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Should You Donate Money to Companies? 191

John Buswell wrote a little opinion thing wrt Mandrake's Donations Page. He raises the arguable point: why would you donate money to a for-profit company? I've written my response too which is full of all sorts of pompous rhetoric to go along with it.

John Buswell writes "This morning I received an email from MandrakeSoft, developers of the Linux-Mandrake distribution. One article in this e-newsletter they sent around disturbed me, they were looking for donations. Now, don't get me wrong, I am all for giving back to the community, however, if you look at their site, they are looking for donations for Mandrake specific projects like their installer (DrakX), their support websites and most disturbing of all Quality Assurance. This would be fine except that MandrakeSoft is a company, and these elements they are looking for donations for don't help anyone but their customers and their product. I know they are under a little financial strain, laying off employees and asking others to take pay cuts, but to me, this looks like they are trying to take advantage of the goodwill of the Linux community and their customers who might be a little afraid their Mandrake is going south.

Wouldn't you be outraged if a car company came out and asked for donations to improve safety features or fuel economy? These are company expenses to improve their product, so people buy more and they make more money. It's not something you ask for donations for. While I appreciate the many things Mandrake has done for Linux, I don't think they have the right to ask for money from their customers. If they were taking donations and giving funds to projects like Gnome, KDE, Apache or FSF, that would be fine, but these are ways to fund their products.

I think there are many useful projects that you can donate your money to, that are just developers working in their spare time from home, or non-profit organizations, and donating to those projects will still improve Mandrake's product, because they will definitely incorporate them into their latest releases. What does everyone else think? Is Mandrake justified in asking for donations or are they desperately seeking funds they can't obtain from their investors?"

My opinion is that to many people want cheese with their whine. This attitude trivializes the work that the real programmers do, but also the generosity of many of the major Linux companies who pay programmers to write code, and then pay ISP bills to let people download that code for free.

I don't really know much about Mandrake's financial situation. I doubt that optional donations will provide them a significant source of revenue. But I certainly don't have any problem with them providing the option to send money back to them. My distribution is Debian, and as a non-profit, I can donate money to them without offending John. But if I bought a shrink wrapped copy of Red Hat, I'd be sending a few bucks to them. What's the big deal about giving a few bucks when you download an ISO? And Mandrake has gone so far as giving donators a choice as to where those dollars go. When I give Red Hat my $50 or whatever for that box, do I get to say "Develop GNOME, please"?

Section 3B of the GPL provides for charging the distribution cost for source code, but afaik, every major distribution gives binaries away for free. Hemos and Uriah worked out that it costs OSDN something like 7 cents per ISO download on SourceForge, so I imagine it's similiar for MandrakeSoft. They don't have to provide them. It's a free service. They could charge you 7 cents. They could charge you the distribution costs if you wanted source. They aren't doing either of these things, they are giving you the option to do so, if you want. Which leads me to my main thought about this question: the attitude.

Do you complain over those "Suggested Donation Bins" at the museum? Would you complain if toll booths were optional? Of course neither analogy is perfect, but you get my point. Museums and roads cost money.

The attitude that John presents above scares me. I don't mean any offense to John, he seems like a smart guy, but I've seen so many 31337 h4x0r Linux types who've never contributed a line of code rant on about the evils of various free software companies. Yet I know many guys who've actually contributed huge chunks of code and, well, they just don't care. It's a case where the fanboys have invented some sort of cause that isn't all that important instead of doing something relevant. Those who can, code, those who don't complain.

Of course, I'm just a tool of one of the largest Linux companies, so what do I know. I'm tainted, evil, and part of the same conspiracy designed to keep free software out of everyone's hands by giving it away for free. I also know who killed JFK. But god forbid that hackers eat. And let's all complain about suggested donations too so that the only way to get copies of free software is through gnutella. Hope that 600-meg ISO doesn't abort half way.

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Should You Donate Money to Companies?

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    if Shell Oil placed donation bins beside all the gas pumps, so rich people could help those less fortunate to have cheaper gas, that would be stupid (not because it's a bad idea, but because nobody would put any money in).

    And what's the harm in that again? You're saying that it's not a bad idea, but then you back up to say it's stupid. Even if there are a few donations, wouldn't it be worthwhile beyond if they didn't try to put bins out in the first place?

    I do think it's OK for RedHat and the likes to as for donations though, since they are providing a salary to many of the hackers that have made Linux what it is today.

    Why again is Linux more important than gasoline?

    I also like Mandrake's concept of specifying where you want your donation to go, but I don't think this is always a good thing. We'd all agree that support for obscenely powerful systems with 1.2 skjaterrabytes of memory is important to Linux on a grand scale, but how many people do you really think are going to check that box instead of '3d graphics acceleration' or 'GNOME'?

    So...if most people want support for "obscenely powerful systems" why wouldn't they check that box? If 3D graphics acceleration is really what people want, then what's wrong with that?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    You'd be surprised (or maybe not) how easy it is to find out who the key developers are on any given software project. Rather than just mailing them a check, send them a gift certificate for something useful. It tells them that you are thankful for the great job they did, and it makes them more likely to improve the product and take your comments seriously.

    The problem with your strategy is this: how do you get money to the other 26 people working on a project. Listen, it's good to send Linus money and all -- but what about the guy who works under him and spends 6 hours a day coding network drivers? Chances are, you've never heard of him unless you're a programmer. And he just got nothing from your gift certificate to Linus. Now, under the Mandrake model, Jeff Garzik gets fed! See, MandrakeSoft sponsors him with part of the money you paid for your boxed set...

    - Jay

  • I finally said an opinion that someone didn't think was evil!
  • I believe allot of the people who write GPL code purposefully intend for people to use it *FOR FREE*.

    Then they are using the wrong license. The GNU GPL explicitly allows anyone to sell copies of the licensed software for a fee, and RMS has repeatedly reiterated this point in interviews and FAQs.
  • I don't see this as a particularly bad idea, since it gives the customer a choice of how much to pay based on how much he/she thinks the product is worth. The usual method to make more money is to raise prices. However, in Mandrake's case, they're keeping the prices the same, but accepting donations - this means that the people who think Mandrake is worth $75 can give a donation to pay that much, while those who think it's worth whatever the retail price is don't have to.

    In addition, there are many people who buy a boxed version of RedHat or Mandrake instead of downloading the ISO to "support the company." If you already downloaded the ISO, why waste paper, plastic, and manufacturing costs for a boxed copy you don't need, just to support the company, when you could just donate the money and support the company directly? Or buying a tshirt to support the company; why buy a tshirt if I'm never going to wear it and don't want it? Why not donate the $15 the tshirt costs directly to the company instead?

    There's a few other companies using this sort of method, such as GetRight [] as well, and many are doing it at the request of customers who thought the product was worth much more than what they paid for it.

    So really I don't think there's any problem with it. People already donate to companies, but it's in the form of buying stuff you don't need (tshirts, boxed software, mousepads, mugs, etc.) solely for the purpose of supporting the company. I'd argue that that's 90% a donation anyway, so just going the whole way and making it a donation explicitly isn't really a problem.
  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdo ... g ['kis' in gap]> on Monday May 28, 2001 @11:37AM (#193237)
    If you downloaded the ISO and you feel you owe Mandrake something, go out and buy the retail version.

    This is what I don't get. If I downloaded the ISO and then decided it was worth more than the $0 I paid and wanted to support the company, why should I go buy the retail version? I already have the ISO; I don't need the retail version. Buying it is just a waste of paper, plastic, and manufacturing costs, and the only reason I'd be doing it is to support the company. So why not just take the money I would've spent on a retail version and donate it directly, producing less garbage in the process?
  • is a poor one.

    Wouldn't you be outraged if a car company came out and asked for donations to improve safety features or fuel economy? These are company expenses to improve their product, so people buy more and they make more money. It's not something you ask for donations for.

    Not the best analogy to use. You pay $20,000+ for a new car. For that kind of money, you're damn right the automakers better not be begging me for money.

    However, I've paid nothing to Mandrake to download the ISO and blow a copy. Way I see it, they're asking "pay what you think its worth to you." I don't have a problem with that.
  • Posted by polar_bear:

    Perhaps they're trying to figure out what areas of development they should be concentrating on, or where to direct their efforts? I dunno, they make everything GPL'ed and available for free...complaining about a voluntary program seems kind of churlish, even if it isn't well-thought out. Let's face it, Linux isn't geared towards the normal bloodsucking business model - so anyone who is pro-Linux/Free Software should be willing to go with the flow and try to help these companies figure out ways to support us. Particularly when they have been "Doing the Right Thing" as long as Linux-Mandrake. I hate to see greed or selfishness in companies or individuals...
  • I've never hidden my opinions in the past, and wouldn't imagine now is the right time to start.

