To me the title of this short blog makes perfect sense. So why do I find it hard to convince people that those supporting open source are not a bunch of radicals who want anarchy so that they can steal software (or music or videos) at every opportunity?
Then again if you take a look at the average slashdot post you might be forgiven for thinking it.
Most of the open source geeks I have met are actually dead serious about software piracy, If they need to use DreamWeaver or PhotoShop or Microsoft Word etc. They go and buy a copy, and if they can’t afford a copy they make do with a decent text editor, gimp or Open Office.
It also explains why Ubuntu Linux is far more popular than Fedora Linux (which has probably been more thoroughly tested by RedHat), because the large majority of Linux users have actually read the licence and realise that Fedora Linux is NOT FREE TO COPY, ENHANCE & SELL.
From my personal perspective in my previous career as an IT Manager I was very used to cleaning up the mess that companies had got themselves ignoring licencing shortfalls of oh…. say 70% (which I would say was typical here in the UK.)
Some classic examples:
1) But it won’t open the file
Employee – “I need a copy of Publisher to do a newsletter about our departments achievements.”
Me – “Can’t you just use your word processor?”
Employee – “I could but it won’t open the publisher file I created at home.”
Me – “Just out of interest did you buy Publisher at home?”
Employee – “No a friend gave it to me – can I just use that copy here?”
2) I must have XXX
Employee – “I need a copy of PhotoShop.”
Me – “OK what for?”
Employee – “I need to resize some images for the company intranet.”
Me – “Can’t you just use GIMP like every one else.”
Employee – “I don’t understand GIMP, I’ve been told I need Photoshop by my friend.”
Me – “Have you ever used Photoshop?.”
Employee – “No. Why?”
Now I am not suggesting that anyone should stop using popular applications such as PhotoShop & Word etc. I’m just saying that I think they should pay for them! At the moment one of the biggest things holding back excellent open source software such as openOffice, FireFox, GIMP etc. Is that your average user just steals a $1000 copy of Photoshop because he or she wants to re-size an image.
Why don’t the software companies do something about it?
Because it is in their interests! No normal person in the street can afford to pay $1,000 for Photoshop but if they steal a copy and spend the time learning to use it and getting hooked on it then when they go to work they are going to demand a copy of it. The poor IT Manager is usually forced to buy what ever the users whim is because good staff still cost a lot more than software!
I think that if we stamped out illegal software then the quality of OpenSource software would improve rapidly because of the massive increase in people making an informed and cost conscious decisions, some would pay for enhancements or support, some would contribute and the rest might just go into work and say , “Hey I must have a copy of GIMP because I don’t know how to use this horrible PhotoShop thing!”
Ha! I can dream can’t I.
So enough preaching, what policy do I follow in the comanies I run and advise?
- All software is fully paid for out of each department/users budget.
- This puts the cost of purchase, support & maintenance directly in the users hands.#
- Platform & Application Diversity is encouraged
- The more flavors of Mac, Windows, Linux & PDAs the better! Because it practically guarantees staff will always be thinking about compatibility, file formats & open standards. No one sends a PowerPoint slide when a quick text based email will do.
- Doesn’t this cause a headache for the IT staff?
- Yes, it does a bit but it also encourages lateral thinking.
- Its also funny how quickly legacy applications become Web2 Ajax marvells.
- For instance my sales director uses an ipod touch with wifi for the vast majority of his working day.
- All business process related systems are designed by the in house IT Team.
- I don’t care if Jack the sales guy uses excel to predict his sales pipeline as long as the data comes form the central MySQL sales database (or one of its replicas).
- Any employee who breaks the IT, data, security, information or legal rules is fired immediately!
- I don’t care if they browse for porn on the net in work time, but I do care if they break the company data integrity policy
Do these policy’s always work?
No, But until IT systems are compatible and have open standards its what we make do with. Open source will win one day, its the only solution tat makes business sense.