bank breathing down my neck, any influx of cash into my personal finances is welcome. And who'd really stayed true to his principles if offered $75000 to move my employer's mail system back from dovecot plus sendmail to Exchange. Yes, Micro$oft is really paying that much (as long as your company is big or well-known enough). I've heard Adobe offers similar deals (for moving from the Gimp to Photoshop). A couple of well-placed flash animations also pay, although far less.

If you aren't getting the same kind of coin, you aren't negotiating hard enough. Hint: know the selling points of the open source alternatives, and (obviously) arrange for a private after hours meeting with the sales guy, but without your colleagues.

My experience with Ubuntu (5, Informative)

schnikies79 (788746) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397477)

I thought I would try Ubuntu (Intrepid Ibex), again, out on my Dell Inspiron 640m. I got everything installed but the wireless wasn't working, so I plugged it into the lan and did some googling. I had to edit several config files and use some ndiswrapper. For someone who doesn't code and doesn't work in IT, it was a pain but whatever. I got it working.

A couple days later, Ubuntu tells me I have auto-updated to install, so I say okay. It hoses the wireless. I go through the same procedure again and get it working. A couple weeks later, the same thing.

I've told this story before and got all kinds of apologist telling me various reasons why it happened. The fact is, I don't care what the reasons are. I went back to windows.

Re:My experience with Ubuntu (1, Offtopic)

schnikies79 (788746) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397541)

Troll? Seriously?

Grow up.

Expectations (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397569)

This is what you expected: Not-supported hardware, for which there is an experimental driver at best, to magically work.

Now, here is a dose of reality: Not-supported hardware, for which there is an experimental driver at best, does not work smoothly or reliably. This is true regardless of what OS or kernel you use, and Linux is no exception.

Ndiswrapper is a temporary solution that injects Windows drivers into the Linux kernel; would you expect a Linux driver to work smoothly under Windows? Why do people think that Linux is magically going to do things that they would never expect Windows or Mac OS to do?

For everyone who is complaining about hardware that does not have a Linux driver: I created a few pieces of hardware as an undergrad (engineering projects), and only write Linux drivers for them. Please, plug them into your Windows or Mac OS machine, and see how well they work. If it mysteriously "just works," I will personally write drivers for your wireless card.

Some reasons and thoughts on them (1)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397485)

Actually, I don't think there are any reasons that are specific to OSS and don't also apply in some way to commercial software as well. Quite often though switches I've made have been to another Free/OSS application; once a company is happy to have non-commercial software deployed, it's pretty rare that door gets closed again in my experience. In the rough order of the number of times I've stopped using a Free/OSS app, the reasons have been:
  1. A better Free/OSS project became available. This is a fact of life and applies to closed source too. It just happens; you either stick with the product you know or you move the the better competing product and deal with the costs of making the switch and the new product's learning curve. IMHO, this is fine and is usually a sign of a healthy, competetive market.
  2. The developer lost interest and the project stagnated. Again, this also applies to closed source apps. Most annoying here is where there is no viable alternative to switch to, which can become somewhat problematic to say the least.
  3. A required feature was not available and the developer wasn't prepared to add it. Frustrating, but often understandable if the developer's ideas for future development lie along a different track to your own. The usual response here is; develop your own patch or fork it, but a lot of corporates don't actually have the time and resources to do that.
  4. Failure to inter-operate well with other, normally closed source, applications. Similar to the above, but usually this is normally unsolvable. If your business relies on a proprietary app with scant, if any, interface documentation another app can use, then that's too bad.
  5. Higher-Ups decided another application was to be the company standard, including corporate takeovers. Not a lot you can do here; once senior management says $app is to be the standard, then it's pretty rare that you can convince them to change their minds. Even this works both ways; I've worked for a mostly Microsoft shop that got taken over by a much more OSS friendly company and one of the first things we did was replace IIS with Apache.

There is one single very simple reason: (4, Insightful)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397497)

Actually, every software is free to normal users!
Either you download and crack it yourself, or you have a friend who does it for yo.
That is the main point free software hasn't taken off, and everybody knows it.

I mean, when instead of Gimp, you can get this: []
Then who cares about Gimp?
And instead of OpenOffice, you get this: []
I mean, it's obvious.

Oh, and under Linux, the culture is quite different.
1. Because not everything runs fine under Wine.
2. The abilities to combine Linux tools into scripts and a mesh, glued together with bash.
Which I absolutely love. I could never go back. I'm officially spoiled. :)

Choice? (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397503)

Surely the first reason is because it's their choice and they can do what they like?

