Honestly, I like ubuntu. I've been using it as my main desktop since last year, it's great for working (and I code in C++, consider it much handier than Vista). But I think "free software" won't get far. Developers don't like to fix these boring bugs, but these boring bugs drive any regular user crazy.
zridling: for me, with linux, it's been an issue of programs being of generally inferior quality, often without proper documentation ("read the source" != documentation), very hostile "support" channels, sucky performance (graphics acceleration, the X11 platform (or at least the common widget toolkits), applications that load slowly, ...), the lack of proper C++ development tools, et cetera.
Actually, I think Josh and f0dder
might have hit on something that's at the core of the FOSS development model:
FOSS is primarily run by Coders. And Coders primarily want to code. Most don't want to run a business, write documentation, or do end-user support. They just want to code.
The reason this struck me as significant is because of an experience I had early in my career. I had gotten together with a few cohorts from work to produce a forecasting tool for small to mid-sized companies. We had written it using something called Clarion. Clarion Developer
was a fairly advanced 4GL database tool for its time.
We had a ball writing and debugging our little project. We even enjoyed adding features as we fleshed out its capabilities and got to know Clarion better.
Then we made a mistake and started selling
We had about five paying customers when it happened: Support calls. Feature requests. Customer employee training and hand holding...
We did our best. And we hated
it. But since we only had a few paying clients, we couldn't afford to farm any of these responsibilities out.
Now, the question became what to do next? Quit our day jobs? Seek venture capital? Start hiring and marketing? Turn it into a 'real' business? Get big?
So we talked to a few people. None of the folks who could actually help us really cared about the product itself. All they wanted to talk about was working out some sort of deal (which would basically chain the four of us to our PCs for five or so years) while they marketed the hell out of our app. In return we'd get stock (and a buy out option) if the product actually took off.
In short, it would be business as usual: a total crap shoot for us - and a 'sweetheart deal' with minimal risk for our backers if things didn't pan out.
Since we all had degrees and 'corporate experience' in finance and accounting, we had no illusions that our particular 'product' was anything more than a niche product. And a marginal one at best.
And that's when it hit all of us. We didn't really want to run a software business. We didn't even want to be in business at all. All we wanted to do was code and improve the thing we created. On our own schedule and according to our own priorities. Y'know, "Ars gratia artis.
" as the saying goes?
But we realized we couldn't that if we were also going to do it as a business.
So in the end, we stopped developing our little product. And to get out from under our obligations to our paying customers, we stopped charging and just gave them the source code
. And in order not to leave anyone 'high and dry', one person in our group agreed to support our old customers on a part-time contract basis until they migrated to other software packages.
I think large segments of the FOSS development community feel the same way about their projects as we did about ours. Most are not out to prove anything. They just want to develop their code. Period. And "FREE - use at your own risk" is all the commitment they're willing to make.
Interesting.... <Edit: Oops. Dropped part of the final draft before I posted. Again. Added reference to and quote from f0dder that got dropped. Hopefully the whole thing now makes more sense.>