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The Almighty Buck

A New Year's Idea: Pay For Some Freedom 366

It's not a contradiction: Free software costs money. (That's because server space, bandwidth, coffee, electricity, computers, and workspace all cost money.) Besides which, the time it takes to code new window managers, programming libraries (and languages), web browsers, and all the other goodies which make a modern computer useful may be spent as a labor of love, but it's time that competes with real-world jobs, family time, vacations in the Riviera and sleep. Besides the relative few who work at work on their Free software projects, the programmers, project managers, web-site maintainers, documentation jockeys and QA volunteers behind the programs we enjoy every day don't seem to be in it for the money, so much as the thrill of releasing new software, a desire to make their own world a little better, and for plain old fun. The staffers and volunteers who put long hours and dedication into organizations trying to safeguard online freedoms are also obviously interested in rewards that go way beyond salaries. This New Year's, consider giving them a little money anyhow. Here are a few ideas; you're invited to point out projects and organizations that I've left out.

As you may have read the other day, the FreeBSD project is now taking donations via PayPal. And if you're in a clean, roots-UNIX kind of mood, the folks at OpenBSD and NetBSD (NetBSD PayPal) would probably also appreciate your goodwill, not to mention your money, hardware and time.

If you don't have a specific project in mind, but would like to donate some of your chunk of the time-money continuum to a worthy software undertaking, a good place to start is Software in the Public Interest. They can take both general donations as well as earmark for projects they support, like Berlin, Debian, GNOME and more. (Not into GNOME? KDE could use some assistance, including money, too.)

If you like the projects funded by the boxed-distribution makers (like paying for full-time work on endeavors like KOffice), you can do more than buy the box: Mandrake has recently formed something called the Mandrake Club as a gathering place for both people and funds.

To encourage (and reward) cross-platform goodness, supporting the Mozilla project is hard to beat. (This story was posted using a 9.7 build using the wonderful Modern theme.) Source of Mozilla wisdom Mozillazine could use some help paying for the switch to a new host, and to defray ongoing costs. Another good place to cast your perls is Yet Another Foundation, which supports the somewhat scrutable development of the not-so-scrutable Perl.

More generally, consider investing some money in organizations like the Free Software Foundation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Electronic Privacy and Information Center (EPIC), all of which help battle (in court and in the marketplace of ideas) the forces who wish to monitor and otherwise exert top-down control of your computer and everything to do with your on-line life.

Remember, with all of these projects, non-monetary contributions are welcomed as well -- if you can write or correct some online documentation, create test-cases to root out weaknesses, or create some pretty graphics to smooth the user experience, you can contribute. (Long-distance pizza deliveries to developers are also generally appreciated.) Teaching a coworker, classmate, parent or friend how to set up mailfilters on a Linux box, or how to edit photos in the GIMP, is a nice way to save them money, too. Making a difference locally might also mean contributing some time, money or hardware to help run local LUG events.

Note: Many of the organizations named above are set up as 501(c) charities; if you'd like to claim any charitable contributions as tax deductions, now's the time to get the postmark, at least if it's important to you for those donations to be on the current calendar year. For a few more ideas on ways to donate geekily this year, see Jack Bryar's Newsforge column with some more links.

And a Happy New Year's!

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

A New Year's Idea: Pay For Some Freedom

Comments Filter:
  • by cscx ( 541332 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @06:17PM (#2756346) Homepage
    Donations can be sent in the form of beer....
    • And in that case, to me. :p
    • Shipping Beer (Score:3, Informative)

      by Bonker ( 243350 )
      Theoretically, but you have to follow all kinds of regulations to do so:

      http://new.usps.com/cpim/ftp/pubs/pub52.pdf [usps.com]

      Beer probably does not contain enough alcohol to count as a flammable liquid, but depending on the kind container you send it in (bottles, cans, etc...) you may be required to seal your beer inside plastic bags or foam padding.
      • Solution: A gift subscription to The Beer of the Month Club. [rbes.net]
      • I should have clarified with this information, however:

        Intoxicating liquors having 0.5 percent or more alcoholic content are nonmailable. This includes taxable liquors with 3.2 percent or less alcohol, as well as those obtained under a prescription or as a collector's item. The prohibition of the mailing of intoxicating liquors is contained in federal law (18 U.S.C. 1716).
        • Note that mailing is different from shipping. UPS and FedEx will gladly ship your New Castle, Jack Daniels, or whatever your juice of choice is. However, there are restrictions about sales of liquor from state to state, since states like to collect their sin taxes.
      • Beer probably does not contain enough alcohol to count as a flammable liquid,

        It definitely doesn't. Alcohol/water mixtures (the basis of every alcoholic beverage, with assorted other chemicals and flavorings) have to be something above 50% alcohol to be flammable. The term "proof" in this context comes from this, the proof was in whether it would burn, underproof (now under 100 proof in US terms) wouldn't, overproof would.

        It's quite sobering to open a bottle of, say, Bacardi 151 (151 proof, about 75% ethanol) Rum and see the flame arrestor built into the bottle opening. Fortunately imbibing the contents takes care of that ;-)
    • Just bring a keg to the local LUG. Chug-a-lug, chug-a-lug, chug-a-lug. Now that's a liquid asset.
  • to copy and send this off to Bill Gates. He likes giving out charity ... wait a second ...
  • by TedCheshireAcad ( 311748 ) <ted&fc,rit,edu> on Thursday December 27, 2001 @06:21PM (#2756367) Homepage
    Couldn't this all be avoided by a good open source business model? Isn't that what we're really looking for here? I don't think a software company can run completely funded by donations.

    • I keep telling them they should appeal to the Catholic Church. Explain that without funds to drive software development, these programmers will be homeless on the streets.
    • Every business model requires income, otherwise it's simply a charity by another name. And the software we're all talking about here is most emphatically not for sale.

      I know I'm going to get flamed for saying this, but there really is no economic reason for the success of any Open Source venture. There is no business model that will derive financial income from a product that cannot be sold. The true "success" comes from all people benefiting from the efforts of the few authors. Those authors benefit, too, of course, but only in the same "free (beer)" sense. Why should any give-away scheme (especially one as strongly held as the GPL) be able to make money?

      Sure, Cygwin, RedHat, et al, have been making a go of it selling the side-stuff (support, servers, etc.) that some people want. And the GPL very explicitly permits charging for the physical distribution of the code. I think we may see companies such as these moving into the "selling distribution" model. And that's not evil, it's just the reality that this article mentions.

      But then what are people willing to pay for a distro server? I just freshened some Cygwin [cygwin.com] stuff on my box here, and they gave me a list of servers to try. It did take a couple of tries to find a site willing to serve this stuff up. I can't say as I'd want the entire customer base of Cygwin knocking at my ports looking for 20MB each, either.

      So, donations seem to be about the only way to make things run until someone sets up a paid-for-distro company. And even a distro company will have to "compete" with anyone offering to serve it up for free!

