Saturday, August 19, 2006

Open source, free, and commercial software

Slashdot linked an article about Eric Raymond's support for proprietary binary Linux drivers. I think that he is partially right, but I would like the freedom to choose whether to use binary only drivers on my Linux boxes.

As a software developer, I look at commercial development tools as a way of life. While I find the free Ruby + Eclipse + RDT + Radrails combination to be just fine for Ruby development, for other work the commercial tools are just a cut above.

I very much enjoy using Franz Lisp, but it is expensive: Franz has been in business for 20 years continually improving its one product (Franz Lisp), and it shows. I am using Franz right now for a large project - the licensing costs are a good investment for my customer. I hope to restart my knowledgebooks.com business next year (I have set it aside the last few years because the consulting market has been so hot) and I am going to try to justify to myself the costs of Franz because that is what I would like to use.

Another great commercial development environment is Cincom VisualWorks Smalltalk. While licensing is also expensive for VW, Cincom offers a good deal for developers (revenue sharing) that eliminates up front sticker shock - a good thing for develpers wanting to grow a new business.

The point that I am making is that writing software is expensive in time and resources so sometimes it makes sense business wise to invest in expensive tools, and sometimes it does not.

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