Subject: Re: Why Open Source Sucks for the Consumer
From: Ian Lance Taylor <ian@airs.com>
Date: 27 Aug 2000 12:11:29 -0700

   Date: Sun, 27 Aug 2000 10:47:06 -0700
   From: Seth David Schoen <schoen@loyalty.org>

   > Why does Microsoft rule when the software is crap and tech support sucks?
   > Because you can get integrated tech support from one place with one credit
   > card number.

   Far be it from me to plug my employer randomly on this list, but
   Linuxcare has tried to do this.

   I'll admit I've never _used_ our support, so I don't know whether it
   sucks or not.  However, flames, er, _specific_ flames would be
   appreciated, so we can improve it.

   If our tech support sucks less than Microsoft, are we doing a good
   job? :-)

For purely anecdotal evidence, I purchased a Dell laptop with Linux
preinstalled and prepaid support from Linuxcare.  I had a problem with
it--the sound didn't work right, and the machine occasionally made
horrible loud squawking noises, particularly embarrassing in a laptop
used in public places.  I thought Linuxcare responded fairly well to
the problem and did a reasonable job of helping me.  In the end, it
was a hardware problem, Dell sent a technician to fix it, and all
works now.

So Linuxcare did not fix the problem, but they did attend to my
complaints, and they did respond politely and to the point.  I've
never dealt with Microsoft technical support, but I doubt the
experience would have been much better.

I don't mean to say that Jean is wrong, though.  Linux is not ready
for the great unwashed.  Windows isn't either, but it's farther along
than Linux.

I assume that nobody on this list is surprised by this.  I don't see
it as a reflection on free software.  End user support is hard, and it
doesn't scale well.  If the problem is solved, it will be solved in a
conventional fashion, by an organization such as Linuxcare.  I think
this is a free software business in the sense that it works with free
software, but it is otherwise conventional.  What free software may
bring to the table is, first, software which is good enough to build a
support business around, and, second, the freedom to permit anybody to
start such a support organization, rather than restricting it to the
original author.  I can imagine software support run as automobile
support is run now: expensive dealers and cheaper but riskier
independent repair shops.  Software may seem different from cars, and
it is, but, for whatever reason, a ten year old program has problems
much like a ten year old car does.

Ian