      John

    • by FFFish ( 7567 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @07:06PM (#2756600) Homepage
      I've harped on this in the past, but as regards music artists (ie. RIAA-bashing). I see no technical reason that the same solution as rids of us RIAA can't also be used to support open software.

      To wit, we need a system that does two things:
      a) provides a database backend that supports end-users in "discovering" things that they like. In the music application, it would help users explore genres and discover artists. In the OS application, it would help users locate a solution to their problem and ensure they get all the little bits required for that solution.

      b) provides a micropayment system that is so inexpensive and so easy to use that there's no particular benefit to be gained by pirating. In the music application, I imagine it would price songs at substantially less than a buck a track, but would forward payment to the artist only when the cumulative sales make doing so worth-while. In the OS application, it would be much the same.

      There is no technical reason for a micropayment (or very small payment, if they're not exactly micro) system to work. The only hurdle at this point is the ludicrous surcharges involved in handling small transactions. This hurdle is the fault of profiteering credit card companies, banks, and yahoos who figure that they deserve to get a six-figure income simply because they make it possible to pay artists/programmers directly.

      The database solution is the bigger problem. User-referral works to some extent, but it's not great; see Amazon for examples. Genre-labelling is very useful, but classifying music into genres is difficult. And so on.

      With OS it's probably easier; it shouldn't be too difficult to create the database content that will help people find what they need, and that ensures they download all the components they need.

      Anyway, bottom line of what I'm saying here is that the solution isn't stymied for technical reasons, but for greedy reasons. If someone can solve the greed problem -- ie. ensure that most of the money goes to the people who did the music/programming -- then I think we'll finally see a day when independent artists/programmers can make a living without having to go commercial.
      • My one disagreement (Score:5, Interesting)

        by MrResistor ( 120588 ) <peterahoff&gmail,com> on Thursday December 27, 2001 @08:34PM (#2756873) Homepage
        ...provides a micropayment system that is so inexpensive and so easy to use that there's no particular benefit to be gained by pirating.

        There is no piracy in Open Source. I know you know that, but it's an important point.

        The idea I had was to set up a site where people who want features or functionality added to some piece of open source software could post their requests along with a "bid" which would be held in escrow (in interest-bearing accounts) for whoever fulfilled the requirements. Requestors could pool their bids to make it more worthwhile for whoever decided to take up the project. Ideally, the site would be able to cover costs using the interest earned on the bids.

        Obviously, this idea could be expanded to include links to many OSS projects and (ideally) their dependencies in an easily searched/browsed format. Sort of a one-stop OSS deal.

        Anyway, that's the skeleton of my idea. Unfortunately I don't have the time or resources to do it myself. If anyone's interested, the email address above is valid. According to SBC I can get 6M DSL at my residence, so I can provide a physical location (assuming they'd allow hosting, although I honestly can't think what else I would do with all that bandwidth).

        • by wfrp01 ( 82831 )
          Are you thinking about something like the GPL Farm [gplfarm.org]? Someone else just posted the link (so redundify me if you like) - I never heard of this before.

          Free software (or open source, if you prefer) is a philosophy, not a business model. Paying someone to write software that you would like to have, however, is a business model as old as the software industry itself. Connecting talented developers with unmet business requirements sounds like a money tree to me. Easier said than done...
    • Couldn't this all be avoided by a good open source business model? Isn't that what we're really looking for here? I don't think a software company can run completely funded by donations.

      When will people realise OpenSource isn't about companies? It's about people who like to be in control of their own hardware, who just like to code, etc, etc... you've all heard why Linus did what he did!

      OpenSource doesn't *need* a business model, because it isn't business :-)
    • by benedict ( 9959 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @07:10PM (#2756621)
      Open source software generally *is* funded by
      donations -- of time. Most open source
      software isn't run by a company, it's run by a
      community. Donating money is just a different
      way of participating in those communities.
    • The power of "open source" is its diversity and parallel nature.

      Admittedly, if every open source project had a profitable business model, that would be an answer that fit every projects problem.

      Since differences between projects is as much an attribute of open source as being able to read the code, there would have to be infinite numbers of different, successful, open source business models to fit everyone.

      As painful as the present moment is, business wise, I much prefer that people and projects seek their own success. That way the best idea wins.

      "Best Idea" isn't just technology. The Beta vs VHS argument usually forgets that while Beta was and is far better technology, it's "closed source" nature is what killed it in the consumer marketplace.

      There's a lesson to us all.

      Joyous solstace, all.

      Bob-

    • There is already lots of software with a "business model". Even Microsoft ships open source software. Troll Tech ships GPL'ed software with a business model. But once there is a business model, people want to make profits. And experience suggests that it is easier to make profits through marketing, sales, dumbing things down for the mass market, and through FUD than through delivering innovative and quality software.

      Thanks, but no thanks. I'll stick with open source software without a business model. I'm even suspicious of non-commercial open source efforts whose primary motivation seems to be for someone to get project lead experience or to collect lots of money from donations. And too many resources (including too many programmers) lead to projects that are overly complex (commercial software suffers from the same problem).

      Open source software works best when it's done by a few tightly knit programmers working together, developing simple, innovative software. The megaprojects, the projects with commercial tie-ins, and all the other stuff, I can do without. If I wanted that, I wouldn't care about "open source", I'd just use the commercial stuff that I have already paid for.

  • Would these fine organizations take money via Amazon's Honor System? I just donated to faqs.org [faqs.org] that way.

    Some of us don't feel too kindly towards PayPal. And Amazon at least has a somewhat trusted name.

    Scratch this. I just read the FAQ. They want $0.15 + 15% of the donation.

    Sigh. I thought it was a good idea.

    DISCLAIMER: I work for a corporation who is partnered with Amazon

    John

    • Re:Amazon donations? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by WhiteDragon ( 4556 )
      yahoo [yahoo.com] is fairly reputable, and I don't think they have a surcharge... Never mind, they have transaction charge of 2.5% of the transaction amount plus $0.30
      • by plover ( 150551 )
        Hey, 2.5% + $0.30 is CHEAP for transaction processing. I bet about a quarter of that fee ends up going to Visa, too.

        And, I mostly trust Yahoo with that info already. More so than PayPal.

        John

      • Re:Amazon donations? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by FFFish ( 7567 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @07:22PM (#2756652) Homepage
        Damn, I just posted about this sort of thing. I guess I'll follow-up here, then:

        The only reason micropayments aren't working is greed. Yahoo's 2.5% is pretty reasonable; it's the extra thirty cents that kills the whole micropayment mechanism.

        We need someone with deep pockets to come along and make his money not through direct charges, but through savvy money management.

        Charge a 2% transaction charge, sure. That's a penny on every fifty-cent transaction. That's cool.