I can get people agreeing wholeheartedly with me about the state of proprietary software and how having OS code is helpful in a lot of circumstances etc.etc. but at the end of the day it's up to them if they want to use it. Some, well-rounded, individuals try out OS code on my recommendation. It doesn't mean they have to USE it but it's only sensible that they *try* it.

Anyone who thinks that having an OS equivalent of *any* piece of software is the end of the matter is sadly disillusioned. I do heavily use OS software, but I also heavily use "freeware" and even pay for my games and some other apps on a personal basis. In work? There are OS-only servers running lots of stuff, a lot of OS software on the servers/clients and a lot of freeware too. But the clients run Windows because the software we use runs on Windows and there are no serious alternatives for the main software in my industry (education - and trust me, we use precisely one app that is open source on the client-desktop, and that's TuxPaint for the very-little-un's - even that has it's problems, which I have reported and had some of them fixed).

The point of FOSS is NOT to take over the world and make everyone use it... that would actually be counter-productive to its intentions and would only form the next big monopoly, albeit a "free" one. The point of FOSS is to provide the *choice*. And each time some FOSS advocate says that I can't (or even "shouldn't", but that's less critical) use proprietary software or even freeware, they make me stop listening to them. FOSS saves me money. It saves me time and hassle. It allows me to customise things I would never be able to normally. It allows me to benefit from coder's skills from the world over and not have to recreate smaller apps from scratch. I *do* look forward to the day when I have so MUCH choice that all of my programs and operating systems are OS ones. But that means having several apps of each type and allowing me to *choose* - not telling me that KDE is the only way forward, or that every cd-burning app is going to merge into one.

Software *is* like evolution - Diversity and choice benefit the end user, even if millions of years down the line. And those who crow loudly in the morning but won't let anyone in their nest will eventually die out by those who quietly chirp and build fabulous nests that they allow any female into in order to show how good a builder they are. But it will take years. And the whole *POINT*, the whole impetus, the reason I *use* FOSS is because it gives me a choice when I would otherwise have been forced to use an horrendous piece of software. But my main browser is still Opera, because it does things that I'm prepared to sacrifice access to the source code for. That's not a permanent position and should Firefox, etc. catch up then I will seriously consider a switch - after all, it's my *choice* of browser, not some blind fanaticism.

On the sliding scale, FOSS is better than freeware is better than shareware is better than wholly proprietary. But it's *one* factor and I will slide up and down that scale in order to find my own personal sweet spot. That only occasionally entirely rests inside the FOSS category.

Re:Choice? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29397587)

The point of FOSS is NOT to take over the world and make everyone use it.

Good one.

Various reasons (1)

owlnation (858981) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397505)

I don't there's one reason to switch that fits all situations. For me, there's different reasons for wanting to switch away from FOSS, or not use it in the first place. For example:
1. Firefox -- Stability: horrendous on a Mac, and the memory leaks. Bloat: awfulbar and other "features" that should be addins. There appears to be very little understanding in Mozilla about what users needs are.
2. GIMP -- Features: is nowhere near up to professional standards.
3. VLC -- User Experience: fantastic engine -- but horrific interface, and arrogant unhelpful developers. (I switched to Mplayer and never looked back)
4. Open Office -- Pretty much all of the above.
5. Joomla -- Ridiculously complex, documentation is gawdawful. And that for modules is often worse and invariably written in English by those whose command of the language is very tentative.
6. Celtx -- Usability. Has better features than Final Draft, however the need to be online to save as a pdf renders it pretty much worthless.

Elitist culture a problem sometimes (2, Interesting)

fantomas (94850) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397507)

Open Source is a lot better from when I first started looking into it 15 years ago but I still occasionally get hit by cultural attitudes of some of the software developers. To be fair, I understand that a lot of the projects are volunteer run and small scale, maybe one or two people hitting way above their weight and competing with large commercial corporations, but the documentation can be sparse. There's still an emphasis on getting software out rather than communicating what it does or how to help people to use it in some cases. More friendly introductions and more explicit guidance would be useful.

I think there are still a lot of elitist attitudes in the open source movement, with people "points scoring" - trying to prove they are more elite, more expert, and more competent than others and basing their sense of worth on proving they are better than others. Some of this filters into support forums where innocent questions from beginners can be savagely put down ("if you don't know how to do this, get lost newbie!").

The open source movement has come on a long way but could go a lot further in taking advantage of the large number of people who philosophically wish to support open source / FOSS/FLOSS whatever you want to call it but are not technical experts. Think of the large number of people who will pay extra to buy free range eggs / fairtrade food: they don't want to become small holding farmers themselves and look after chickens in their own back yard but they'll pay extra for food sources they believe in and fight furiously for it to be promoted as an alternative to be used in schools and government workplaces. Maybe think how the open source movement could learn lessons from this?

