Sometimes people ask me how to do something on Windows, and I am reminded of how it lacks support for some pretty fundamental, simple things and requires nightmarish workarounds.

Sure, Linux has some really weird edge cases and issues. But it comes with a proper browser, pdf support, software repositories... and stuff like line breaks, compressed files, subtitles, partitions and updates just work.

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Not saying that Linux is perfect. I have issues with display and audio output, network cards are notoriously spotty, graphic drivers are an issue, etc etc etc.

But it is just _wild_ that Windows just refuses to properly parse Unix linebreaks, has bad support to something as basic as pdfs, and people act as if it is normal to install software by downloading shady installers and letting them manage themselves. How can something so ubiquitous and so well-financed be this bad.

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And the worse part is, most of that is intentional. They want software to be bought in a store. They don't want to help potential competitors. They want to break compatibility to lock people in. They want to add value to their own brand.

Which means this stuff is never going to get fixed. It's counterproductive to fix it.

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I'm pretty disillusioned about Linux lately, and the people that collectively make it, and about FOSS and it's "community".

But heck if proprietary software is any better.

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@eldaking This is exactly why I get massively set off by issues in proprietary software but am super patient with issues in libre.

When there's a problem in proprietary software I often feel like it's an attack on me, either by way of deliberate feature restriction, or unwillingness to route my payments to the actual software I paid for.

But bugs in libre mostly make me think, well I'm sure they're doing their best, I love them just for making this and sharing it with me.

@eldaking Fully agree, except for one small detail: Wanting people to "buy software in a store" actually is, too, creating a thriving ecosystem of small companies and individuals developing and selling software to earn a living, feed their families and pay their bills. I don't agree with *how* this happens, but we should acknowledge this is something FLOSS (which is to quite some extent driven by people who are hobbyists/enthusiasts and/or working elsewhere in a well-paid dayjob and can ...

@z428 That's not the point, unless FLOSS devs decide to sabotage all the alternative distribution channels we already have. The problem is not that FLOSS should be gratis, it's that proprietary software screws users.

And I'm not even sure if the "store" model of financing would really work for FLOSS, without doing all that same bullshit to create artificial demand.

@eldaking I think it depends: If you, say, have a fully fledged GNU/Linux distribution that comes with everything and the kitchen sink preinstalled for "gratis", there is way little need for Jane Doe to choose another tool for a particular purpose to install, let alone one that is not "gratis". From that point of view, " gratis" FLOSS does seem to screw smaller devs that can't afford or aren't legally permitted to make their stuff freely (gratis+libre) available...

@z428 @eldaking What you're describing is the 1980s model, from the time when Microsoft first appeared. That whole period was my childhood and I can say from first hand experience that it didn't create a thriving economy in software with sustainable livelihoods. What it did create was what we would now call "artificial scarcity" and a thriving warez scene, which resulted in kids being criminalized.

I don't think going back to that would be progress. Most software should be a public resource. Once created its duplication costs are almost zero. People shouldn't be criminalized for using software.

@bob @z428 @eldaking

Also, at that time RMS was earning money selling (tape) copies of Emacs, which was licensed as Free Software.

Now that we don't use physical copies, free software developers can make a living out of a) tailored software b) support c) donations. VLC does it this way, for instance.

@tagomago Agree with the both of you, yet I wonder how many devs in FLOSS these days actually manage to live like that, especially also compared to devs that can "afford" to do FLOSS development because they earn a living with a well paid job doing, like, highly proprietary enterprise software development. This seems neither sustainable nor honest to me...
@bob @eldaking

@z428 @bob @eldaking

I think we should stop thinking that the nonfree software model is honest and acceptable in the first place ('cause it isn't), then things would start falling in place.

@tagomago Agreed. But from that point of view, being devils advocate for a moment, I would consider software "non free" if it's a spare time project by someone who earns money developing closed/proprietary stuff in her dayjob. 😉 This is my only problem with that approach.
@bob @eldaking

@z428 @bob @eldaking

I would say that it's extremely unfair to tie what a person does in their free time to what this person does in their job, basically because we are *forced* to work, and most of the times we don't have many choices. Yeah, I think this person should look for an alternate ethical "dayjob", but not because it stains their free time free software "production".

