Mixing free software and proprietaryware

You probably know already, if you follow my blog, that I have some quite pragmatic views when it comes to software, and while I despise proprietary stuff, I also do use quite a bit of proprietary software and, most importantly, I pay for that.

For good or for bad, mot of my paid work also involves working in proprietary software, may it be supporting QuickTime RTSP extensions in feng or developing software that runs on Windows (and OSX and Linux). For this reason, as I said before I also use Mono since that allows me to reduce the amount of proprietary software I have to deal with.

But because working on proprietary software, for somebody used to the sharing and improving of free software, is quite difficult, I also apply one extra rule: when the customer wants a closed-source proprietary software for what concerns the core business logic, I try to write asmuch code as possible generic, so that it can be split in LGPL-licensed libraries. This way I can release part of the code I write as free software without going against my customers’ requests, and not costing them anything more.

And thanks to the fact that there already are LGPL-licensed libraries to do some of the work out there, this also simplifies my life. Well, at least when they work and I don’t need to spend a lot of time to make them work. Unfortunately this is the case sometimes, especially when I have to package for Linux something that was probably never tested or intended to be used on Linux. So I wish to thank Jo Shields for helping me out the other night about packaging libraries that don’t provide, by themselves, a strongname.

So, at the end, I still think there is space for different license in different contexts; especially, while LGPL is a compromise from pure free software philosophies, it often allows you to free code that wouldn’t be freed when given a single choice (between GPL and proprietary).

On the other hand, I have to rant a bit about the price of proprietaryware in Italy at least. For work I needed a license of Microsoft Office 2007 Professional (don’t ask, it’s a long story). In Italy, the price was €622 plus VAT; on Amazon UK, the same product (I don’t care about language, but the code seems to work fine with multi-language Office by the way) was up for an equivalent €314 plus VAT (in the former case, VAT needs to go through the tax system, in the latter, it’s directly reimbursed by Amazon, so it’s also faster to deal with). Now I’m curious to see if the same will hold true for Windows 7 licenses (yes I’m afraid I’m going to have to deal with that as well for my jobs) in the next months. Kudos to Apple at least, the update to Snow Leopard was pretty cheap, was sent right away (thanks to my passing through the business store), and really doesn’t seem to break anything on my systems at least.

But still, I love working on Free Software, at least there, I can fix the stuff that fails myself, or at least prod somebody to, most of the times!

One thought on “Mixing free software and proprietaryware

  1. Look on the US Amzon as well …. in some cases, it’s even cheaper then the UK one (about 1/10th of the price in my country).


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