        Next, don't transfer the money to the recipient for each and every charge. Only transfer the money when it's worth transferring ... say, every one thousand dollars, or every month, whichever is reached last.

        In other words, until your work collects a thousand bucks worth of payment, you don't get a dime. At the other end of the scale, if you're churning ten thousand a day, you don't get a penny until the end of the month.

        The middleman is going to make his money by investing that money. A nice, safe fixed-income bond pays 2.5 to 3% these days. If you can get billion dollars of transactions sequestered away at those rates, you're going to make $20M in transaction charges + $30M in interest = a fifty million dollar business.

        Now, granted, that's not a very good return on investment. But the point here isn't to get rich: it's to enable a revolutionary economy. The person who does this is going to have to be the kind of super-wealthy fellow who doesn't have a need to make piles of money. He's going to have to be the kind of guy who wants to make a big mark in history.

        Micropayments will work, if we can find someone who will allow them to work for the benefit of the artists/programmers/creators. It'll never work if the middle-man is greedy.
        • Re:Amazon donations? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by plover ( 150551 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @08:08PM (#2756799) Homepage Journal
          These are excellent points as they pertain to micropayments. But we're talking about something a little bit bigger here. If I were downloading three ISO images for Mandrake 8.1 (for example), I'd see, oh, about 3 * 660MB worth of traffic flowing, and I might say, "hey, that's a lot of data." So maybe I'm willing to pay $4.00 / CD for that data transfer, or maybe $10.00 for the lot. There's more than a micropayment worth of expenses.

          A T1 goes for what, $900/mo? Electricity, lease payments, repairs, etc., all add up to some monthly expense. The transaction costs could easily be in the $1.00 to $3.00 range per CD distributed. And, of course, you load Yahoo!s $0.30 into the front end amount, ending up with about $1.30 to $3.30 per ISO image. It covers the Yahoo! expense, and it may even be enough to keep FreeBSD afloat.

          Oh, and the problem with your lump-sum solution above is that Visa will want transaction fees on every donor to middleman transaction as well as on every middleman to recipient transaction. So, your middleman organization has to make sure that they hold on to the user's account long enough to get a whole lump amount from each credit card. It might be a better solution to have a web counter at the destination site that you register with; one that promises not to withdraw money until the user uses more than $X worth of services (or maybe monthly, whichever comes first.) And that comes with its own raft of fraud issues, too, but that's not a huge deal for a mostly voluntary payment scheme...

          The biggest thing is I don't want any volunteer organization collecting my Visa info. Just look at the attack tree! You have volunteer groups holding either Visa account information or tokens that are worth lots of cash; you have a payment website to secure and insure; and you still have to pay Visa lots of money to play. It'd take a bank's worth of money just to create a middleman site like this. FreeBSD may do better just to issue their own Visa cards.

          Sorry, but I just think the financial risks involved to everyone concerned in the middleman scheme would pretty much prevent it from taking off.

          John

          • Re:Amazon donations? (Score:4, Interesting)

            by FFFish ( 7567 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @08:45PM (#2756904) Homepage
            I didn't mention VISA at all. I'm not sure why you do.

            I also neglected to mention a further money-making part of this venture: the payee's money pool.

            In my part of the world, banks generally waive the transaction/account fees if you have $1000 (sometimes $5000) in the account at all times during the month. Dip below, and they nail you. Keep it above, and they pay you a pittance in interest.

            For the micro/small payment system to work, the middleman will need to set a deposit boundry. I think it should be $50. If you dip below $50, a surcharge is going to be applied to your transactions... perhaps an extra dollar charge, in addition to the payment you've made. It'll provide hefty incentive to keep a good bit of money in the account.

            I think most people will be comfortable with having about $100 floating in their account.

            Thus, with a million subscribers, the middle-man will have an additional $100M to play with. That'll be another $3 million of investment profit.

            Plus you can bet that at any given time, a few percent of the users will let their accounts go below $50, giving the middle-man yet more revenue.

            There are also some value-added services that could be provided to the recipients of these payments. Many of the recipients are going to be a group of people: hardly ever is an artist or programmer working entirely alone. These groups are going to need to distribute their money to the members. Our middle-man can do that for a nominal fee. Shazam, more bucks come rolling in.

            Again, I repeat: this is going to require a selfless super-rich "donor" who has grown past the need to make more money, and now wishes to do something that will revolutionize the way we transact business with creative individuals. It's got a lousy rate of return, in a strictly dollars-and-cents mindset... but it's got a fantastic return, in terms of revolutionizing how we reward the creative people in our society.
        • Dear Mr FFFish:

          Congratulations!! You just described .NET!

          Now what are you going to do?

          .
          • Suck it down, I imagine.

            I think you're very likely right. Between .NET and Passport, plus having more money than they know what to do with, Microsoft is in the position to pull this off.

            It scares the bejeezus out of me. And if IIRC, we just had a discussion about the commercialization of the net.

            You can be damn sure Microsoft's commercialization is going to involve them getting a cut from every goddamn byte that flows through the pipe. That just sickens me.
  • Transgaming (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rayban ( 13436 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @06:29PM (#2756428) Homepage
    Send transgaming some dough for the new year- not only are they improving DirectX under Linux, but other useful Win32 APIs. In time, Wine may be a fully-featured Windows emulator!
  • It's called "pay for our software so we can pay the programmers..." I hear it works well. For example, Microsoft is not a "cubicle" company... everyone gets an office with a door. Companies can afford to give their workers rooms to "play" in on their breaks, too. But I guess that's the difference between paid workers and volunteers. Life's a sad story, isn't it?
  • And remember kiddies, coders love anonymously sent strippers... (or hookers for those of you in enlightened nations)

    ...if I'm ever in a porno, my stage name is going to be Alan Cox.
  • To me, this whole thing seems a bit shallow. sure i am writing to an OSDN site, coded on open-source slashcode, running on an open source webserver, but i think that the people behind the code are not who really needs the money. They are all educated enough to write copious amounts of software, and through this they could get jobs for money probably very easily (most of them probably do during the day anyways). But there are SO MANY PEOPLE who dont have the ability to get jobs, and who need the money to eat rather than get a fatter pipe or faster compiler. i just think that giving money to people who are in need of so much more is more important than free software.
    • So you'd rather finance unskilled people who don't do anything (for whatever reason) than finance skilled people who benefit you by their actions?

      It's a donation, and if I had income in excess of my other donations (to family and friends getting nailed by the economy) I'd much rather give it to a badass coder who's probably better than I am at what I get paid for, whose software I use, than to someone who does absolutely nothing that benefits anyone.

      I'll get nailed for this one, I know, but I'm not a pot smoking hippie like the rest of california, or a lot of the /. community.

    • We "donate" money/resources/time/etc not because we want to thank or subsidize free software developers for code they have arleady written. No, the reason is instead that we are greedy for new free software, with more delicious features.