@tagomago I don't think it's unfair, because it's a privileged mode of working that keeps people from understanding the issues of those who are software developers yet in a less privileged or economically "safe" environment in my opinion...
@bob @eldaking

@z428 @bob @eldaking

Well, not exactly. That depends on how this person (and all of us, by the way) presents their project, and how free software is explained to the largely unaware public. If this is correctly addressed, including the sustainability issue, then the responsability is not theirs, imo.

@tagomago Yes. But no. My point is still that FLOSS, despite all of its advantages, greatly causes difficulties for people that depend upon (maybe small scale) software development to earn a living. And I see not enough energy spent on fixing that - again because, if it's a spare time enthusiasm project and your dayjob pays your bills, you don't have to care.
@bob @eldaking

@z428 @bob @eldaking

I think that's a case-by-case thing.

Also, don't demand perfection from the free software model while removing the nonfree software from the responsability equation. If free software struggles it's because nonfree model has kidnapped almost every corner of life.

@tagomago Ah no, not expecting perfection. Just think that, in the 2020s, there might be some other issues (about FLOSS and software development) to resolve than in the 1990s. Like: Twitter, Facebook, ... became big (and to some point managed to stay big) because there was a wide range of libre/gratis tech they could build upon. Google pretty much controls the mobile devices operating @bob @eldaking - 1/3

system market by giving Android away in a FLOSS'ish way, effectively preventing real innovation or competition in this market from happening. And there still are fields of software development where FLOSS makes little sense and other (ethical) business models are extremely difficult to find (game development comes to mind). In the 1990s, we used to strictly make a difference between "libre" and @tagomago @bob @eldaking - 2/3

"gratis". In the age of surveillance capitalism and new digital monopolists, I wonder whether software still can be both "gratis" and "libre" at all.

@bob @eldaking @tagomago - 3/3

@z428 @bob @eldaking

The power that the nonfree consortium has amassed in its usual dishonest way (thanks to the big Open Source™️ contradiction, not thanks to free software) in the last two decades is so big that it tops multiple times any other enterprise in stock value iirc.

Still, there are free alternatives to almost everything, including Facebook and Twitter (this thing we are typing into). But time won't change anything if people don't change. Doesn't matter that we are in 2020 or 2100.

@tagomago I think it will not change if it doesn't change starting at the right point. That's why I think building a new tech society on top of voluntary spare time work done by people which economically depend upon the current status quo is a real problem. Free Software needs to become self sustainable in my opinion, with a majority of devs being able to work full-time on Free Software and still be able to survive.

@bob @eldaking

@z428 @tagomago @bob @eldaking If that's the aim then the best route might be to campaign for UBI or UBS.

@z428 @bob @eldaking

Then ask people to understand that they need to to pay for, hire and use free software only.

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@z428 @tagomago @bob @eldaking It's essentially the Bill Gates argument of "what software professional can afford to work for free?". It's kind of amusing, and a tragic, how little that style of argumentation has budged over the decades.

Commercial software development always had its problems, but today it's an eye-wateringly toxic field. But there's now law that says that anyone has to do commercial software development to support other voluntary work on free software.

The mostly part time nature of free software development is also why it's difficult to attain the levels of UX or polish which exploitative proprietary software does. If polish happens it's usually because someone has been slowly working on something for many years.

@bob Well... My problem is simple. I don't depend economically upon directly selling software. I know people who do, I see that I am tremendously privileged here, and while insisting on FLOSS for totally valid ethical reasons, there are people I can't provide with better recommendations on how to keep paying bills if they make software available gratis (not: libre). I see no solution to that. @tagomago @eldaking

@z428 @tagomago @bob @eldaking There's been efforts from the like of elementary & some other dedicated groups I can't recall the name of right now.

From that it appears the biggest problem is cultural: too many people expect not to have to pay, or even be pushed to do so. The situation's slowly improving...

@alcinnz Yes, especially that latter part is a problem, also in FLOSS in my opinion. We've been hypocrites, to some extent, by claiming that we want "Libre" because it's of course more important - and quietly accepted that "gratis" is the most (and in some cases only) actual effect of FLOSS at least for untrained John Doe. 😔 @tagomago @bob @eldaking

@z428 @alcinnz @bob @eldaking

From my own experience, an overwhelming majority has never paid for Windows or other nonfree software.

And I donate periodically to many projects, some of them I even don't use. So who's the hypocrite?