    Why would posting a comment be "hiding" your opinion? You could simply post comment #1, and when it's moderated +5 insightful, it'll be right at the top in the same place it is now.

    I think adding a little one-liner to the end of a story is different from a detailed attack on the original author in a fashion that doesn't allow him to respond.

  • ..or it could be spread about the entire collection of projects under the umbrella. --jmg

    That makes me really uneasy. So the FSF or Eric Raymond or Cowboy Neal is going to be in charge of which project receives support from a huge pool of "Free Software" donations? Can you imagine the nightmare of nepotism and political squabbling that will create? --update()

    This is really a minor debating point. Personally, I disagree with you that selecting some general purpose funds to go to all projects under the umbrella would turn into a financial and political debacle. However, if those general purpose funds were used strictly for community disk, CVS, and project web space similar to sourceforge, this alone would be a good start. We all hope sourceforge continues providing it's excellent service, but should VA Linux go out of business something similar ought to be re-created by a tax exempt charity as I describe above. JMO.

  • I think this is a critical point all too many Open Source and Free Software advocates fail to recognize. We all like to point to the Free Software Foundation's Free Software Definition [] and argue the movement is about about Free Speech instead of gratis software, but the fact is that the gratis aspect of Free Software is the primary economic incentive driving Linux and *BSD among individual users and businesses. Gratis is popular, just like free beer.

    However, gratis is also incompatible with most rational business models. That Redhat wants to sell support instead of software might be a sustainable business model, but I think no one yet knows this for sure. That Eazel wanted to sell network storage and "services", just like Microsoft intends, and spent it's entire vulture capital outlay on a loss leader file manager is clearly not a viable business model; their bankruptcy attests to this fact. We'll see if any of the other support/service business models actually succeed... they may or may not.

    So given Mandrake's position with its huge user base, free ISO images offered before boxed versions hit the shelves, and a development staff paid for by those sales -- how is Mandrake going to position it's product in order to generate revenue while it gives the product away for free (before commercial release) via ftp?

    This is the quandry -- do we (as a community) value hiring developers to manage and enhance Free Software toward specific community (or end-user) driven goals, or should it all be created haphazard by volunteers in a great bazzaar? I think we're at the point where for free OS's and applications to succeed, we'll HAVE to create a system whereby developers are hired and paid to create community sponsored projects which then get released under the GPL (or other free licenses).

    Bruce Perens, among others, has argued for a street performer type system, whereby developers request donations for the value of the projects they create. The only serious problem with this mechanism is that it could force each project to hire a lawyer in order to obtain tax deductible charity status (such as the Free Software Foundation possesses). I think a better aproach would be for either the FSF, or some other umbrella organization, to be created with the express purpose of funneling donations to most any free project. Donors could specify who they wanted receive the donation, or it could be spread about the entire collection of projects under the umbrella. I like this for several reasons:

    It's voluntary. Just like it's voluntary to use and write free software, so should it be voluntary to donate.

    It creates a positive economic feedback loop for each project. However much money is donated to the SAMBA project (for example) is by definition a statement of their "value" to the community as a whole. However much money they receive is what can be spent on developers, administrative costs, and conferences. As long as financial community support persists, the project has a functional business model for hiring staff.

    It evens out the success of certain low profile projects that are still critical, for example the DRI project over at sourceforge. There's no economic model supporting DRI whatsoever, other than developer interest. The best they get is maybe some money from the distributions which are relying on 3D support to succeed. Thus donations become a mechanism whereby USERS can target economic incentives toward specific projects they consider necessary for their future use and needs.

    Frankly, all those who deride Mandrake for sticking their hat out begging miss the point. I've never given money to Mandrake, but then again I don't use Mandrake. I have given money to the OpenBSD project, the FSF, the EFF, the ACLU, and I've bought numerous Redhat distributions; because I agree with and want to support these projects. Those individuals who donate to Mandrake might have very good economic and personal reasons for doing so. They have an OS investment in Mandrake, a desired feature set they wish implemented in the next release, and are part of a community they wish to see succeed. If those community members decide that offering donations (among box sales) will support Mandrake well enough to meet its budgetary needs for hiring developers and staff, why not pursue that revenue stream? It's no different from NPR or PBS holding their hat out to their listeners/viewers, and over the last twenty years NPR and PBS have shown that their pledge drives do succeed at paying a significant portion of their budget.

    I encourage all free software projects to request donations; and most of all I encourage the creation of some charity as described above which could be used to funnel money toward any and every free project around. Maybe this is where sourceforge should go if/when VA Linux goes down the tubes?

    J. Maynard Gelinas
    "By oneself evil is done; by oneself one suffers; by oneself evil is undone; by oneself one is purified." --Gautama Sakyamuni

  • I signed up for the LinuXFund credit card. A (small) portion of the purchase goes to the fund,
    and they find projects that people submit for funding!

    Ten years ago or so, I ended up doing the United Way thing, after telling myself I'd send a check to Boy Scouts, and a year later I hadn't, so I signed up for payroll deduction!
  • When you suck down a gig and a half of ISO off someone's site, you're costing THEM money.

    When you suck down updates, you're costing THEM money.

    All the coders they have working for them cost THEM money.

    Yes, they can make up a lot of that in boxed sales. But still, some people WANT to contribute. Those who can, contribute code. Those who's coding skills are marginal to nonexistant (like me) can contribute money to support the coders.

    Remember, the donations are OPTIONAL. Nobody's MAKING you pay a damn thing.

    Personally, I buy the boxed x.0 release and tend to leech point releases.

    Personally, I won't miss an occasional $5/$10 bucks every now and again.

    As the saying goes. I spent half of my money on wine, women, and song. The rest, I just WASTED.

    Now I can waste a little less.

    Chas - The one, the only.
    THANK GOD!!!

  • If you ALREADY have the distro on a CD-R, why are you going to contribute to the dead-tree+waste plastic version a couple weeks after you burnt your own copy?

    Unless you're buying the PowerPack or Enterprise version. And unless you actually NEED something on one of those disks, it's simply WASTE.

    This way, if you want to contribute the $20/30 and already have the distro, you can give the money DIRECTLY to them and cut out production costs (as someone else can buy the the boxed copy that you avoided).

    And believe me, they DO get bought. ALL of the Best Buys, CompUSA, and Computer City stores in my area (about two dozen), had been out of Mandrake 7.2 for a couple weeks following the release of 8.0. And let me assure you. The boxes were NOT pulled off the shelves by employees.

    Chas - The one, the only.
    THANK GOD!!!

  • It's more like: "If you don't feel the need to buy our product or donate money, don't. If you do feel the need, but don't need to buy the boxed version, here's a way."

    Chas - The one, the only.
    THANK GOD!!!
  • It seems to me that people tend to forget that companies are just groups of people working together to accomplish something (e.g. put bread on the table). Companies aren't inherantly evil. Requesting money for service rendered is perfectly acceptable social behavior.

    Giving a company your business or outright donating money to support a company you like are very similar decisions that as consumers we make every day. I avoid McDonald's because I don't like the company - even though I do actually like some of their food. I'm willing to go out of my way and even pay a little bit extra for friendly, polite, quality service. How are these decisions different from making a donation? To me they are the same. If you value service provided, you express your thanks - with cash (or code, or docs, or postcards). The Mandrake donation page makes that easier for people. How is that a problem?

    I personally think that soliciting donations in return for providing alot of high quality software for free download is not only acceptable, it is quite commendable. More power to them, I hope the people using their free services have the decency to donate some cash. Those who don't donate are just ungrateful leeches. TAANSTAFL, etc.

    It's really a shame that some quite vocal segments of the free software community seem to be a bit confused about things like this. They reflect badly on the rest of us.

