Subject: Re: Lehman Report, Software patents, and more
From: La Monte H Yarroll <piggy@hilbert.maths.utas.edu.au>
Date: Mon, 29 Aug 1994 09:44:19 +1000

"L. Peter Deutsch" <ghost@aladdin.com> wrote:
> ["La Monte Yarroll" <piggy@acm.org> wrote:]
> > Free software generally isn't as good as commercial Mac software 
> > addressing user interface issues.  But a lot of free software is a lot
> > more reliable, extensible, and better supported than most Mac
> > software.
> 
> That's interesting.  Extensible I can certainly agree with -- but you
> have to be a programmer to extend it.  Since I'm a programmer, I see
> this as a great benefit, but I suspect most end-users wouldn't.

In a way, that was my point.  This is a case where "real world" user
expectations are lower than free software user expectations.

ASIDE:  You really don't have to be a programmer.  There's a lot of
code in my .emacs file which other people have mailed me, which I've
never spent much effort to understand.  You also don't need to buy
something like MPW to become a third-party emacs programmer.

> Better supported is possible, but on-demand support is at exorbitant
> rates -- Yggdrasil charges $2.95 per minute.  (On the other hand,
> that's what Borland charges these days too.)  

I don't have any perception how good for-pay support services are on
either side of the fence.

My point was that if I have a problem with a piece of free software,
(e.g. GhostScript), I can be pretty confident that I can at least
reach a developer.  I won't have to fight my way through somebody's
tech-support division to reach someone technically competent.

Admittedly, the kind of support I usually want is a bit different from
the fellow who can't get Coherent to boot on his Futomaki 286DX :-).

> More reliable?  I
> wonder.  I think the dreadful lack of protection and reliability in
> personal computer OSs has a lot to do with perceived (and maybe
> actual) application unreliability.  And finally, end-users will
> overlook a lot if the UI is decent.

Exactly.  I claim that "real world" user expectations are not uniformly
higher.  They are only different.

A related note:

Am I just remembering "the good old days" through rose-colored
glasses?  I seem to remember a perception (ca. 1980) that any company
who shipped software that crashed your computer would be out of
business in short order.  Now it seems acceptable to ship commercial
software with gross and dangerous bugs in it.  Sure, software
complexity is much higher, but have standards dropped?

La Monte H. Yarroll	Home:		piggy@baqaqi.chi.il.us
   Maths Dept.; Univ. of Tasmania; GPO Box 252C; Hobart; Tasmania; 7001 AU
   If you remember nothing else:  piggy@acm.org		NIC Handle: LY
   GPL - "Just give source a chance."