@tagomago Ah sorry, that latter part wasn't addressing any particular individuals. I handle things just the way you do. But: Do you have a job with a modestly variable monthly income depending on something as possibly random as donations, or do you have a fixed monthly salary? @alcinnz @bob @eldaking

@tagomago If you were, say, a small development studio with three or four employees in full time living off selling proprietary software and this model works in a way you can survive: What advantage would you get from going for a FLOSS licence? Would you in worst case be ready to give up on an at least somewhat regular monthly income for these? @alcinnz @bob @eldaking

@z428 @alcinnz @bob @eldaking

If that development studio is making tailored software for enterprises, free-licensing it wouldn't change anything for the studio, and the client should be happier, given that they can choose different support providers. So you probably would be in a better position going for free software.

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@z428 @tagomago @alcinnz @bob @eldaking Making a living / running a business on libre software does work, it's just less common. In a recent podcast the lead Ardour dev says they pull in about $100k per year. is chock full of people selling GPL software at solid prices, because people have accepted the paradigm. Nextcloud is a very large business working solely with GPL software. is non-profit & MIT, has earned over $3M and supports several full time staff. 1/2

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@tagomago @z428 @alcinnz @bob @eldaking they absolutely did pay for windows, it was hidden in the cost of the hardware they bought.

MSFT puts a 20$ tax on all PC's, called the OEM license.

@icedquinn @bob @alcinnz @eldaking @z428

Maybe on new boxes, if you bought them new and finished. Not for every other "update", say from Windows 98 to XP. Not for every other piece of software, like Office.

@z428 @tagomago @eldaking

Exactly the point I'm struggling with!
And same with music: So annoying you can't use or share or even copy or record...!
However, I'm a musician myself and know a few composers personally whose lives depend on selling their work (and controlling its usage...) ...

@holzgedackt Yes. Same here. At this point, it feels utterly bad that a lot of these discussions seem not even about things such as Fair Use but actually maximum freedom for those who merely "consume" things without contributing anything back, and be it just money. @tagomago @eldaking

@z428 @tagomago @bob @eldaking What people do as a dayjob varies enormously and doesn't necessarily have much effect on Free Software production other than needing to have enough time and energy remaining when not being a wage slave.

The media focuses on highly paid FOSS developers working for Google or Microsoft, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Most people doing this are not on six figure salaries, or anywhere close. These days I am merely a below minimum wage precariat with no particular official employment status (yesterday I was rescuing sheep, for example). This isn't the stereotype that tech journos write about.

@tagomago @bob @z428 @eldaking There is at least one other way to make money. Namely, charging for precompiled builds. Ardor does this, and Aseprite used to before it went proprietary.

Yes, this is permitted by the GPL. Like, explicitly.

Yeah and it continued in the 90s. There was a thriving sharing market of volume licencing software, for example there was the 3 lions cd, that had Windows 98 on it. Rumoured to have been licensed to Shells It department. It got copied all over the place. I think at the time the consumer version was crippled for the domestic market. Hence why that copied was used everywhere. Microsoft was and kinda still is a monopoly. Apple is not an affordable alternative.
@z428 @eldaking

@bob @z428 @eldaking
Which is why Linux was such a threat to Microsoft. I was so glad the day I taught my Dad to install Linux. It meant he could use older equipment etc. Although I wish more manufacturers made their equipment available with Linux to the general public. I still remember the browser wars. I was in high school then.

@bob Duplication costs are low. That's the zero-marginal-cost argument (see Jeremy Rifkin and Paul Maason for popular treatments), and the economic definition of a public good.

Maintenance costs, however, are nonzero, and aren't entirely scale-free by user base.

Though of course the proprietary/commercial software world addresses this poorly as well.

Commercial publishing (software or otherwise) absolutely is based on artificial scarcity.