  • Who said anything about fighting those who gets in your way, if that's what someone wants to do, it is their choice and there are trade offs in doing so. Socialism breeds laziness, oppression, and a sense of entitlement, it rewards needs NOT talent. Capitalism relies on self choice, you can choose to sell yourself out to make as much money as you can, or you to do something else with your time, socialism doesn't allow such choices. In practice socialism has repeatedly failed, capitalism has it's problems, getting rid the estate tax will make them worse, but as a whole it has worked much better than socialism. It's funny to me that the people who I know who have most sung the praises of socialism have much bigger opportunities than those who believe in self reliance and have had nothing given to them.
  • Not exactly about the estate tax. I really believe that we should live in a meritocracy, and large estates handed down creates a aristocracy of wealth. I am not a big fan of that, although for the most part the children of the rich are downwardly mobile. There was an NY times Opt Ed piece a few months ago that I really liked, instead of an estate tax we should have a gift tax (for receiving gifts) such that you have a lifetime of $1 Million tax free gifts that you can receive, after that a draconian tax is levied. That would reward spreading your wealth out to more than just one or two children, and non-profits at the same time.
  • He said "might consider making". He never said "owe". He didn't even imply "owe".
  • instead of buying. If you bought the distro CD's and manuals then this might be asking a bit much.
    I hope it helps...they make good software...
  • I have trouble trusting someone who is doing 'somthing' for 'nothing'. Don't get me wrong I am sure they are out there but the rest of us have trouble grasping what makes a person like that tick. If I can see that someone is making a profit, be it money or not, I can better judge their motives. I am not saying there is not a line over which profits become obscene but I am not sure where to draw that line in the sand.
  • Before all the GPL stalwarts start getting their flamethrowers out and attempt to give me a good roasting - the GPL prohibits charging for software under its license (except for duplication costs)

    The GPL does no such thing. As an example, XEmacs was at one point used in a commercial GPL'd project whose name I have forgotten. It was an IDE on steroids. (Who knows, maybe it's still around?). Anyway, the company behind it charged significantly more than 1kUSD for it.

    The GPL only limits how much you can charge for the source if someone you provided with only binaries asks you for it. If you charge 1kUSD there is a risk that RMS will buy a copy and distribute it, of course. Due to the general distrust of software that you don't have to pay for, that is a very minor problem.

    PS Why doesn't blockquote type="cite" work here?

  • ...purportedly for doing good things, which in the case of, say, the Salvation Army is at least believable. Many churches make immense profits and hoard staggering wealth (statues in St Paul's Basilica, for example, are worth $billions each). So why can't Mandrake, who have been doing good things (including, recently, giving a trendy Yankee marketing-bedazzled CEO the bum's rush), not be a target for donations?

    And to relate to you more directly, BeCool, WWJD? Well, not go to school for starters - Jesus trained at home to be a responsible citizen and a carpenter. He didn't suffer the damage that factory-school-based ``socialisation'' (regimentation) inflicts.

    When Jesus switched careers at maturity (age 30) to full-time public speaker, recruiting officer, pharmacopoeia-less healer and occasional caterer, the new job description included giving good stuff away (life, healing, salvation, assurance, information) for free and living on donations. Is there a parallel with Mandrake? (-:
  • count yourself bloody lucky that these companies give you their work for free.

    Hear, hear!

    Go and have a look back at, for example, the old Mandrake Cooker archives [] (I'm a list member there). Time and time again, people wrote to say ``Hey, I really like your distro but downloaded it instead of buying a boxed set because the box was [too slow/unavailable in my area/Had extras I didn't want/etc]. Is there some way I can give you some money to offset the cost of providing that free download?'' Mandrake caved in after about a year of this and provided the donations link.

    I am left with the impression that Mandrake management didn't quite believe it, until the money started flowing...

  • John Buswell replied the following to his own article on []:I understand the concept, my problem is with calling it a donation and trying to present it in a way that tries to blur the line between donating to Mandrake and donating to open source projects. Out of the entire Mandrake distribution, I'd guess that less than 30% of it is actually work done by MandrakeSoft themselves, while the remaining 70% is work done by other open source projects. Up until now, I've seen MandrakeSoft's willingness to put their distribution up for free for all (unlike other vendors) was their good faith and good will towards the open souce community, and their way to contribute back in a big way. I mean after all, think of all the money they've made from retail sales and deployment of corporate solutions over the years. You don't see them sharing the spoils with various open source projects that make their distribution, sure I realise that is unpractical, but if they want to put up some kind of contribution page, they should have it state clearly that it is for people who don't want to purchase the retail and want to give back. Also eliminating the automatic price of $19.99 that pops up would show that they are not trying to sell something... I wonder if they are liable for tax on donations?

  • Totally off-topic but thank you for the proportional representation link. I absolutely agree with that campaign.


  • The museum example was entirely bogus because museums are paid for by our money in the first place, and secondly they're non-profit. If Mandrake get out of their financial slump then do you ever expect them to turn around and share their profits with their customers? It'd be cool, but I doubt it.

    If the community gave them $10,000 and that paid for several programmers to actually be able to spend their days programming (rather than getting a "real" job), and then Mandrake releases that code under the GPL, then that is what they're giving back.

  • Yet another company that ask you to donate to them. Alternative Tentacles [] (an indie music label) did this. From info about a benefit [].
    The proceeds shall benefit the Alternative Tentacles Legal Defense Fund . Why do this benefit? Becuase Alternative Tentacles was one of the first and most dedicated independent recording labels that not only issued releases from underground cultures, especially punk, but also numerous political, spoken word and benefit recordings. Founded by Jello Biafra when he was a vocalist for Dead Kennedys, Alternative Tentacles has been through countless trials and legal hassles. The famous obscenity trial for the DK's Frankenchrist album resulted in a precedent setting victory for free speech, but nearly bankrupted the label . Amazingly, despite the numerous famous artists under attack at that time, only Frank Zappa and a couple of others tried to help. Now Alternative Tentacles is at risk of total financial collapse once again, due to the latest court drama. This time, it isn't Jesse or Tipper or is the other three former members of Dead Kennedys. While Jello has stayed true to the ideals and vision of the early days of the band and label, the other three have been considerably less honorable. They have sought to seize control of the DK masters to cash in and use the songs for jeans commercials and other acts that total contadict what the band once stood for. Any Dead Kennedys release on a new label is unworthy of purchase. Alternative Tentacles continues to issue recordings by numerous artists who would have much less of a chance being released on another label. Further, they have released countless spoken word releases by Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn and other voices that challenge abuses of power and the lies of the corporate media. Who Bombed Judi Bari (of Earth First) and All Things Censored (the censored recordings of Mumia Abu-Jamal) were also released on Alternative Tentacles. It is time to support this vital label and assist valuable allies in the struggles for justice. Please consider coming to this benefit and/ or helping to get the word out. Also please check out the AT website and offering support (and maybe getting some items from them).

  • Jeez, give him a break, it's only a single point, f'God's sake. I believe the phrase "Get a life" applies...

  • by Kyobu ( 12511 )
    I know there isn't a legal requirement to post binaries or source under the GPL (it just requires that if you give someone the binary, you have to give them the source, too), but it would be awfully nice if Mandrake would be nice about their programs. I use Debian, but I used to use Mandrake. When I installed Debian, I kept my Mandrake installation, too, just in case Debian didn't work out. Turned out, I wanted to use DrakX. No problem, right? Just copy the files. Well, no, that didn't work, even after doing various complicated things. Eventually, I got it working long enough to do what I wanted, but I had to edit a bunch of scripts and stuff. Now, that's Mandrake's prerogative, if they want to make their programs only work with their distro. But it would be very nice, and would lend credence to their claims of "giving back to the community," if they would release their programs in the usual way, with a reference on Freshmeat, with tarballs and RPMs, so that they would run on normal; Linux systems. Or at least have it on their site so people could find it. Similarly, Corel (a Debian-based distro) refuses to release .debs for WordPerfect. I know it's not Free, but it's free-as-in-beer, and anyone can get the tarballs. If they do, though, they will find that WP doesn't work on a Debian or Storm system, and as far as I can tell, you can't get it to. So why can't we non-Corel users get in on that WP-lovin' action? Not fair, sez I.
  • All the users that no longer bought the store released product from Mandrake wanted some way of giving back to the company that put out (arguably) one of the best Linux distributions for them. And made it available for free download. Thus the idea of a donation page. Where users that downloaded isos would be able to give a little back to Mandrake for their nice work.
  • by Graymalkin ( 13732 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @11:43AM (#193263)
    While some of Rob's analogies are a, I actually sort of agree with him. If you're going to download a distro's ISO image off their servers you ought to think about passing a few bucks their way. Yes they are corporations but no it isn't like Ford or Chevy asking for donations to improve safety. They are companies developing software they MUST give away. They're also companies you might particularly want to see survive a period of cutbacks and a tough market. Chip in when you download an ISO if you've got an extra ten bucks.
  • Hmm, I never thought about it that way but
    it looks like Linux distros are pioneering
    the street performer protocol in a more or
    less unadulterated form. Neat.
  • This does not match real-life experience, but it is word for word quoted propaganda used in communistic education. Talk about scam. They try it on little children, becaouse the bigger ones would be too smart to believe it.
    ( I have 10+ years experience in both communistic education and later another 10+ in religion).