The answer is price (1, Interesting)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397545)

It comes down to one thing, price. The more someone paid for something, the less likely they are to admit that it doesn't work as they would like. Most of the time people didn't pay anything for any Open Source Software that they have, therefore when they get frustrated they drop it. On the other hand if someone paid over $100 for software, they are much more likely to stick with it and work through the frustration.

A few more reasons not listed in the article. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29397591)

1.) An awful lot of open source applications exists which generally work fine, but to install them, you first have to install other software. A new version of this library and that library, a different, sometimes even an older version of m4 and autoconf, whatever. Then you have to fix a few bugs in configure scripts, makefiles, and maybe even in the code itself before the beast will compile. Most people will walk away from that because a) they do not have that amount of time and b) they are users, not developers.

2.) The only constant is change. KDE 4 anybody? Open source projects enjoy to completely throw away what they have, and instead start again from scratch. Writing completely new code is so much more fun than maintaining old code somebody else wrote. Thus, even if some open source software is perfect for you, chances are next year's version won't be. Somebody will have reinvented the wheel, and it now has hexagonal shape. I have perfectly fine script code that once in a while breaks on a slightly newer linux because somebody decided to remove or rename documented options of basic OS command line utilities.

3.) Poor documentation. Documentation that is out of date. Documentation that is very incomplete. Documentation that is in a non-searchable format. Documentation that does not detail how to troubleshoot the beast if it fails.

Documentation (4, Insightful)

cheebie (459397) | more than 5 years ago | (#29397597)

Even though the documentation for proprietary software can be crap, it is usually light years ahead of what you get for most Freeware/Open Source/Hippieware/Whatever programs.

I hate it when I install something and I get a window with three greyed out menus. Somehow I am supposed to magically know to go edit ~/.korgodi/pyconfig/menus/anabling.cfg to turn them on. And when I look for documentation about this or even a damn README, I get a link to a forum where everyone is too busy arguing the philosophy of tabs vs. spaces for indentation to tell me anything.

I hate writing up the documentation as much as anyone, but your project is not ready to be released until you can give the user a document telling them how to use the stupid thing.

I'll give you a real-time example. I am going to attempt to find the format for conditional execution in gmake. I don't do development on this machine normally, so some fumbling will be necessary.

Step 1: 'man gmake':
What do you mean there's no gmake? I installed the dev package.

Step 2: search for where gmake is.
Let's check synaptic to see where they put it. No gmake in there.
Oh, they called it just plain 'make' in Ubuntu. Of course.

Step 3: 'man make':
Blah blah blah . . . purpose of make . . . startup options . . . damn there are a lot of them . . . THAT'S ALL?!!! . . . Wait, there was a SEE ALSO back there.

See Also The Gnu Make Manual. Oh, of course, I have one of those with me at all times. WHERE IS IT!

Step 4: Google
Type in 'The Gnu Make Manual'. There it is. Ah yes, a webpage with a format circa 1994. ^F conditional . . . See Conditionals. At least it's a link. Reading . . . I had wondered what the definition of the word 'conditional' was. Show me the stupid syntax.

Blah blah blah, examples that no one will ever use . . . oh wait, for once the examples are relatively useful. Okay, that should get me started.

So, that wasn't too bad as was as documentation searches go. But I still had to resort to Google. WRITE THE DAMN MANUAL AND INCLUDE IT. If I type 'progname -h' give me something useful. Put something in the Help menu. No, I don't care what programs you compiled it with.

Improvements (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29397619)

I almost always use open source software. However, I'll switch from one project (or product) to another generally based on two things:
1. Bug fixes
2. Ease of use

I'm willing to jump through a few hoops and fix things myself, but if the developers aren't willing to fix the bugs in their software, I'll go elsewhere. It's amazing how many open source projects (and some closed source ones) refuse to fix bugs in their code. So many bug reports get automatically marked "willnotfix" it's very discouraging.

Firefox sucked earlier (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29397623)

Back in the Firefox 1.0 days I tried it and immediately dumped it for Opera, because it was terribly slow, used lots of memory, was slow to start and lacked lots of features that every other major browser had (you could have them through extensions though, which made it even slower and buggier; it just kept crashing). It just sucked. 1.5 was no better. 2.0 was the first that I could accepted as secondary browser. Firefox 3.0 replaced the position of my major browser, making opera my secondary one. 3.5 is great and I started to recommend it to other people.

And Opera is the only closed-source software I ever used regularly on my computer. So it's rare that I think commercial software is better than open source alternatives.

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