I think (hope) we are in a transitional stage in software, where we have a struggle between on one hand closed commercial software and on the other hand free, open source, unfunded software.
I'm going to have to say that I really can't see FOSS as a true alternative to mainstream commercial software. For play? Sure. For work? No.
When you really truly rely on software to get things done, and you don't have the time/skills, commercial software is almost always the best option. Or at least some kind of software that has a REAL revenue model. There is FOSS with a real revenue model, and I'm comfortable with that. I'm not comfortable with some FOSS project that has zero income and little motivation for the developers. We all have bills to pay. The money needs to come from somewhere.
Stallman is an idealist, and while I can appreciate it, and I certainly agree that what he's doing is needed, it's needed in certain places. Other places have different needs.
I'll use FOSS in some places, but pay in others. It all depends.
But mouser, I think you're being a bit idealistic and there's a bit of wishful thinking there.
Errr... No. I take that back. There is that movement, but it's not strong enough. The motivation isn't there. People don't understand enough about how the world works and how the Internet works to see the full benefits for doing the "unfun" stuff. They are there (the benefits). I firmly believe that. However, I'm not about to write a huge paper on the topic. There are several out there that touch on it already.
What I think is a good direction for software is a combined free/commercial model where companies write software and offer a cut down free version. Most people don't need the full power of MS Office. Most people don't need the full power of any of the software that they use.
I'd also like to see companies/government pick up the bill for some of it. Want a license? Are you a commercial entity? Then pay!
Why should people work for free to help others make money?
I have software that I've purchased licenses for multiple times because I want to support the developer. I want him to make money. I want him to continue development. I want him to succeed. That is in my best interest. I use his software and rely on it. (Actually, there are several titles that I regularly purchase/donate for.)
As I see it, much of the FOSS community needs to pull its head out of its ass and figure out real revenue models. Not some namby-pamby "please donate" model. People don't donate enough. They take and take and take.
There are many ways to create revenue for software, but there just aren't enough people in the industry to help the FOSS guys actually get there and do it properly. Those people are elsewhere making lots of money instead. They have no motivation to help out. These people do exist though. Finding them is the hard part.
As for funding projects... Not gonna happen. Sun funds platform projects. Novell funds platform projects. etc. etc. etc. They all fund things in their own interests. What is needed is funding for the smaller projects that provide useful products. Who wants to do that? Nobody!
An entirely new funding model is needed, or an entirely new approach to the problem is needed (more likely).
Sigh... I'm going back to my whiskey now...
(Sorry --- This is really just a very frustrating topic for me when I see so many opportunities and am virtually powerless to do anything. I wish I were independently wealthy...)