      So this really has little to do with charity- its capitalism. And its even more pure than than monetary capitalism- we trade value for value with no intermediary.

  • by mir ( 106753 ) <mirod@xmltwig.com> on Thursday December 27, 2001 @06:33PM (#2756459) Homepage

    You can also give to PerlMonks [perlmonks.org], using the appropriately named Offering Plate [perlmonks.org] (they use Paypal but you can also just send a check).

  • by hexxx ( 546462 ) <heikki.sairanen@phpoint . n et> on Thursday December 27, 2001 @06:36PM (#2756475) Homepage
    Free ways of helping are many much better than just £$ ways. Many small and new project need testers and especially _FEEDBACK_. If you have an idea that would make the little software project better, share it with thedevelopers. If you find a bug, make sure that you report it. If you think the programs great, tell that to the developer. I mean many projects die, because the developer thinks that the project isn't important. And if you really are feeling like helping, you could do graphics, sounds or programming. Everybody can help out in this effort.
    • Exactly! I have a day job and if you send me a $10 check I'll probably lose it before I get around to cashing it. But someone who tells me that one of my projects came in useful for them does far more to motivate me than a few dollars would. It's different for big projects that are set up to receive donations, and probably also for college students who would be thrilled to get some beer and pizza money, but I bet a lot of developers feel the way I do.

      Even writing to say, "I tried your app nad it failed with the following error..." or "I need this feature for it to be useful." is both helpful and encouraging. (Hey, at least someone's trying it!)

      • I understand what you mean. But for several open source projects I don't want to be seen as the umpteenth whiner who comes in screaming "I WANT THIS". Also, I don't want to be the umpteenth reporter of a certain bug, and often lack the time to find out if a certain behaviour had already been reported as a bug.

        I do support the mozilla talkback feature, which allows you to report crash-data to the development team without any effort. This seems a good model to me to collect bug information.

        And there is one more reason that keeps me from submitting bug info: the general acceptance that open source software is almost always in development, and you have come to accept the fact that there are bugs.

        Don't flame me, i realise that I could do better then this, I only post this in the hope that it gives a bit of insight in the reasons that some people have for not submitting bugs, patches or kudos.

        Well, there is one thing I can do right now: Thank you, every Open Source software developer, for giving us an alternative to very scary closed source companies!
  • Cost (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Indes ( 323481 )
    Of course it costs money, everything does.. so is free software really free for the end user.. Of course!!

    So what can we do to make it all work out? If everyone does something in the community, everyone is getting something for free.. just as long as everyone does something good.

    I try to do my part in it by developing a little software and bug fixing.

    Why can't other people do the same and we can all have a free community??
  • OK, the EFF, maybe! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cavemanf16 ( 303184 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @06:38PM (#2756483) Homepage Journal
    I'm not sending money to companies as a 'charitable contribution'! Let them figure out their own way to make money if they want to run a business. The EFF is different, however, as I would expect them to fight for my civil rights to an extent, which should be free of limited control by 'shareholders.' I support businesses by using their stuff and maybe donating some time and energy to improving parts of their free products that I think need fixed or cleaned up, but I'm not Mr. Moneybags here.
  • Buy a box set (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Codeala ( 235477 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @06:42PM (#2756497)
    I think one of the best and easiest way to support Free Software is to buy a box set (or "retail version" if you like) of your favourite Free Software (distros, apps, games).

    Sure you can download an iso and burn as many copies as you like, and sure you "don't need no stinking manual". But by buying retail version you are saying directly to the developers, publishers and retailers that you use their software and like it enough to buy a copy. (And you can write it off as business software purchases when you file your tax ;-)

    Plus your box set is great for lending out to friends & newbies (much more impressive than your blank CD-R). Or put it beside your computer at work (and let anyone borrow it), to subtly promote Free Software without being an anti-M$ nazis about it.
    • Re:Buy a box set (Score:3, Insightful)

      by John_Booty ( 149925 )
      But by buying retail version you are saying directly to the developers, publishers and retailers that you use their software and like it enough to buy a copy

      You make a lot of good points, and what you're saying has merit, but I think you need to think about this point. When you buy a boxed version of Mandrake (for example) for $60, Mandrake only sees a tiny portion of that money. Lots of it goes to the retailer and the distributors and the publisher. I'd be suprised if Mandrake saw more than $10 out of the $60, if even that (can someone more knowledgeable about the biz give an accurate figure?). So, Mandrake would make a lot more money if you just PayPal'ed them the $60 and downloaded the ISO, which is essentially pure profit for them (aside from a few cents' worth of bandwidth).

      Then again, you did make some other good points for boxed retail versions. Additionally, seeing Linux software taking up retail space legitimizes it in many people's minds... I just wanted to point out how little of the retail cost of a piece of software actually goes to the developer!
  • by r_j_prahad ( 309298 ) <.r_j_prahad. .at. .hotmail.com.> on Thursday December 27, 2001 @06:43PM (#2756500)
    I just got a direct mailing from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) asking for special holiday donations. For a gift of $50US or more, they'll throw in a T-Shirt with their new logo. I couldn't find the offer on their website, so I suppose it's limited to members. Anyway, I need a different outfit for work; the boss gets visibly upset whenever I wear my Computerworld "Shark Tank" T-shirt.

    So the EFF will be getting my fifty bucks, because I figure if free software gets made illegal, there won't be anybody left for the rest of you to donate to.
    • They're cool and all, but they never sent me my
      t-shirt.

      I even got a nice response to my complaint, saying
      it was on the way ... months later, no sign of it.

      Oh well, I wasn't in it for the t-shirt (but it does
      rankle).
    • I joined EFF a few months back (shortly after September 11, actually) and they only just now sent me the T-shirt they said I'd be getting. All I can say is this:

      God damn, is that an ugly shirt!

      • God damn, is that an ugly shirt!

        You obviously have not been blessed with a "Sharky" T-shirt. It's a ghastly shade of green only the Marine Corps could love. Oddly enough, though, it matches all my other clothes. Semper Fi!
  • by Bowie J. Poag ( 16898 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @06:43PM (#2756502) Homepage


    Like my stuff? Sure, its free -- but rent isn't. :) You can help pay my rent by going here [ibiblio.org] and clicking on the $1.00 Donation button. Quick and easy. Doing so will help ensure that the tiles remain free for you and others to enjoy. :)

    Shamelessly begging for pocket change in the post-dot-com economy, ;)
  • I support my free software by coding my own projects [resonatorsoft.org]. I'm poor, too, so donate to me [resonatorsoft.org]. Otherwise, I'd give up some money to my favorite OSS projects.

