Monday, October 09, 2006

Free Software Advantage

I was pretty busy last week and didn't get the post up on Wednesday like I'd planned. I decided that rather than rush something out that isn't quite done, I'd hold off. So I'll post it sometime this week.

One problem that I'm having with them is that they tend to get drawn out and give way too much information. Also, I know that they tend to jump around and be less understandable than I mean them to be. These are both problems that result from a lack of good planning. I haven't really got a plan for the blog, and I don't really have a plan for each topic. I just start writing and whatever related stuff I think of, I put in there. So I'm thinking I might revisit some of these first ones sometime down the road and do them right. Maybe I'll start doing a week on a theme and posting something short every day for some of the bigger themes.

Something that I wanted to point out is that most of the links and suggested programs are free. I like free, because it lets me test and compare them before deciding on something. Many commercial programs have a trial period, but I find that I usually don't focus my testing and comparisons to 14 or 30 days. Free software usually works out fairly well, though the commercial ones are much more polished and have better features and support.

I really like to use and recommend FOSS whenever I can. This type of software has very few restrictions, is quickly patched and fixed, and can be just as good as commercial stuff sometimes. A mature software product is the same, whether a large company created it or whether it was made by a coordinated group of unpaid volunteers. Most of the time the people who contribute to the software packages are professional programmers, anyway.

This isn't to say that you should stay away from commercial products. Some of them are very good with no real FOSS alternative. Sometimes the commercial tools will have features that make it well worth the cost. Especially if they have better stability, a better interface, save time, or have some feature that you really need. In businesses, support and accountability are also crucial in a software product. This is why companies tend to shy away from using free software -- someone on the payroll would end up doing this, and that can get expensive. Sometimes it ends up costing less to buy software than to use a free or lower priced alternative.

Often times with non-software, the same is true. Is it worth saving $25 on a $250 purchase? What does that 10% price difference really buy? Sometimes these things aren't quantifible, sometimes they are. If the $25 buys a much better experience, then you're more likely to use the product. The more expensive product may end up costing you less per use than the cheaper one. Many times I don't consider price at all, and just buy whatever will be the best product for me. I have never found myself wishing I'd saved the money, but I often find myself wishing that I'd spent the little bit extra for a better product.

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