Nobody needs to see comments like:
Yet without that kind of thing, it would be hard to reimplement the code from the comments alone. (Yes, if you have decent JavaDoc-style comments describing each function, and you have small self-contained functions, then perhaps they could reimplement each function from scratch just by knowing its arguments and behaviour — they don't need the contents of each function at all. But that's not quite the same thing.)
Contribute to open source projects. You'll get plenty of feedback. Some of it might be quite, erm, 'robust', especially with certain projects. But it'll almost all be useful, and you'll be doing something worthwhile.
Firstly, make sure that if you have a captive portal, a guest staying for a reasonable period of time will only have to accept the terms and conditions, log in or whatever *once*. If I put my phone on the hotel wireless, I expect it to *stay* on the hotel wireless, and automatically register to the VoIP server whenever I'm in the building. I do *not* expect it to keep breaking every few hours until I fire up a web browser on the phone. It's almost as annoying on my PC — when I'm away from home in a hotel with timezone differences, there are often work-related IMs or IRC conversations which happen during my "night", and if a broken hotel network cuts me off during the night and forces me to re-login, that *really* hampers my productivity.
If a hotel has a captive portal which doesn't *remember* the fact that I've logged in and accepted the T&Cs, I will *refuse* to stay there on my next trip.
Secondly, we are well into the 21st century now. It is entirely unacceptable to provide a newly designed and installed system without IPv6 connectivity. It's not even as if IPv6 is *hard*, so there's no excuse.
Whereas Exim doesn't *need* milters because it's sufficiently capable all by itself.
I once had a Postfix advocate look over my Exim config to see if he make Postfix do what Exim can do. He gave up.
This is fraud, plain and simple. Anyone attempting to get a patent on something which they know is obvious or for which they know there is prior art, is committing a deliberate deception for financial gain. And should go to jail.
The guy didn't even manage to put capital letters at the beginning of his sentences. I'm reluctant to read too much into the fact that he didn't capitalise 'free'. Especially as I've never heard of this 'free' vs. 'Free' convention, which doesn't make much sense to me. Most people just use 'gratis' and 'libre' which is far less ambiguous.
So no, I don't think that timmarhy was talking about 'gratis but non-libre software'; I think he was spouting a common misconception about Free Software, which I attempted to correct. No righteous indignation; just an observation.
I think you've misunderstood the term 'Free Software'. The word 'Free' in Free Software is used to refer to *freedom*, not the cost.
So with software the situation is actually the other way round to the way you present it. If you are using Free(dom) Software, then you have the source and can do whatever you need with it and you aren't held hostage by someone else's actions. If you're using non-Free Software, *then* you seriously shouldn't complain when it blows up in your face.
Using non-Free Software (even if it's gratis) often starts out as the 'cheap option' -- not necessarily in terms of cost, but in terms of local knowledge and training and effort. But it often ends up costing more, because of its inherent limitations and because you can't actually *fix* it to meet your requirements, or even get bug-fixes for it without having to replace it wholesale with a new version.
I like the analogy with the neighbour's headlights, but it's kind of missing the point. Why do you *care* whether your neighbour leaves his headlights on? By all means be helpful and let him know, but it's no skin off your nose if he's going to be an idiot about it and his car won't start in the morning.
Which brings us back to the original situation. Why do you care? It's because you have *chosen* to make a mission-critical service depend on a piece of software which you cannot just fix for yourself, so you're beholden to a third party for fixes. A third party who, in your case as in many similar cases, is too incompetent and/or unwilling to help you.
Getting into that situation in the first place does not strike me as being particularly responsible.