    Here's [resonatorsoft.org] some more of my comments on the OSS movement.
  • Don't forget Freenet (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sanity ( 1431 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @06:53PM (#2756544) Homepage Journal
    Freenet [freenetproject.org] has been taking donations [freenetproject.org] for a while, and has already used some of these funds to hire two developers to work full-time on the project for two months each (for less money than they could earn at Starbucks). The project is nearing its next major release, 0.5, and could really use your help financially to allow more developers to devote more of their time to the project.
  • by gwernol ( 167574 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @06:57PM (#2756570)
    Of course it costs money to develop and distribute software. Its good to see an Slashdot article highlighting this.

    But more intriguing is the suggested solution. So there are various funds I can contribute to that will renumerate some or all of the people working on free software. That's interesting but surely it has a fatal flaw.

    By pooling donations to be split amongst projects you are diminishing a lot of the power of your money. When I pay for a software package I am saying that I want this software package, not one of the many alternatives I could have bought. The one I chose may have features I want, it may have a better UI for me, it may be more reliable, it may be more compatible.

    I vote with my money and that gives me a small but significant voice in which software gets the resources to continue to grow.

    I don't want to give up this power. Software should conform to my needs as the end user. The market mechanism is an extremely good way for me to express my needs in a way that the software developers will take seriously.

    This is a Good Thing [tm].

    Why circumvent the market principle? Why disenfranchise users in this way?

    Yes, I am advocating selling software to cover its cost of development, distribution and continued production. You know, like we've always done for software and pretty much all other goods and services. Yay for selling good software for a fair price.
    • by wfrp01 ( 82831 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @11:03PM (#2757190) Journal
      Yay for selling good software for a fair price.

      I think everybody agrees with this. The disagreement revolves around what should be considered "fair". Is it fair to 'license' software to users, thereby depriving them of rights that consumers who purchase other products expect to have? Is it fair for monopolists to leverage their power to screw consumers into perpetually upgrading to maintain compatibility with the rest of the world? Is it fair for the U.S. Patent Office to pick winners and losers in the marketplace? Is it fair that de-facto proprietary standards compell people to use software with serious security flaws and innumerable other defects? Defects that they cannot fix themselves.

      I agree with your sentiments completely, but I think the marketplace you refer to is badly broken. The competitive marketplace for software that you speak of exists, but not where you think it does.

      There's no irony to speak of selling free software. The irony is that people are willing subsidize multi-billion dollar multi-national corporations to temporarily acquire limited rights to software that sucks.
  • Overhead expenses (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Reality Master 101 ( 179095 ) <RealityMaster101 ... m ['l.c' in gap]> on Thursday December 27, 2001 @06:58PM (#2756572) Homepage Journal

    I personally don't donate to ANY organization unless the overhead expenses are clearly stated in their donation literature. On SPI's site for example, I can't find any record of how much of donations go to administration or how much the leaders of the organization are paid.

    I think a lot of people would be shocked by how corrupt a lot of high-profile organizations are, and how small the percentage of donations go to the intended receivers. If SPI or any other organization has nothing to hide, then let them state the facts so I know I'm not getting ripped off.

    • Re:Overhead expenses (Score:4, Informative)

      by Overfiend ( 35917 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @10:22PM (#2757105) Homepage

      On SPI's site for example, I can't find any record of how much of donations go to administration or how much the leaders of the organization are paid.

      You don't find any such information on SPI's site because at present there is no policy for paying SPI officers ("leaders") anything at all. There isn't even yet a formal policy for SPI charging member projects (such as Debian) anything either, not even domain registration fees when SPI personal take care of such things.

      The current proposal is for SPI to charge member projects 5% of any funds deposited on a member project's behalf, and for the cost of any expenses accrued on a member project's behalf when SPI acts under the direction of that member project.

      There are no plans to pay SPI officers any sort of salary, stipend, or other form of compensation. SPI officers and board members are volunteers.

      I acknowledge this stuff should be up on the website. Once the SPI Board has voted on such a policy and made it official, it will be. Our next Board Meeting is scheduled for January 26th, and this subject is on the agenda.

      Members of the Free Software community are invited to express their views on policies like this to the SPI Board of Directors. Just send mail to "board" at "spi-inc.org".

      -- Branden Robinson, SPI Treasurer

  • by infiniti99 ( 219973 ) <justin@affinix.com> on Thursday December 27, 2001 @07:01PM (#2756582) Homepage
    There is no reason free software developers shouldn't get paid. The problem is that we have no system in place to conduct the process.

    Imagine, for instance, if instead of all these companies paying billions to Microsoft for Office, if just a few million was spent paying free software developers to make a comparable product instead. I would be willing to bet that the resulting product from the free software developers would be of better quality, despite the huge difference in the amount of money involved. The moral of the story? Free software developers could work just like normal programmers (high salaries and all), and develop public works for all to enjoy. There is no reason we shouldn't get paid.

    Donations are a good first step, but it should not end there. I want big fat office buildings full of free software developers, maybe publically government funded (like the Artists and Painters of yore), or perhaps kick-started by a company with money. The money needs to come first, then the product. That's the only way it would work and make sense.

    My perfect world:
    - company A needs a product, so they contact the FSF or something.
    - FSF solicits the concept to other companies that might be interested (company A could do this also, petition-style)
    - All the companies pitch in money (up front) to the FSF to have the software developed.
    - The finished product is put in a museum, where all can make copies.

    As far as I can tell, there is absolutely no downside to this system, other than that the older companies selling software will get the shaft.

    Another problem you might think of is that you have to wait for the software to be developed. This is no different than the current system in place. My hope is that this proposed system would be used for all software in the future, not just as counter-projects to MS software (would still be worthwhile though).
    • I'm not sure you understand economic realities.

      Companies don't pay billions to MS each. What they do do is pay a tiny sum of what it costs to develop the software. MS then collects all the money from all the users and put it into the next version of the software. In your scenario, two possible things might happen.

      a) one company/person pay for everything. This is a lot more costly than paying a part of the whole in the above scenario. Also, why pay? Just wait for someone else to pay.
      b) You pay a little, but there are no guarantee that the software gets written because not enough constributers might appear. You lose money+you don't get the software.

      In the current system, you either pay for software that already exists, or you contract the project out (in which case, you pay for it, but your competitor won't get software you paid for).
      • I'm not sure you understand economic realities.

        Then I assure you I don't.

        Companies don't pay billions to MS each. What they do do is pay a tiny sum of what it costs to develop the software. MS then collects all the money from all the users and put it into the next version of the software.

        Indeed, but I am talking about total money spent. Wouldn't all these big companies like IBM rather have spent 1/100th of what they've paid in MS licenses to create a free alternative? Instead of paying for a copy, you pay for a share in the R&D.

        a) one company/person pay for everything. This is a lot more costly than paying a part of the whole in the above scenario. Also, why pay? Just wait for someone else to pay.

        The only way to really solve this is to make an artists fund (which according to another reply to my original post, such a thing exists in the USA). This way, tax dollars go towards the creation of public works.

        b) You pay a little, but there are no guarantee that the software gets written because not enough constributers might appear. You lose money+you don't get the software.