    Why would anyone ever bother about where do other poeple donate their own money? Is it simple and innocent envy or just unintentional disrespect and intolerance?

    Coward NOT anonymous.
  • Did you ever wonder, to which community have you become by adopting Linux? Five years ago we were willing to donate most of our small excexss to whomever, who would help to building technically superior and commercialy viable alternative solution ot the misery of Windows.

    Five years ago I would hardly see anybody suspiciously watching pocket of someone else. Donation was obvious, and the rule was donate time and/or code, if you have some or donate money - if you got some.

    Where all these people came from now? Why don't they just hold on tight on their own penny and keep their mouth shut?

    Do they appeal on morals?
    Who ever said that it is moral not to pay the workers good money for good work?
    Who ever said it is moral to contemplate, if someone else did, does, will or would get by accident too much money?
    Did you ever hear of anyone to care equally well whether any of the workers in Linux companies make enough for themselfs and their families for decent living?

    I have a vision of a GEJ (Greed, Envy, Jealousy) project. one more category would be added to posts clasification, that is GEJ. The GEJ posts would be copied to a separate space and ranked separatedly by independent votes. The ten most malicious GEJ posts would receive slashdot GEJ award and a brand new, shrink wrapped copy of Microsoft Windows XP.

    Does anybody have server space available to start the project?

  • If I want to support a company I'll buy some of it's shares. Even if it's OTC, it's a better way than simply "giving" the company money. Stock doesn't necessarily gain interest or returns, but in the end you get something for your $ - you own a small part of the company.

    I donate to charities because it is a good thing to do - help other people / causes / etc.

    I do not "donate" to companies that exist to make profit. The notion is so absurd that I will stop writing this post.

    Computer Science: solving today's problems tomorrow.
  • One good reason to donate money for a downloaded ISO instead of byuing one is to avoid taxes. Importing software over the net is currently free, but we pay about 20% sales tax for shrinkwrapped software - in Norway that is. I would rather my money go to the creator of the ISO.

    Let's not forget that we are talking about FREE software. We are paying for the service of getting it assembled, not for the software itself. Even if you could find the parts to your car for free, most people would probably want to hire a mechanic to do the assembly.
  • 1) They say DONATION. It's pretty hard to claim you didn't understand what 'donation' meant.

    2) You do get something from mandrake. They may be a for-profit company, but you can get all their work for free online, whenever you want.

    Some people would buy mandrake if they could, to support the company, but it's not available in the stores where they live, so they download it for free. This gives them a way to donate back.

    Kind of hard for us to talk about the new economy and then whine about companies doing something different.
  • Taco's response was well-written, well thought-of and insightful. No matter what you say, I give his response a +1 Insightful.

  • Yea, I thought, *for once*, you deserved a bit of credit =) Maybe someday I'll say something nice about Katz...

    Maybe not.

  • ... That last paragraph you wrote is because people bitch and complain too much, and you know it.

    Give it to 'em, they bitch. Charge 'em for it, they bitch.

    Post it and don't comment, they laugh at your journalism. Post it and comment about it, they bitch at your site and opinions.

    I'm glad I'm not in your shoes.

  • See my above post about people who bitch too much. You, my friend, are one of them.

    And if I speld like Taco, than Id be writing like this.

  • by RPoet ( 20693 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @07:49AM (#193274) Journal
    As has been mentioned, Mandrakesofts donations page came about after numerous requests from the users. I for one am glad to see it -- I've used Mandrake since years ago, and until now I've never paid a cent for it. I love the distro and I would like some way to show it monetarily :-) But I wouldn't go out and by a boxed set because I wouldn't read the manual, I'd throw the box away, I wouldn't need support (if that's even included) and I know retailers probably make more than Mandrakesoft from these sales anyway.

    Now the great thing about Mandrakesoft is that they hire lots of developers from many free software projects, like KDE [], GNOME [], PHP-Nuke [], Plex86 [], Apache [] and many others. When you make a donation, you can mark those money for, say, KDE development. This way KDE will get better, KDE developers will eat, Mandrakesoft will save some dough and I can sleep at night.

    In my opinion Mandrakesoft is heading in the right direction -- their way of income is a lot better than that of SuSE, which seeks to sell more boxes by making it extremely difficult to download their distro. And it's better than that of Red Hat, which charges for services such as automated software updates (which is included free with Mandrake).

    Indeed, I think Mandrakesoft is discovering the future ideal way of making free software and still eat three meals a day. Their method is in many ways compliant with The Street Performer Protocol [], in that users will pay up if and only if they actually like what they get.
  • If you have too much money you should consider giving it to charity or something instead of funding unsound business models. I a company can't make money perhaps they should convert to a non-profit organization. Keeping unhealthy companies alive by charity is just a waste of resources, especially when considering that the average .com personel should be capable of taking care of themselves.

    If I look at Mandrake, I see a company with a nice product (i.e. they should be capable of selling it too customers). However they are competing with free products. In fact the only value Mandrake adds to their products is support, integration, testing (could be better though) and ease of use. Keeping the distance with their numerous competitors is a lost battle since it requires constant investments in research and development (growing cost and they are also helping their competitors).

    The linux market is growing rapidly, there's plenty of new customers. Not being able to make a profit is a symptom of a bad business model (i.e. there's a structural problem with the revenue vs. the cost).

    Perhaps a good business model for an open source company would be to separate the source of cost from the source of revenue. Mandrake could for instance host their development team in a non-profit organization like debian (thus stimulating external developers to partipate) and create a consulting/support company to support the products the non profit organization produces. Cost can then be regulated by limiting funding of the non profit organization. The for profit organization can then focus on the stuff that really matters (i.e. selling support & services and shipping cd's) while the non profit organization is no longer bothered with marketing departments and so on. There wouldn't be any problem with intellectual property since the company was already putting their stuff under GPL anyway. The only real value in an open source company is knowledge of the software, not the software itself.

    The idea above is already being applied in Mozilla, open office, netbeans and other projects. In the case of netbeans you have working on the development and Sun shipping commercial products (forte) based on netbeans releases (check it out if you haven't already).
  • My solution has always been simple: after I've been using a product for a few months, and I've really got a good handle on its shortcomings, and after I've seen how it treats my support needs (or lack thereof), I re-evaluate the purchase price. If I feel like I got way, way more than I bargained for, and the stuff is really good, I give money where it counts - THE DEVELOPERS directly.

    You'd be surprised (or maybe not) how easy it is to find out who the key developers are on any given software project. Rather than just mailing them a check, send them a gift certificate for something useful. It tells them that you are thankful for the great job they did, and it makes them more likely to improve the product and take your comments seriously.

    Even better, if you're selective about where you buy the gift certificates, you can actually kill two birds with one stone. It goes without saying that you shouldn't be giving away Amazon gift certificates, but ThinkGeek might be a good candidate for you.

    You can make a statement to the developer that they're doing a great job, and you can make a statement about the kind of company you'd like to support.

    After saying all this, it should be pretty clear that I don't endorse sending money directly to the companies themselves. If they go down the tubes because they're not smart enough to price their products successfully and market them, that's their own dang problem.
  • It's sad that Mandrake chose to GPL their most valuable value-added parts, but that's a decision they're going to have to live with and learn from.

    Why is it sad that Mandrake GPLed these components? Mandrake is a healthy company. As others have pointed out already, the reports of Mandrakes imminent demise have been greatly excaggerated. So they fired their management-- that's a bad thing? I sure wish someone would fire the management of MY company, I might not be looking for a new job.

    Mandrake is offering a way for those of us who download the distribution an opportunity to give back-- if we want. I downloaded 8.0 & I gave $10. Do I feel had? Absolutely not. I'm glad that my small offering could somehow support the future of Linux.
  • Hmm. I guess I just disagree. You don't criticize Red Hat for GPLing RPM do you? (or maybe you do)

    Mandrake chose one of two possible avenues. Both have their advantages & disadvantages. GPLing everything means slightly lower chance for forcing your customers into paying you for the right to use your software, but it leads to more secure, more advanced, & more popular software. Again, it comes down to choice vs. force.

