Subject: Re: Open letter to those who believe in a right to free software
From: Craig Brozefsky <craig@red-bean.com>
Date: 25 Oct 1999 16:17:31 -0700

"Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp> writes:

> >>>>> "Craig" == Craig Brozefsky <craig@red-bean.com> writes:
> 
>     Craig> instead of prices going down as more and more users require
>     Craig> the software, it has in many cases been rising.
> 
> I don't have data offhand.  But would you like to bet on this?  If I
> can find an economic index of software prices, it even gives you an
> advantage because such indexes by construction lag the quality
> improvements.

I have data for Windows, which shows that the price has been staying
flat over the last few years, while it's user base has increased quite
drastically.  The reference I have is not for the data itself, which
was released during the anti-trust trial.  I don't know how it was
cooked.

http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1006-200-341924.html

For some reason, I doubt this will satisfy your data fetish.

> In the Internet age, it's extremely easy to enforce proprietary
> restrictions.  Centralized hosts, time share, make the suckers pay for
> bandwidth.  Expensive, inefficient, ugly---and eminently feasible.
> There are probably more efficient ways.  But that one works.

Well then, you better go get rich quick telling the music industry how
to do it, they seem to be fumbling pretty heavy now.  I'm sure
Microsoft and the SPA would love to hear your plan as well.  You wanna
bomb Kowloon?  Shit best not stop there, better take out Russia too
cause those guys are doing like 90% of their IP biz as pirates.  What
you gonna do?  Hold IMF loans over their heads until they turn in all
their bootleg Madonna CDs and Win98s?  Sheeit, they learned their
lesson about that already.

We did it before the Internet too. You're gonna have to shut down the
phone lines and confiscate all the computers Stephen.

> Example, example, what example?  Who put in the resources?  How much
> were they?  You simply have no data.  I know the story that you're
> talking about, and I think your accounting is unreliable.  Eg, how
> about:

My accounting is unreliable, because I'm not an accountant.  I don't
think there are any accountants on this list.  What we do have are
entrepreneurs and Free Software programmers, not bureaucrats and
accountants.  Perhaps this is why Free Software has gotten someplace
already.

> The above all need to be shared with other Unices etc; Linux's share
> is negligible.  Oops, I meant to say GNU/Linux.  Hm.  How 'bout them
> GNU volunteers?  Don't their hours count?   And those corporate
> donations?  You say "that's preexisting free software"?  Just which
> costs do you plan to allocate to GNU/Linux development?

You are proving my point for me.  There are literally now thousands
of people and organizations that put money into GNU/Linux development,
directly or indirectly.  It's just started too.  Some provide just
support (an important part of software's utility to users), and others
pay developers to work on it, and still others do it in their free
time or on grants from various organizations.  Some of them put large
chunks in, some of them put none in.  Because of the GPL, it don't
really matter what they took out, how convenient.

You'll never be able to collect good data on this, regardless of how
well you're funded. Sorry.  That's not just Free Software tho, sit
down and read financial reports from the proprietary vendors are it's
just as much chickenshit voodoo accounting as it is math.  You may
have to learn to work with a set of methods that can deal with less
granularity in your data, or even lower quality data.  Perfect
knowledge does not exist.

> And how does that help you plan for the next round?  "Oh, don't worry
> about the costs, there will be free software we can use"?

You cost it out just like you would any software development project.
To simplify, time estimates on what you have to build, costs for what
you gotta buy, and then collateral costs for equipment and support
personnel.  Since your largest costs are always personnel you wanna
build as little as possible, but of course you still gotta hit your
goal.  These are just guidelines tho, and you always scribble outside
'em when it comes to delivering good software on time.

This is how we presently do custom software development using mostly
Free Software components.  We have found proprietary components to be
weak points for us and our clients, so we root them out of our
toolchain when possible.

> How many dollars _are_ directed back into improving the software?
> Does Debian have a budget in dollars?  What is their volunteers' time
> worth?

SPI has an account, no budget that I know of, and it's not directly
for paying for software development.  Mostly it's for machines and
materials.  Volunteers don't put a monetary value on their time, so we
can't figure it out really.  It's a meaningless question to ask in the
case of Debian, noone working on it really cares about the answer.
Account all you want, we'll make more.

> Maybe the fact that we have no data doesn't bother you.  It bothers
> _me_.  But I don't have funds to go collecting what data is easily
> available. 

Doesn't bother me at all actually.  We'll never have the data we need
to act, and if we always gotta go collecting it to act, then we'll
never do much at all.


-- 
Craig Brozefsky                         <craig@red-bean.com>
Free Scheme/Lisp Software     http://www.red-bean.com/~craig
"riot shields. voodoo economics. its just business. cattle 
 prods and the IMF." - Radiohead, OK Computer, Electioneering