        Another large problem, and it could happen even to a goverment funded project. This simply needs to be avoided, by careful judgement about grants and knowing when to pull the plug.
    • I'm quite sure there's downsides to it. Who the hell is going to care if a politician announces he's going to push for public funding towards free software? as opposed to the usual pitches like education, social services (well in the UK at least), public transport and so forth.

      And if you exempt software from market forces, quality IS going to go down the tube. Because we'll get fourty different office suites, a few thousand MP3 organising systems and toy window managers and programming languages and no central focus. Sorry folks, open source is all well and good, and on a small to medium scale it can work; I, for instance, use KDE, I think its architecture and homogeneous design is a testament to the capabilities of open source developers. But for every such gem there's going to be hundreds of time sinks. You're going to need a PHB in there somewhere to focus people into a cohesive unit, so that instead of implementing some weird Emacs mode, a developer can help with a database project, or an IPC framework or hell SOMETHING. And that the entire system functions as a unit too - Debian's probably the best distribution in terms of actually having an overall plan to it but it's really at what I see as the fundamental scalability limit.

      For other examples, look at Linux. Great OS huh? yeah sure, but look at LKML. The old protracted bickering over which VM is better continues to grow. Statistics and patches and optimisations and forced commits all go on and yet there's no progress. The 2.4 tree is absolute shit - I run it on my home server and it crashes every few weeks. Every few weeks?? what the hell is this shit, Windows 98? I've seen better uptimes on Win2K boxes! A 2.2 box I admin over in the US that runs as an IRC server once hit 130+ days of uptime before it crashed due to a power outage. Isnt 2.4 supposed to be a stable tree?

      Anyways, I digress. The point is there's things open source is good for, and there's things commercial software is good for; I like Linux and all but I dont buy all this Stallman zealotry about the whole thing. I'd be happier seeing a bound and chained Microsoft, but equally so I dont think stuff like, say, Oracle, could ever be the product of open source coders. Say what you will about the arrogance of Oracle's CEO or whatever, point is it's the best in the market, and unfortunately enterprise level apps still don't run anything open source on the high level because open source initiatives simply lack the resources to agressively develop something like this. Open source, however, does produce well engineered foundations, such as the GNU toolset, which is pretty much standard these days.

      But, hey, what do I know. I'll be interested to see some counter-examples to this though.
      • I hear this argument all the time. But where is the argument that says that Open Source is only good for software foundations? That's an assertion based on anecdotal data, nothing more.
      • Hear Hear! (Score:5, Funny)

        by gnovos ( 447128 ) <gnovos.chipped@net> on Thursday December 27, 2001 @08:30PM (#2756862) Homepage Journal
        And if you exempt software from market forces, quality IS going to go down the tube. Because we'll get fourty different office suites, a few thousand MP3 organising systems and toy window managers and programming languages and no central focus.

        This is totally right. With Open Source, you get tons of incompatible versons of basically the same thing. With one corperate souce for your software, you will NEVER have this problem.

        Considering office suites, with Open Source, you have Star Office, Applixware, KOffice, and many more to chose from. It's so confusing! and most of these are compatible, but not always 100% compatible. With Microsoft you only have a single one: Office XP, nothing else, it's easy!

        ...Oh, wait, I forgot, you also have Office 2000 still around...

        ...Um, hold on a second, some people are still using Office 97 and 95...

        ...Ah, and I forgot about those people using the various service packs and each of them, not to mention that some of those versions are "professional" editions and some are "home office" and "small buisness"...

        And maybe some losers are still back in the stone ages with Windows 3.11, did that even HAVE office back then? But, BUT all of these office suites from Microsoft are 100% compatible. 100%! (in "save as text" mode)

        ... er ... just as long as you are saving as "MS-DOS" text and not some other kind of text...
    • by Logic Bomb ( 122875 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @07:39PM (#2756710)
      Actually, the US government does currently have an artists' fund. It's called the National Endowment for the Arts. I wonder if anyone has ever thought of applying to them for a grant to develop free software. It'd be a great experiment, and if well-publicized, possibly a nice attention-getter for the cause.
    • Interesting that you should mention this. There is already in place something similar to what you’re talking about: FreeDevelopers.net [209.249.55.157].

      The basic idea is that if they got even a tiny sliver of what is spent on commercial software by the Fed, they could fund lots of people to work on free (speech) software full time—not a shabby way to go about it.

      I don’t know if they’ve gotten anywhere, but it looks like a workable idea.

      — Shamus

      Bleah!
    • by wfrp01 ( 82831 )
      There is no reason free software developers shouldn't get paid. The problem is that we have no system in place to conduct the process.

      Umm, all of those links you see in the article are to locations that inform you how to make financial contributions to support various projects. So there is a system in place. Maybe it doesn't work as well as people would like, but it certainly exists.

      What we don't have is a system to compell the process. That's a good thing.
  • Besides the relative few who work at work on their Free software projects, the programmers, project managers, web-site maintainers, documentation jockeys and QA volunteers behind the programs we enjoy every day don't seem to be in it for the money, so much as the thrill of releasing new software, a desire to make their own world a little better, and for plain old fun. The staffers and volunteers who put long hours and dedication into organizations trying to safeguard online freedoms are also obviously interested in rewards that go way beyond salaries. This New Year's, consider giving them a little money anyhow.

    As a software engineer who is seeing his available software markets diminished by people who are doing it 'for a laugh' instead of as a career, why the hell should I donate money to them? That way, not only am I getting my markets shrunk by 'free' alternatives, but I'm also giving away what I *can* make to the people who are making my life more difficult.

    Thanks, but no thanks. If they want to do it for the good of their health, then let them do it WITHOUT any financial support. After all, if they supposedly don't need to make any money from their work, they surely don't need any money to live on, right?

    Simon
    • That's a pretty good troll! You had me going there for a minute.
    • by sigwinch ( 115375 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @07:32PM (#2756693) Homepage
      That way, not only am I getting my markets shrunk by 'free' alternatives, but I'm also giving away what I *can* make to the people who are making my life more difficult.
      This is so wrong, for several reasons:

      1. Software is not a zero-sum game. New software tends to increase the demand for new software. E.g., a cheap, good image editor would increase the demand for archiving and indexing software. The free software community in particular is most skilled at creating infrastructure and libraries that enable new applications. E.g., Linux + Apache + Perl + PostgresQL == the huge market for corporate web apps that did not exist 10 years ago.

      2. If it was a zero-sum game, some people will be less able to adapt to the new market. Assuming you are clever and adaptable, free software would hurt your competitors more than it hurts you. Conversely, stupidity and inflexibility are not grounds for complaint.

      After all, if they supposedly don't need to make any money from their work, they surely don't need any money to live on, right?
      Free software == not tying people's hands using copyright law.

      Free software != not needing any money.