    Regarding market sharew, according to this interview [] with the new (old) CEO of MandrakeSoft, Mandrake currently holds about 33.8% of the US retail market.

    Finally, be sad about this decision if Mandrake goes out of business. Since there is no apparent danger of this happening in the near future, you should be happy about this since it improves your user experience no matter what distribution you might choose to use.
  • by ibbey ( 27873 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @07:28AM (#193279) Homepage
    Absolutely. They don't force you to pay $129 for the OS, so people bitch when they give you the opportunity to voluntarily give a few bucks.

    The fact is that Mandrake ALLOWS you to pay for the software. Microsoft (et al) REQUIRES you to pay. I've read most of the posts here so far & I've yet to find an argument that even makes me begin to see a bad side to this. If Mandrake were a highly profitable company, I could maybe understand the whining. As it is, I see the arguments against as rather absurd.
  • I don't understand your position; you will buy shrinkwrapped for money when you could download for free, and you say you do it to support their efforts, from which I infer that you would, all other things being equal, be just as happy with a straight download.

    You're paying $70 for something, and the parts of it you apparantly value, you could get for free. You're giving them $70 you don't have to give them, because you want to see them succeed.

    That is a donation.

    Sure, you get a physical CD, and a manual, and a nice box, but if you value those things at less than $70, you're donating the difference. When you donate to PBS during a pledge drive, they give you some toys or posters or shirts or things, but it's still a donation, because they tend to give you those things at a donation level far higher than those things might otherwise be worth. People pay the extra, because they want to donate, just as you are donating.

    It would be far more efficient if you just gave them the $70 via the donation system, because then they wouldn't incur the costs of the physical artifacts you don't really want.
  • The main thing that distinguishes the different distros other than their philosophies on what versions to release are their vlaue added components which comes down to installation and configuration. What's sad is that Mandrake chose to GPL those components and are therefore stuck with that choice even if that turns out not to have been a viable business model. They've now put themselves in a position where thay cannot stop free iso downloads even if they'd like to, and are therefore somewhat dependent on people like you who download and then donate.

    I know Mandrake have a large market share, but I'd be curious how many of those are paying customers, and how many are downloaders or cheapbytes customers.
  • Perhaps, but I'm not aware of Mandrake contributing to open source projects in the way that other such as RedHat or SuSE do. Stuff like harddrake may be GPL'd but given that most people use distributions and every distribution has their own equivalent tools, this doesn't benefit anyone other than Mandrake.

    More to the point, the whole of GNU and Linux, and the wealth of GPL'd applicatipons, existed nefore companies like RedHat and Mandrake came into being to try to make money off it. If anything, they're the ones that owe the free software developers - not vice versa.

    If these companies do feed back GPL'd software into the community that that's cool that they honoring the spirit of things and giving something back for what they have got from it (who's richer, Bob Young, Richard Stallman or Linus?), but I certainly don't feel that they're net givers! Perhaps the coolest move was RedHat giving stock options to developers - that was a real give back.

  • I didn't mean to imply that I think anyone's under any moral obligation - this isn't shareware, it's freeware. I just pointed out that if you've downloaded or bought from cheapbytes then you havn't helped Mandrake, and that would IMO be when it might be appropriate to donate (if you want to support them).
  • interesting - thanks
  • I agree there's no reason to be offended by mandrake asking for donations, OTOH there's no reason to feel morally obligated either.

    The museum example was entirely bogus because museums are paid for by our money in the first place, and secondly they're non-profit. If Mandrake get out of their financial slump then do you ever expect them to turn around and share their profits with their customers? It'd be cool, but I doubt it.

    Probably the biggest value Mandrake add to their distribution is their excellent installer and harddrake partition utility. I think what we're seeing here is a darwinian evolution of the Linux distribution business model. SuSE chose to make their value added components non-GPL so that they could control distribution and actually get paid for their work, which obviously makes sense (well, duh!), and their customers obviously agree. It's sad that Mandrake chose to GPL their most valuable value-added parts, but that's a decision they're going to have to live with and learn from.

    At the end of the day ANY maturing market, whether it's automobile mafufacturers or Linux distributors is going to consolidate to a very few survivors after the original land grab rush, and maybe Madndrake will not survive due to the choices they have made. It's like that despair poster: "Maybe the only purpose of your life is to be a warning to others"!.
  • IMO SuSE is definitely going to be one of the survivors - they are doing very well (diminant in Europe, I believe), and have a philosophy that distinguishes them from RedHat and Mandrake. I see more and more people who've been former RedHat/Mandrake users who subsequently move to SuSE.

    Whether Debian and Slackware can both continue, I'm not sure. Maybe they'll survive (or at least one of them) as more niche orientated for server use, since for desktop use they're IMO going to have a hard time competeing with the wealth of packages available in the RPM format (unless of course they switch).

    As a former RedHat and current but dissatisfied Mandrake user, I'm looking at the next release of Libranet (debian based) or Slackware as my next upgrade. It seems Slackware current is about to go Beta, and is surprisingly up-to-date in terms of having all the latest X, KDE, GNOME etc releases, along with a nice solid 2.95.3 gcc.
  • by SpinyNorman ( 33776 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @06:16AM (#193287)
    If you use Mandrake and bought it from them or retail, then you owe them nothing. However if you use it and downloaded it or bought if from cheapbytes then Mandrake got nothing from you, and you might consider making a donation.

    The botom line though is that's the business model Mandrake have chosen, and if it doesn't work then it's up to them to change it.
  • The phoney "consumer demand" I complained about is the sort that contrives features, then tries to justify them as "what people want."

    The Mandrake donations thing I consider genuine and positive -- they actually *are* providing a good means to simultaneously gather / understand what people want and actually help effect it. It makes good sense to me, and I've been seeing it for a little while mentioned on mandrakeforum as well.


  • Companies frequently talk about "consumer demand" as if it exists as a steady stream into their corporate headquarters. ("We introduced the new Floozbitznitz2000 to answer our customers' demand for a combination flashlight / vaccuum cleaner / all-terrain vehicle / toothbrush -- and for a limited time we're offering it for special prices!")

    In 5 words, "bullshit."

    Mandrake though *is* actually opening themselves up to customer demand by saying "Hey, what features or projects are you so interested in that you would not only *pledge* to give money, but *actually* give money for?"

    Don't want to give money? Don't. (To Mandrake, the local public TV station, bum down the street -- heck, there are thousands of organizations and individuals you can choose to not give money to!")
    I for one am happy to see something close to micropayments for free software projects, organized by a company that sponsors and releases many kilolines of free software, as well as makes a very nice distro to wrap it in.

    I'd like to see an option to send money to specific developers, too (the Linus Torvalds 10th Anniv. of Linux Fun Fund?), or to support specific sub-projects. (I'd pay $10 toward a Merlin modem for a developer who'd make them work more nicely with Linux -- anyone else?)

    That it happens to be a private, distro-making company organizing this seems to tweak people a lot, but to me it's a perfect demonstration of what makes Free software work -- voluntary interactions that make people happy.

    And as someone else has already pointed out, Ford doesn't have a mechanism to let you choose what aspects of their cars your purchase price of a new car goes to improve -- with software, the idea that the future will be what you want it to me makes a lot more sense than it does with nearly any other type of product.

  • Rather than considering it a "donation" which is encumered with the feeling of "diverting money from non-profits" and "helping companies with unsound business models", think of it simply as dynamic pricing, where the decision of how much to charge is based on the real data of how much the customer is willing to pay.

    Finally, dynamic pricing that works!
  • by cyberdonny ( 46462 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @06:58AM (#193294)
    > I do think it's OK for RedHat and the likes to as for donations though, since they are providing a salary to many of the hackers that have made Linux what it is today.

    Actually, Red Hat already did ask for donations two years ago, on August 11th 1999. Many people gave them $800, and people were so enthusiastic that Red Hat had to turn away donations... Some of the refused donators got really upset about this.

  • Is my Point-View 'realistic'? Yes.

    No, because everyone is not as morally perfect as you imagine yourself to be. For example, I know that I will work harder to benefit myself than I will to benefit anonymous strangers. If that makes me greedy and selfish, so be it.

    Either your desire is to make the world a better place or it is not.

    Capitalism and profit are not inconsistent with your goals. Advances in technology and medicine have made the world a better place, and they are largely done by entities motivated by self-interest. Socialism denies human nature; capitalism accepts it and channels it toward the public good.