@z428 @eldaking

@dredmorbius I never really understood that focus on duplication costs in this however, especially talking about things such as software, music, ... where this approach seems to completely ignore the costs of actually *creating* something that can be duplicated. Where does this model assume the initial copy to come from...? @bob @eldaking


possibly, something like crowdfunding or a patronage arrangement, which pays for "development" of whatever kind of work before the work is done

(it may be only a certain niche of things can be paid that way, but it exists.)

if we compare FOSS to microsoft,
the employees are probably being paid the amount "they need" (determined by MS) before something is complete
while when MS sells software after work is done they can price-gouge because the software doesn't have an actual set value


> MS can price-gouge

and this would be the crux of the "but there are zero duplication costs" argument.

there is no way to determine what an honest/fair unit price for software is,
unless the developer wants to do a scheme where they only charge a unit price until they recoup their actual development expenses

which I haven't ever really seen anyone do

so the argument will always shift to "people will never go with the fair version of this so we should just try to discourage it"

"but if there are ongoing costs,"

yes, in that case you could still keep charging under "fair unit prices"

but at a certain point you're going to run out of new users which are still within your marketing reach,
and you might have to start pulling the absolute bullshit adobe does of turning what should be perfectly good offline software into subscription licenses

also if anybody uses and dislikes software with a unit price and tells everybody "don't use it" the author's income will dry up purely due to lack of marketing

the necessity of marketing and making a sale to secure the unit price at all puts people who aren't good at marketing or can't spend a bunch of money on it like a big company at a disadvantage

@z428 Those costs --- the costs of original creation --- are called fixed costs by economists. The sum of fixed and variable (per-unit, or marginal) costs, gives total costs. And if you divide that by the total units produced, you get average costs.

In the 19th century, economists realised that under perfect competition, if you do the maths, the market price should equal marginal cost for most goods. In theory, yadda, yadda.

(This was the Marginal Revolution.)

For information goods, or goods where research & development costs are a large fraction of total costs (software, writing, research, jet engines, microchips, pharmaceuticals, etc.), this creates a problem in that the market price tends to be below average cost, and producers can't recoup costs, especially if there are independent producers who can replicate content without having to pay for its original development. These are counterfeit, pirate, black-market, and similar goods.

IP law, mostly patent and copyright, though also trademark for brands (think knockoff Rolex or D&G goods), creates artificial scarcity to "fix" this economic markets problem.

It's increasingly recognised that IP law carries its own massive social "deadweight" costs.

@bob @eldaking

@dredmorbius @z428 @bob @eldaking Personally I think intellectual property is better seen as a public good and managed by society as a whole rather than by private organizations/individuals.

@dredmorbius Ok, valid point. But from that perspective, wouldn't it be smarter to come up with easily adoptable, working funding models *first* - so devs, musicians, ... easily could make their works available under permissive licenses because the idea of selling and restricting copies seems too cumbersome and ineffective? Are we trying to solve the problems starting at the wrong end...? @bob @eldaking

@z428 That's one approach, but unlikely to succeed.

No new media funding model has sprung fully-formed, Venus-on-the-shell. A set of competing or alternative mechanisms have jousted for a time, usually as the previously dominant funding (and censoring) institutions are gradually weakened. Destroying or weakening the existing publishing and distribution (and, again, censoring) institutions seems a necessary precondition to an emergent new regime.

Ubstoppable, accessible, attractive alternative distribution seems a fair route to doing just that.

There are presently some alternatives. None fully fit the desired models.

@bob @eldaking

@z428 The universe of funding mechanisms has remained remarkably little changed over the past 100-200 years:

Closed-gate (controlled entry) performance, a/k/a theatres.
Ungated (free entry) performance,a/k/a busking.
Advertising, as with serials (newspapers & magazines), radio, television, cable, & online.
Physical media transfers: books, sheet music, phonorecords, video.
Information works as advertising. This may be professional technical texts (establishing the author's qualifications or skills), excerpts of larger works (many literary magazines are/were effectively book sample catalogues), or commercial, political, religious, or ideological propaganda.
Serial publication (usually combined with one or more of above).
Patronage --- this may be state, religious, academic, industrial, private, large single supporters or small many.
Incidental publication: usually academic papers, other reports, produced as part of professional duties.
Unqualified external support: welfare/UBI, retirement/pension, family support.

See also Schopenhauer "On Authorship".

@bob @eldaking

@dredmorbius Well... I think it takes time to grow new funding models, yes. But: Looking at the FLOSS movement ever since the mid-1990s, I'm a bit concerned how things move on here. From where I stand, finding and establishing these models barely seems a priority. Anywhere. Not even talking about "fair" models. Instead, we see FLOSS "entities" like GNOME or KDE featuring large corporate entities such as Google among their sponsors. And I see a lot of FLOSS projects being ...

@bob @eldaking

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