  • by Kozz ( 7764 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @07:06PM (#2756602)
    Donate NOW, before the New Year, and not only will those non-profit organizations benefit, but you have another itemized tax deduction for the year 2001. It's a smart move!
    • Any information/links about how the tax deduction stuff works? What is the actual benefit?
      • The benefit of tax deductions is that they reduce the amount of income you pay taxes on. Let's say you make $50,000 this year, and your tax rate is 30%. Without any deductions, you'd pay $15,000 to the government. Now, let's say you've given $5,000 to EFF. In this case, your taxable income would only be $45,000. Therefore, you'd only have to pay $13,500 in taxes, which would be a savings of $1,500

        If you're like most people, and get a bi-weekly or weekly paycheck, your taxes are withheld by the company you work for. So, if your making $50,000 a year, you'd get a salary of $2,083 a week. However, since the company withholds taxes, the actual amount you get via your paycheck every two weeks would be $2,083 * 85%, or $1,770. At the end of the year, the company would have paid the government $15,000 on your behalf, while paying you $35,000. Let's say you've made the $5,000 EFF donation like I gave in the example above. This means that instead of paying $15,000 to the government, your company should have only paid $13,500 to government on your behalf. To make up the difference, the government will give you a rebate of $1,500.

        I hope this helps explain things to you. An easy way to calculate the amount of money you'll save in taxes when you make donations is to multiple the donation amount by your tax rate. If you make a $5,000 donation and your tax rate is 30%, you'll be saving $1,500 on your taxes. This means that making a $5,000 donation really only costs you $3,500, yet the EFF will still get the benefit of the full amount.
  • by Hiro Antagonist ( 310179 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @07:11PM (#2756627) Journal
    I believe that the best way to help your favorite open-source project is to get involved. I can think of countless times that I've heard people whine, moan, and complain about the fact that the open-source application $FOO doesn't have feature $BAR; but the person who wants $BAR isn't willing to either code it or pay someone to.

    Free software isn't about getting something for free; it's about the freedom to modify programs to do what you want them to do, not what some arbitrary programmer in a distant company wants you to do. It's about freedom -- not about saving money (although that does appear to be a fringe benefit).

    Even if you don't code, chances are you can get someone involved in the project to write something for you by taking care of something they need. Documentation is the first thing that comes to mind; many open-source projects are sadly lacking in this department, and a well-written manual is worth a mountain of coder time. You can also help to provide server space and/or bandwitdh for the project, or to donate hardware for the coders-in-question to use.

    The point is that free software is a community effort; and if you aren't willing to be an equal participant of that community, you really don't have much of a say.
    • by jajuka ( 75616 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @08:18PM (#2756824)
      So are you saying you think giving money is worthless? Some people can spare money more easily than time, should they just forget it and go on about their business? Are those whose talents and time are directed elsewhere unworthy of free software somehow?

      You know some people would consider users making bug reports and feature requests to be participating and helping out. (Though of course not all of them have the sense to be respectful and appreciative when doing so.)

      Yeah, there are people who whine and bitch and think everything should be handed to them on a silver plater. I'm sure most of them don't confine their whining to matters of software, free or otherwise.

      Statements like yours, while I don't expect it was your intention make it sound like input of any kind from non programmers is unwelcome.
    • Free software isn't about getting something for free; it's about the freedom to modify programs to do what you want them to do, not what some arbitrary programmer in a distant company wants you to do. It's about freedom -- not about saving money (although that does appear to be a fringe benefit).

      everybody's trying their hardest to fit free software into various old and new business models. then, when it seems impossible, they complain that such a business couldn't possibly be profitable. i think what most people are missing out on is that, for the first time in a while, we're able to enrich our own lives by contributing a bit of time, effort or resources (ie, bandwidth) here and there. there's so many of us that it doesn't take much to make a difference. in exchange, we get great, free software. i don't know why people need to fit dollar signs into everything.
  • That's because server space, bandwidth, coffee, electricity, computers, and workspace all cost money.


    I seriously doubt these programmers don't already have a computer and workspace. Server space, bandwidth, and electricity are free thanks to sourceforge.


    If the work you do benefits others more than the alternatives, there is a way to make money doing that work. Find that way, and you can quit begging others for money.

  • Transgaming (Score:2, Redundant)

    by johnnyb ( 4816 )
    They're not a non-profit, but http://www.transgaming.com/ could have the keys to Linux conquering the desktop. Sign up for a membership. I personally don't even use it, but I'm signed up because I think it will help out.
  • What they should have is one entity that you can send money to that ticks off diffrent projects. Like gaim,xmms, gimp, KDE etc.
  • by Motheius ( 449386 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @07:24PM (#2756665)
    Every time a new release of OpenBSD is out I purchase it. Then I donate it to the local Library and write it off. I think this is a win win situation all around. If more people would do this, more people might experience a different OS other then Windows or MacOS.
    • by Pinball Wizard ( 161942 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @08:50PM (#2756922) Homepage Journal
      OpenBSD really has the right idea. I also purchase this.

      1 - because it really is worth it, but also


      2 - its damn hard to make it work without just buying the CD's. Theo copyrighted the ISO image of OpenBSD, and you can't find ISOs of it online legally. Sure, its a little bit of arm-twisting to get people to buy the CD, but it works! There is no reason other distros couldn't follow suit. GPL means you have to publish the code; it does not mean you have to provide bootable ISOs for everyone to download.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 27, 2001 @07:28PM (#2756682)

    I fully expect to be flamed, moderated down, and generally discredited for this comment, but someone needs to say it, because it's important. Money? To heck with money. I have a job that pays for my food and housing and computer. I'll write free software whether you give me money or not. Money will not make a difference to me or make my New Year happier. Having a woman pay attention to me would.

    The world is full of volunteers who work tirelessly to write free software, defend the public good in the copyright wars, and promote technical education for everyone, all without asking anything in return. A great many of these volunteers are frustrated, lonely, young heterosexual men. You aren't a techie, but you want to help? Wonderful. You can donate money, but it isn't what we really want. You can go write some documentation, but actually, that's a lie, because really you do have to be a techie in order for the results to be worthwhile. What can you do that's actually possible and would make a difference?

    Go find someone who'll appreciate you, and let them know in a very personal way that you respect and admire what they do. Date a geek tonight.

    The same logic can and should apply to geeks who aren't male heterosexuals, and nothing in this response should be taken to limit the application, blah, blah, blah, etc. That's not the point.

    • How about taking a shower? That is usually a good start. Then you should go out to where women generally are. Like a mall, library or even a night club. Leave the computer, cell phone, palm pilot and Quake-war stories at home.