  • > Or, if you prefer, go build your own kernel, your own version of the Gnu tools, your own version of your favourite window manager, and so on... Good luck...

    Or use Debian. Debian is not a company. Aside from incongruencies in your comparison between software and public transport. But please let's not start a flamewar on THAT again...

  • When I was commuting, I used to get my petrol from one particular vendor. They consistently kept their prices low after the other stations put up their prices weekly and brought them down again as soon as they could.

    I appreciated that. So I took to regularly buying some of their overpriced oil and overpriced drinks my small way of thanking them.

    I don't think it's too much of a stretch to realise that if I got something from Mandrake for free (which I haven't; I don't use their distro), I'd be more likely to give them something back, whether it's money, bug reports, documentation or code.

    If you don't want to give Mandrake money, don't. You also don't have to tip the waiter. They get paid, after all. You don't have to tip the busker who's entertaining you as you walk by. The only difference between this and Mandrake is that with the waiter or the busker, there isn't the person standing in front you with the proverbial cap in hand and thus the social pressure to tip.

    Part of the free software economy is to share and share alike. It can be summed up best using the words of a wise man: "You received without payment; give without payment". If you can't give code, bug fixes, documentation or other things, consider giving money instead. All up to you.

  • as multiple articles have no reported the misinformation about layoffs. I won't point them out there, but there were multiple on Slashdot, itself. Also, the donation page was created at _user request_. Come on, let's work on getting our facts straight, shall we? =)
  • by kirwin ( 71594 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @09:35AM (#193302)

    Mandrakesoft is in business to make money. I know, it is a tired old phrase. I think that they can be successful by doing a few things differently.

    The should be making most of their money through media purchases and support contracts. I doubt if they are profiting from free downloads. People want free downloads, because people are stingy. Give them free downloads, but don't put them in packaged format. Compile binaries and dump them in an ftp directory. How many people would want to piece an OS application by application?

    Donations for QA testing? That is a little absurd. Although, I was directly approached by a Mandrakesoft senior executive once, who asked if I could help in QA testing a piece of their software. I think it is time for a revamp of the business model. Perhaps Linux companies should start selling hardware in addition to their OS distribution. Sun, IBM, and Hewlett Packard make a little money selling hardware.

  • If I'm watching TV and I see a Mandrake commercial with Sally Struthers, I'm immediately switching to debian

  • They don't force you to pay $129 for the OS

    Just like the thousands of people who wrote the software in mdk didn't 'force' mdk to pay for it. They cannot force me to do anything. I can (and am), using Mandrake without compensating them in any way, and they can't do anything about that. Perhaps you should rephrase your statement to "They can't force you to pay $129 for the OS". Maybe if they could, they would, and maybe they wouldn't. That's not the point. It's impossible for them to force anyone to pay for it.

    I'm not saying this is a bad idea, I'm using Mandrake on some of my machines and it's pretty good, etc, etc, and I'm OK with supporting good products, whether that's paying for it, or donating money or time or effort or whatever works. But I don't think your argument is particularly persuavsive, either.
  • by Chanc_Gorkon ( 94133 ) <{gorkon} {at} {}> on Monday May 28, 2001 @07:45AM (#193310)
    While, I can't code just yet, I am learning. Right now I have no code worth submitting since I am just re-learning C. I still am VERY greatful for Red Hat, Debian and others and find nothing wrong with throwing a few bucks at my favorite distro, be it Red Hat or Debain or even Mandrake. I usually do this on my own by buying a CD every other release at least, and sometimes sooner if the new release is accompanied by useful software like the 4front sound drivers and maybe Star Office. I still think that they should offer at least the base distro for free. Personally, I think corporate users should ALWAYS buy at least one CD(from Red Hat that is and not Cheap Bytes), maybe a few. I mean come on you have got to admit that it's nice to have multiple copies of it. Acutually, if I were a coporate user, I'd set it up with Red Hat that I wouild pay for the support. Even the most experienced programmer can have trouble debugging the code if they are not in that specific code every day, unlike Red Hat or the hackers. So the support would be handy! Although, I have found most of the hackers are more then willing to help you with their code. I hope they stay that way, because it's a really cool way to be in the day where it seems money matters more. They don't HAVE to be that way, it's just real nice that they are. I have had hackers who have e-mailed me back (developer of x3270 did once or twice) and hackers that have never done it (Mandrake, from Enlightenment). Granted, the difference in popularity between the two is probably why Mandrake never e-mailed me. I imagine the x3270 developer probably gets 20-30 e-mails a day about x3270 versus about 300 a day for Enlightenment. I understand this. Some hackers are just downright money grubbing, but not most. I find the community is pretty good with this. I show Red Hat my gratitude for their code by buying the distro CD every once in a while instead of downooading it. Besides, it's nice to invest in a company that gives two squats about the users then give Microsoft money (they claim they care, but they don't...this I am SURE of.).

    I think all distros should put up a online payment page, with no specific price. Let me throw what I think is the right amount at Red Hat and not some arbitrary figure (I'd say 10 bucks when I first download it and maybe more later if I like it). Also, make it optional.

  • by LiteForce ( 102751 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @07:03AM (#193317) Homepage
    I am one of those Mandrake users who will pull the latest ISO within a few hours of its release (often I have to wait for a mirror to get it though as my connection to Mandrakesoft's servers is quite slow).

    Until Mandrakesoft put up their 'Donations' page; I had not paid Mandrakesoft a single penny for their services - unfortunately there is no incentive to buy a boxed distro when you already have the software on freshly-burnt CD-R's.

    (I know about Mandrake Powerpack - but it offers nothing that I cannot get elsewhere)

    When I consider that I could potentially spend the equivalent of seven day's wages on a license to run Windows 2000 Advanced Server; it makes me feel guilty that I can download a significantly superior operating system from the Internet for next to nothing.

    I have no objection to paying Mandrakesoft the same amount of money I would be paying to Microsoft in order to keep up to date with their 'latest and greatest' piece of crap. Here is how my donations are distributed:

    30% - Kernel
    30% - Advanced Extranet Server
    30% - Security/Crypto
    10% - No preference

    I am only contributing to the development of the software I use; so in the end, I will benefit from the my donation and the donations of others... personally I don't see what the problem is ?

    I am tired of reading that people should 'expect' Linux distributions to be free - excepting Debian (which is produced for the community by the community); most other distributions are produced by large corporates like Red Hat and Mandrake. I don't think many people understand the work that goes into producing a mix of kernel/userspace programs/GUI apps that just *works* straight out of the box. I don't mind supporting a company that provides exactly what I want and means I have to do less work at the end of the day in order to get it running... my time is money... and if their distro saves me even two hours a day by easing configuration and installation, it deserves some financial recompense.

    Before all the GPL stalwarts start getting their flamethrowers out and attempt to give me a good roasting - the GPL prohibits charging for software under its license (except for duplication costs).

    But, what if I *want* to pay for GPL software ?

    Does the GPL take away my freedom to pay for software that I think is of commercial quality; so I can give the authors something to show my appreciation for their efforts ?

    It also helps Mandrakesoft determine what people use their product for and helps them concentrate development on those parts that people appreciate the most.

    As Mandrakesoft have already said, donations are entirely voluntary. So why the hell did this make the Slashdot front page ?.

  • Ah, but therein lies the problem.

    This isn't a question of 'inform and discuss.'
    It's more like 'misinform, inflame, and ignore' on the part of the /. editors. They post stupid (and sometimes flat-out incorrect) articles just to get people riled up, and then sit back and ignore any corrections made to their original premise.

    This is a crappy way of "informing" people, but an excellent way to generate traffic. Come to think of it, it sounds a lot like /. is being run by Jon Katz.

  • So I see no harm in having a donation page. It allows people, me for instance, to pay what I can for the distribution without paying full price. I don't need the support, but I don't have the capabilities to make my own distro. I say be nice and give up what you can for the OS on your desk. Remember, this is voluntary, if you don't want to pay, you don't have to pay!
  • The Mandrake Store [] puts an interesting spin on this as well. They now have a $5 "cheapo 2 CD burn set," and a $90 "fully featured, with manuals, 7 cd set." Note the lack of your standard Red Hat, SuSE, whathaveyou $30 boxed set. Basically, the only way Mandrake can make money now is off of the expensive boxed set, donations, or shirts/hats/mugs/whatever. I'm not quite sure where I'm goin with this, but it is interesting.

