Donuts, Freeloading – part 1 – open source debate

Freeloading – part 1 of the open source debate

I just heard an interesting programme on the radio.  Here is the link

However though the folk involved appeared to be well educated they seemed to completely miss the point when they touched on “Open Source” software. They seemed to mix up the idea of software pirating with creating software to feel good.


The main thrust of the program was if there was a person got a box on a hundred doughnuts (with a few extra donuts thrown in free) – would you put your money in the honesty box or each one without paying if they put them in a public space like an office kitchen area with a sign saying donuts 50p. I will check the details when they make the podcast available.

To make things simpler for this post lets just focus on Microsoft Office and Apache Open Office. One requires you to buy a licence one is freely and legally available to download from the web.

It is important to think of “freeware” it this context as “free speech” rather than “free beer”. In almost every situation “free beer” is actually either a gift from someone or it is being taken without the consent of the owner.

jam donuts - 2013-07-30_164959

As soon I as did the search for “donut images” I realised that there might be a considerable and perhaps irrelevant cultural issue with how someone pictures a donut or doughnut. In the UK and to me at least the default product is a jam doughnut. Unless you were at an outdoor fair or other gathering where street food is being sold then a freshly cooked “sugared ring donut” would trump the traditional jam donut.

So MS Office has a licence fee and with each new version a bewildering array of things and features I don’t want or need. I didn’t choose to have them added and when a newer version began to mean staff were less productive I stopped playing the game.

Ring donut machine - 2013-07-30_171436

It was then that I started to explore the world of Open source software. Quickly I discovered that there were a virtual army of followers wanting to make a success of the project. Some very talented developers working almost round the clock in their own time and not being paid. How could this be.

A bigger and more dedicated team than if you were to pay them all being able to take ownership and contribute to a project AND a cause they really believed in.

Instead of pretending there was not a bug they embrace them with a passion and come out with a better version which is still free.


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