      Good Luck!
    • What? And let that distract you from tweaking the kernel to perfection? I think not.
  • Linux Fund (Score:2, Informative)

    by cheesyfru ( 99893 )
    http://www.linuxfund.org [linuxfund.org]

    This is a great organization that contributes funds to open source development. Best of all, you can get a cobranded credit card that gives proceeds to them, and it has a swanky penguin logo that gets lots of nice comments when you use it. :-)
  • by Lispy ( 136512 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @07:55PM (#2756749) Homepage
    last time i checked Patrick Volkerding and his staff were in serious trouble and started a fund as one of the first companies and though i hope they are doing a bit better now with Slack8 out and the store, and Sourceforge paying the traffic, i still believe they could use some boosters.

    Patrick has been doing a wonderful work during the last years and why not help him keeping one of the first (and IMHO best) Linux Distributions up and running?

    cu,
    Lispy
  • by hansreiser ( 6963 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @08:22PM (#2756836) Homepage
    Donate the time to ask your company to buy a reiserfs service contract. (Lycos-Europe will tell you it is very happy it bought a service contract, and that our service is excellent.) Estimate 1% of the storage hardware cost that is used for reiserfs (you don't need to be more than roughly accurate, and only need to update the number once a year), and that will get you a priority service contract better than what you could get from a proprietary software vendor (with us the code authors are the ones who answer your emails.) You can use paypal at www.namesys.com/support.html [namesys.com], or send a check, or whatever your accounting department likes to do. Take the time to be as careful to buy service contracts on mission critical free software as you would to buy service contracts on proprietary products, and there will be lots more free software in this world.
    • and that will get you a priority service contract better than what you could get from a proprietary software vendor (with us the code authors are the ones who answer your emails.)
      Will you guarentee to have somebody onsite, within four hours of my call, who will sit there until *I* say I'm satisfied, any time, any day? Will you put, in writing, a guarentee that your fix will fix the problems I describe? I'm not trying to denigrate the service you do offer, I'm just trying to figure out how it's 'better' than what I can get from a 'propriatry software vendor.'
  • by chrysalis ( 50680 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @08:29PM (#2756857) Homepage
    Most projects are developped on spare time, not during the daily work time. Even if your free software projects are used by the company you are working for, pointy hair bosses won't let you improve it as a part of your regular job. They just enjoy their network works with cheap software. They enjoy to have the app developper in their employees because they know who will be the responsible if the software goes wrong with that app.

    If you want to help developpers, write to the company they are working for and tell that you enjoy the software. PHBs will be happy ("ah? some potential customer? He heard about us in a tiny piece of software that one of our employees is working on, on his spare time?) and maybe they will allow the developper to spend some time on the project during the regular job time...

    The developper will be paid for his work, the PHB will be happy and users will get new versions of the product...

    Really, as a developper, being granted to work on free software on my daily job time would be a dream. Right now, coding is only possible after 11pm and before 8am ... The boss wants me to add specific stuff to a free software project, even demanding deadlines, but he does want this to be done only at home, on spare time ("developping free software is a game for teenagers, let them play but we don't pay them for that. We pay them to make profit from free software, not to help it.") . I'm sure this situation is very, very, veyr common.


  • For those of you who haven't figured it out yet, read "The Road Ahead", produced in collusion with Bill Gates.

    In there, he makes the point repeatedly about the importance of micropayments - and Passport is clearly the infrastructure for Microsoft's vision for micropayments.

    Which would most *definitely* apply here, no?

    I don't like the idea any more than you do, but what other micropayment options do you see on the horizon? (Read a page of /., pay $0.01)
  • by mlinksva ( 1755 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @09:27PM (#2757000) Homepage Journal
    Adobe [boycottadobe.org] still needs to be punished for instigating the arrest of Dmitry Sklyarov [freesklyarov.org]. He's now free, but Adobe never paid his legal costs and still supports the vile DMCA [anti-dmca.org]. Is there any way to support Gimp [gimp.org] development financially? Are there other free software applications looking for financial support that offer viable alternatives to Adobe's core revenue-generating applications?
    • To quote an earlier post, you don't have to give cash, but help is always nice.

      What would really put the Gimp into the same leagues as certain commercial programs (and undoubtedly, upset the companies concerned) is full CMYK support (with traps). This would allow the Gimp to replace said commercial programs.

      The current version has converters but that isn't enough.

  • Just a rough count, there were like 13 different apps/projects/foundations in the /. post. And those are just the ones that were directly called out! This makeshift group of many small projects and organizations betrays the disorganization that is omnipresent in open source and free software development efforts. I have paid for free software, registered my shareware, made micropayments to developers, and submitted changes and bugfixes to open source software. The thing that strikes me is that we don't need a better way to pay all these organizations; we need a better way to organize!

    IMHO if there were a strategy developed by a few people or even a few groups that looked at a global view--these are the software needs of our society, and we will develop A, B, and C because there are no (free / alternate) products currently available to meet these needs--it would show that at least there is some looking ahead. Instead we have a bunch of different organizations, pushing many different flavors of the same operating system, two entirely different windowing / gui systems, two different wordprocessor / spreadsheet / presentation solutions, and countless other efforts, some with narrow focus and others that seem to repeat what's already been tried because for some reason the new developer thinks they have a better idea / approach / design / open source licensing model.

    It seems to me that we are hunting elephants with buckshot. One concentrated rifle shot between the eyes will take down the big guys, but buckshot will only make them angry!

    Until such a group is formed to help organize and focus the efforts of open source / free software development, we will still have a bunch of small disorganized companies wanting money, a bunch of very talented people programming in their spare time better code than what Microsofties get paid quite well for, and a few behemoth companies setting the direction of the computing world as a whole, and making a ton of money to boot.
  • by btempleton ( 149110 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @02:26AM (#2757706) Homepage
    We at the EFF (please donate, it's been a tough year for charities but an even worse one is coming for online freedom) always encourge donors to donate appreciated stock instead of cash.

    If you are lucky enough to have stock that has gone up in value (particularly founder's stock that has in effect a near-zero basis) you can get a double tax deduction in many cases for donating it rather than money.

    The reason is you get to deduct the full value of the stock as a charitable donation, and you never pay the capital gains tax on it you would have paid if you sold it.

    You need to have had it for a year. Contact a tax advisor for the full scoop.

    If you do more than a tiny amount of charitable giving you can also set up a donor-advised fund (there is probably one in your area, do a web search). There you give stock to the fund (double deduction) and then have it dole out money to your favourite charities as you like it.

  • by KjetilK ( 186133 ) <kjetil&kjernsmo,net> on Friday December 28, 2001 @10:47AM (#2758447) Homepage Journal
    ...if I had any... Of course I'm an EFF member (yeah, and Amnesty International [amnesty.org], etc.), but right now, that's all I had to spare.

    But if I had any money they would certainly be donated to the Xiph.org Foundation [vorbis.com]

    Free Software is certainly a good thing, and a worthy cause, but open formats for exchange of ideas, thoughs and arts is even more important. Without it, me may end up in a situation where an Evil Corp[tm] can control what you can say.

Logic doesn't apply to the real world. -- Marvin Minsky

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