    The only "intuitive" interface is the nipple. After that, it's all learned.
  • It's called buying stock in them. That's how companies get funding. Sure, many people bought stock purely because they believed it would return money for them, but you could also buy stock because you believe in what the company was doing and want to see the work continue.

    Unfortunately, that's the way it used to work. That's been ruined by the new 'day-trading' mentality, where so-called "investors" buy stocks not because they have any interest in, faith in, or even comprehension of, the long-term plans of the company, but simply as playing cards that they can hope to rack up points for dumping into another player's hand at the right time.

    I find it hard to feel sorry for these day-traders, but what I really feel sorry for is the good companies they've managed to raise up and send hurtling down to destruction.

  • Good grief.

    This, AGAIN?

    People! Mandrake's donation program was user requested. It is *well documented* in the forums on the Mandrake site, and goes back many, many months. The whole point of the program was to give users who download the ISO and don't want to spend $$$ on a full distribution a way to say "thanks" to the company who created it, without paying $80.

    It's completely voluntary, and was initiated at the request of a number of Mandrake users on the website. Every time it seems this issue is settled, someone who doesn't know the history brings it up again. Perhaps it's time Mandrake put a FAQ up about it, to prevent articles such as this from making it onto Slashdot.

  • I think the most important request for donations from the userbase come from the need of making a distribution work on as many platforms as possible. Since there is a lot of different hardware around, it is necessary to be able to test the various implementations of kernels and installersoftware on most of them.

    Then the obvious next step is to buy hardware, which costs money. Luckily alot of hardware manufacturers are happy to donate hardware to the kernel/installer hackers or even submit patches themselves, but unfortunately there are some who don't (especially NVidea, who doesn't want to give any specs on their hardware).

    There are other parts of cost for hosting a free distribution, eg. servers, webhosting, administration. It's questionable if all these costs can be paid by the income from consumers buying their products instead of downloading them.

    As a last (important) point there is the availability of highspeed internet to many users. Many users who'd first buy a CD are now able to download them, taking away income from the
    distribution providers.

  • by aozilla ( 133143 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @06:16AM (#193333) Homepage

    I completely agree with this argument, but look at it from the point of view of shareware, or donationware. It's pretty much the same thing, except it's a corporation (oo, bad bad) doing it, instead of an individual.

    Personally, I don't believe in donations, either to a corporation, or to an individual, except to a non-profit corporation with a mission which I agree with. Which implies that the NPO itself does more than just donate the items off to individuals. Personally, I support Goodwill, which provides jobs and low cost goods, and generally improves society at both ends, not just handouts. Plus they're not Christian, and they don't try to force people to stop drinking alcohol, which is why I prefer them to something like Salvation Army.

  • by yamla ( 136560 ) <> on Monday May 28, 2001 @06:26AM (#193336)
    I use Mandrake at home, as well as Debian. In both cases, I just download images (or do an ftp install) and run that. I do not need installation guides or technical support.

    However, I am quite happy to pay a little for what I do get. The distributions are worth something to me.

    The way I see it is that Mandrake is a commercial company who also provide a free service in addition to their commercial service. I am quite happy to donate to their free service. It will help other people who cannot afford to pay for the full distribution.


  • For-profit companies have accepted donations in the form of tips for ages. The parallels to Mandrake's donation request are actually very close once you get past the obvious differences.
  • by zaius ( 147422 ) <jeff.zaius@dyndns@org> on Monday May 28, 2001 @06:18AM (#193339)
    I think that in general, for-profit companies should not be asking for donations (or at least they shouldn't expect to recieve any). For example, if Shell Oil placed donation bins beside all the gas pumps, so rich people could help those less fortunate to have cheaper gas, that would be stupid (not because it's a bad idea, but because nobody would put any money in).

    I do think it's OK for RedHat and the likes to as for donations though, since they are providing a salary to many of the hackers that have made Linux what it is today. It's more or less essential to the Linux community that RedHat and others stay afloat; if they need donations to do it, so be it.

    I also like Mandrake's concept of specifying where you want your donation to go, but I don't think this is always a good thing. We'd all agree that support for obscenely powerful systems with 1.2 skjaterrabytes of memory is important to Linux on a grand scale, but how many people do you really think are going to check that box instead of '3d graphics acceleration' or 'GNOME'? Maybe I'm being unfair in saying that Linux should be a server OS first, then a desktop, but this is my post damnit!

    In any case, I don't think there's any problem with donations and such they way they are now, and everyone just needs to STOP BITCHING!!!

  • by caduguid ( 152224 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @07:46AM (#193340)
    I don't think it's a question of "God forbid hackers should eat" as much as "God forbid free software hackers should eat."

    There seems to be a double standard that once a company dabbles in Linux or anything else good or righteous, it must suddenly be held to a different standard.

    It does make the world a bit neater, dividing it only into white hats for good and black hats for evil, but is it helpful or mature?

    It happens on Slashdot often enough to be disturbing. I remember *Michael* emailing me with a refusal to announce Safeweb's distributed anti-censorship redirector Triangle Boy, in large part because Safeweb isn't free (speech). Yet five minutes later he posted something earth-shattering about a Nintendo colour gameboy.

    Two un-free (speech) companies, two product launches, one for a global anti-censorship initiative, one for a toy, and a whopping double-standard.

    If you're going go near anything worthwhile, you better go all the way. Else, watch out!
  • by foo22 ( 154205 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @06:17AM (#193341) Homepage
    If you check his homepage [] he has posted a bit of an update [] down the page.

    He says: my problem is with calling it a donation and trying to present it in a way that tries to blur the line between donating to Mandrake and donating to open source projects. Out of the entire Mandrake distribution, I'd guess that less than 30% of it is actually work done by MandrakeSoft themselves, while the remaining 70% is work done by other open source projects. Up until now, I've seen MandrakeSoft's willingness to put their distribution up for free for all (unlike other vendors) was their good faith and good will towards the open souce community, and their way to contribute back in a big way. I mean after all, think of all the money they've made from retail sales and deployment of corporate solutions over the years. You don't see them sharing the spoils with various open source projects that make their distribution, sure I realise that is unpractical, but if they want to put up some kind of contribution page, they should have it state clearly that it is for people who don't want to purchase the retail and want to give back. Also eliminating the automatic price of $19.99 that pops up would show that they are not trying to sell something...
  • For example, if Shell Oil placed donation bins beside all the gas pumps, so rich people could help those less fortunate to have cheaper gas, that would be stupid

    Not comparable, unless in your example Shell is allowing people to take gas for free and is simply recommending a donation.

    I do think it's OK for RedHat and the likes to as for donations though, since they are providing a salary to many of the hackers that have made Linux what it is today.

    Shell is providing the salaries of the engineers who develop better and more efficient oil drilling and refining processes that result in better fuel quality with less environmental impact from drilling. What's your point?

    And don't think for a minute that Red Hat is the only distro paying the salaries of Free Software programmers. David Faure is paid by MandrakeSoft to work full-time on KDE. KDE founder Matthias Ettrich and khtml maintainer Lars Knoll both work for TrollTech. SuSe also pays the salaries of some developers.

  • afaik, every major distribution gives binaries away for free.

    SuSe doesn't. The only SuSe 7 ISO is the evaluation version that runs straight off the CD. The only way to get the full distro is to buy the boxed version.

  • If you want to make sure that the hackers eat (or even can afford new cars), then donate to the hackers, not the companies.
  • Supposing I was wanting to donate some cash to "the kernel hackers"... how would I do that? I have no need nor desire to find out who did what, or how much they did, or whose code I personally use, I just want to donate to them generally. How would I do that? I don't wish to donate to any organisation defending or promoting free software, and I don't want to donate directly to the lead developers, I just want to contribute to paying the individual developers for their time.

    While one persons' donation like this wouldn't be of consequence, many people's may. Is there an organisation set up to distribute donations to developers equitably? Is it possible? Sensible?


  • by mgoyer ( 164191 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @07:21AM (#193347) Homepage
    $180US has already been sent to Linus Trovalds [] via Fairtunes [].

    Feel free to add [] your favorite kernel hacker and we'll be sure to get the money to them.


  • And then if a Taco post gets mod'ed to +5 people would be claiming that he added the points himself. Either way he can't really win.
  • I don't know if he has a valid point as Mandrake give back quite a lot when they sponsor developers working on Open Source projects such as KDE (David Faure & Mosfet - who left a little back), the kernel etc etc.

    I seriously think that giving full time paid developers is give back in a big way even without the free downloads.

