Subject: User Views
From: "Russell Nelson" <nelson@CRYNWR.COM>
Date: Thu, 04 Mar 1993 09:18:39 EST

Earlier, I wrote:

   There was a strange "User Views" column in the Feb 15, 1993 issue of
   Network World.  The title was "Net managers may find free software
   is, well, academic".  Author was David Crawford, network coordinator
   at CSU-Northbridge, CA.

I have reprinted that column, with permission, below.  I'm wondering
what other people's response to it is.  It seems to be stuck in the
1980's, where free software was often as he describes it.  However,
I've installed FSF software where you just put the source in a
subdirectory and say "make".

In particular, and this is why I'm reprinting it here, it completely
ignores the possibility that commercial support might be available
for free software.  I'll write a response, but I want to see what
you-all think of the column first.

-- User Views

User Views column from Feb 15, 1993 Network World, by David Crawford.
Reprinted by permission.


    There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but free software
does exist, and some of it is excellent.  At a time when most network
managers are trying to save money, few of us can afford to overlook
free usable programs.
    The best free software available today was written in
universities. Typically cash-poor but rich in programming talent,
academic computer centers often attempt to write their own versions
of the software they can't afford to buy.  Most of these programs are
placed in the public domain.
    The library of academic software written for networks using
Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol is particularly
large.  It includes NCSA Telnet, TCP/IP terminal emulation and
file-transfer software for IBM-compatible personal computers and
Apple Computer, Inc. Macintoshes; Eudora, for downloading electronic
mail from a remote host to a Macintosh using the TCP/IP Post Office
Protocol; and CMU/Tek-IP, TCP/IP services for Digital Equipment Corp.
VAX minicomputers running the VMS operating system.
    The primary distribution channel for these free programs is
anonymous File Transfer Protocol (FTP), a procedure for downloading
files from remote Internet hosts with the TCP/IP FTP by logging in as
a guest user named anonymous.  Many universities -- and a few
corporations -- act as anonymous FTP software repositories.
    On the down side, public domain software requires technical
sophistication on the part of the user.  With free applications,
there is no shrink-wrapped package, no automatic installation
program, no printed manual and no toll-free support number.  However,
most public domain programs come with documentation in electronic
form, and the authors will often respond to questions or bug reports
sent via E-mail.
    One might think that the existence of free software would be
disastrous for software publishers, but in reality, the commercial
vendors haven't been hurt by it.  As long as software publishers keep
their products rich in features and give adequate support, they will
have little to fear from the unadorned and unsupported programs in
the public domain.
    In some ways, networking software publishers have benefited from
free academic network software.  Universities have been a training
ground for network programmers.  Many academic programmers who made
names for themselves by writing public domain packages were recruited
by commercial network software publishers.
    Free software can also demonstrate the advantages of networking
to users who might be unwilling to spend money on an unfamiliar
technology.  Many of these users will purchase commercial products
when they outgrow the capabilities of their free programs.
    Public domain network software has helped the industry as a whole
because it has accelerated the growth of networking, thereby
increasing the potential market for commercial vendors.  In the long
run, anything that promotes networking will benefit users and vendors

-- User Views

-russ <> What canst *thou* say?
Crynwr Software           Crynwr Software sells packet driver support.
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