  • Taco's response was well-written, well thought-of and insightful. No matter what you say, I give his response a +1 Insightful.

    In furtherance, It had a great beat and I could really dance to it. I give his response a +1 Groovy.

    ...anyone remember american bandstand? that response had perfect AB canter... ;)
  • by SubtleNuance ( 184325 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @07:08AM (#193355) Journal
    Or, if you prefer, go build your own kernel, your own version of the Gnu tools, your own version of your favourite window manager, and so on... Good luck...

    I believe allot of the people who write GPL code purposefully intend for people to use it *FOR FREE*. If you are a company - which is trying to make money for YOURSELF - then i say "good luck" to *you*! You can then try and sell someone else's gratis (libre) work. Dont try and shift focus onto users to make them feel obligated to support for-profit ventures.

    NOT EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD IS FOR PROFIT. Some people (myself) are actually interested in community. Some of us are interested in seeing an end to war, exploitation, poverty, despair, crime, ill-health and everything else that makes people unhappy. I have little interest in hording money and trinkets for myself. Your attitudes betray your priorities and your point-of-view. Is my Point-View 'realistic'? Yes. Either your desire is to make the world a better place or it is not. Making excuses about how difficult it is to eliminate the afore mentioned 'problems' because it is 'impossible' only serves to rest your own conscience... are you really fooling yourself - your not fooling me.

    Greed, selfishness, hubris and myopia are never excused as far as Im concerned.

  • you might as well pay for your share. It's actually illegal to go on the train or bus without paying, count yourself bloody lucky that these companies give you their work for free.

    Or, if you prefer, go build your own kernel, your own version of the Gnu tools, your own version of your favourite window manager, and so on... Good luck...

  • It sounds like the best solution would have been a simple registration system. Those have been around ever since the concept of shareware/freeware existed.

    Since you downloaded the ISO and you don't need a hard copy, you would "register" and send Mandrake a "registration fee" which, for all effects, would make you a retail customer.

    No donations, they get money, and you get the services that they are actually selling: support and other nifties.

    When they meet investors who want to know how rentable is the company, they'll show them lots of customers making up their revenue instead of lots of donations keeping them afloat because they have no customers.

    It strikes me as odd that they didn't think of this system since it has been out there (and I think profitably) for decades, rather than make up a donation system which is hard to justify as part of a for-profit business model.
  • There are plenty of ways for free software companies to provide a mechanism for you to give them money, and to my mind simply asking for donations is not only crass, but it undermines the concept that they are a viable company.

    If I want to give money to a free software company I will do so by buying a boxed version of their product, a support contract or something similar, and I expect any reputable company to suggest this as the best way to give them money. Even the free software foundation who are charity recommend that the easiest way to make a financial donation is to buy books, clothing and CDROMs from them.

    A major Linux company asking for donations damages their image, damages the image of the Free Software movement, and should not be encouraged. If you like Mandrake and want to support future development, buy a copy, even if you already have one you downloaded.

  • The analogy about a car company asking for 'donations' to improve safety, etc., is about a flawed analogy as you can make. The primary thing wrong about it is that you HAVE to *purchase* a car. Car companies don't make their cars freely available. If they did, I'd bet money they'd ask for money to offset costs of creating the cars.

    Honestly, I think there's absolutely nothing wrong with a company like this doing this sort of thing - I think I may go donate a few bucks. I like mandrake, but don't want to spend the $30 or so the stores are asking.

    More companies should look at doing this on a larger scale - open source projects anyway. I offered to send a few bucks to the PHP APC project, and one of the developers politely declined, but I bet if a few hundred people donated a few bucks, they might think twice. :) And it may make the long nights/weekends some of these people donate a little more bearable. :)

  • by aussersterne ( 212916 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @10:56AM (#193369) Homepage
    If users want to send Mandrake money, let them. Obviously this indicates that their product is liked. I've been blasted here on Slashdot for saying that I buy Loki games in addition to the Windows versions I own in order to help Loki to survive.

    Well, I want them to survive, so I'll buy their product. I'd even consider sending them a donation or two. Maybe some other people want Mandrake to survive, so they send Mandrake money. What's wrong with that?

    Yes, I know: "But they're a commercial organization... marketplace... should have a viable product... etc..." Bullshit. If (for example) Loki goes out of business, I won't be able to buy their games anymore. I don't care if their games are a viable "product" in any given "marketplace" -- I just want to be able to keep playing them. In order for this to happen, Loki must keep making them. In order for Loki to keep making them, they've got to have some cash. So, I'm going to help out with as much cash as I can so that [hopefully] I can continue to play new Linux games. I suspect that other people may feel very much the same way about Mandrake. There's nothing wrong with being willing to pay extra for a specific product in order to allow it to survive. If you can't deal with it any other way, just look it as a personal extension of the essential selfishness of capital-based economies.

    If you don't want to send money, don't. But I certainly don't see how this should turn into some kind of argument because you explicitly don't want other people to send their money wherever they want to send it.

    Again, for those who didn't get it the first time, if you don't like Mandrake, don't donate. If you like Mandrake but don't want to donate, don't donate. If you like Mandrake and you feel like you want to donate just because you like Mandrake so damn much, send them as much cash as you want. If somebody gives you a hard time about you sending your own money wherever you damn well want to send it, accidentally spill your drink in their lap and get back to what you were doing.

    Enough said.
  • It's not like Microsoft is asking for donations. We're talking Mandrake. They actually *lose* money putting their distro together so they bought a profitable company a little while back so they would have a revenue source coming in to support their distro.

    You can't (legally) download M$ products for free, but you can download Mandrake Linux for free. If you do grab the ISO and like the distro, donating is good choice for those of us who really feel like Mandrake's worth supporting.

    As for those who get upset because Mandrake, RedHat, etc... sell distros and didn't write all the code themselves - wake up!! The companies selling the distros spent a lot of payroll cash to put it all together for you. Take Mandrake 8.0 for example. The install auto-detected all my hardware, non-destructively re-sized my Windblows partition and set up a dual-boot for me. Mandrake had to go through a lot of work to get that install working so beautifully. They deserve every penny they can get.

  • The one serious question i have is this: Do donations make for a sustainable business model? I do not have a problem with Mandrake doing this, but what does it say about the long-term business model?

    Others have raised interesting points about users demanding to make donations, and this speaks very highly of Mandrake. If this is their motivation, then more power to them. But I hope that donation revinue is entirely unplanned. There is nothing worse than a busienss model based upon the idea that people will voluntarily give you money-- rather they give you money in exchange for services you deliver. Yes, in my book, all sales come down to services even if that service is making a product that would otherwise be unavailable.

    Again, if people are requesting a place to give donations to Mandrake, then they should accomodate the wishes of their customer base. I just hope they are not counting on that money.

  • Hence, they should be able to ask for a donation.
    If you get something (a download) for free, the giving entity should be able to ask for a donation.

    When I was poor, I did not make donations for the free software that I used. I make money now, and so I can afford to pay for the things that I use. So I purchased a copy a linux. That was my way of donating. But I do not think that it is immoral to ask for a donation. To demand it would be.

    Just because a musician gets some paying gigs does not mean that (s)he should not ask for donations at a gig where there is no cover.

  • I believe allot of the people who write GPL code purposefully intend for people to use it *FOR FREE*.

    Well, if that's what they really intended, they should have written their own license. The GPL explicitly allows others to sell the code (or beg for donations), as long as the source remains freely available.

    If they read the GPL and released the code under it anyway, we'll assume that they are OK with it.

  • by Christ-on-a-bike ( 447560 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @06:45AM (#193406)
    I've been using Mandrake 7 and 8 for a couple of months now; it's a good piece of kit. I'm still a GNUbie, and I really appreciate the effort Mandrake have made to help users with the OS and the desktops while keeping things secure and up-to-date.

    Having installed it from ftp and downloaded ISOs, I felt like giving something back to Mandrake's hackers (the ones working on desktop stuff like kde and hardware drivers) so I sought out their donations page. But seeing all their fancy web design, retail ads and suchlike made me realize that even if the donation I made would go straight to, say, the kernel hackers,

    1. Mandrake pay tax on my donation
    2. If Mandrake become reliant on the revenue from donations then their overheads from retail and marketing will effectively suck cash out of my gift as well.

    So I'm following Mandrake's advice and giving $50 to the Free Software Foundation, who I expect to spend my money efficiently and wisely.

The human mind ordinarily operates at only ten percent of its capacity -- the rest is overhead for the operating system.